Thanksgiving 2009… a lot to be thankful for?

Upon revisiting my weblog archives, I just discovered that I did not have an entry pertaining to Thanksgiving.  I mean, I had ones about Christmas and New Year’s, I had ones about Fourth of July and ‘Speak like a Pirate’ day, but not Thanksgiving.  So this is gonna be the FIRST Thanksgiving weblog entry I’m gonna make…

Being born and raised in the Philippines, celebrating Thanksgiving was an alien notion to me when I first came here.  I mean, how does a Filipino celebrate Thanksgiving Day, anyway?  Is it like what we normally do with any of the other western holidays – imitate the Westerners?  Do we celebrate it our own way? (i.e. instead of slaughtering a turkey, we slaughter a fattened pig… although if you’re Filipino, you know that you don’t need a holiday as an excuse to serve a roasted pig…)

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Thanksgiving is such an “exclusively historical” holiday that I don’t know how we are meant to celebrate it if you weren’t born or raised as an American.   For those who haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving in America, they treat it here as a bigger deal than Christmas or even New Year’s.  In the Philippines, families travel long distances and get together with their loved ones usually on the eve of Christmas or New Year (called the noche buena and media noche, respectively).  Here, they do all that on Thanksgiving.  Families travel out of state, or relatives visit from out of state.  It’s a very big deal here, maybe because it’s one of those few holidays that are uniquely American, like the Fourth of July (Thanksgiving in Canada doesn’t count… then again, when did “anything” in Canada count in the USA? Hehehe, just kidding!)

But as a Filipino, what have we got to be thankful for?  A country that hates to be called a third-world nation but exudes the impression of being worse?  A gang of politicians who squabble over the leftovers of the higher dogs, and instead of planning to save the economy, they are intent on saving themselves?  A country that has been the whipping boy of several super typhoons and, with the help of our slacking government, not only unable to endure the onslaught, but also presents a doubtful outlook on recovery?   An entertainment industry that has been riddled with exploitation and mediocrity, where the best “game shows” are the ones with the best dancers with the skimpiest clothes?  A nation so laughably clueless that actors/cagers/singers-turned-politicians are almost guaranteed to win elections versus the knowledgeable and the experienced?  A nation in so much political turmoil, that it is now said to be the most dangerous nation for journalists after the Maguindanao Massacre of November 23?

What do we have to be thankful for?  Fortunately, there are some.

Despite all the bad things that have happened to the country, we still see some ray of hope in those small little corners that have been blocked by the sensationalized news and events.  We can be thankful that the Philippines is still alive and kicking after being manhandled by super typhoons.  We can be thankful that we have modern heroes rising from the rubble, battle-hardened warriors prevailing against all odds, ordinary people achieving extraordinary things.  We have the Ariel Pinedas, the Manny Pacquiaos, and now Efren Peñaflorida, a simple Filipino who educated children, not from the classroom, but from his “pushcart”.  He was named CNN Hero of the Year for 2009, no doubt a shining beacon for Filipinos around the world.  So what if he can’t box or can’t sing? (Arnel Pineda can’t do the former, and Manny Pacquiao for sure can’t do the latter, no matter how hard he tries…)  We can be thankful that Filipinos are still “on the map” per se, not relegated to the background as just denizens of another third world country…

There are rare times when I am just disgusted to be a Filipino, with all the stereotypes associated with us and all the shady deeds we have done.  But today, on Thanksgiving Day here in Los Angeles, California – almost four thousand miles away from the country of my birth – I can say that, as a Filipino, I am proud that I have a lot to be thankful for.

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Today also happens to be my youngest brother’s birthday.  Rodell is currently in New York, so I’m not obligated to give him a gift (hehehe).  But he is one of those Filipinos we should be proud of, as well.  He has achieved what very few Filipinos have done – break into the music scene that is dominated by white people.  If you’re a Filipino, and you get a question asking how many Pinoy singers you know at the top of your head, you can probably name a hundred.  But if I ask you how many Pinoy OPERA SINGERS you know, how many can you name?


I give this toast to my brother, Rodell Aure Rosel, who celebrates his birthday today, and for being the first male Filipino singer to perform at the famed Metropolitan Opera House in New York.  He is yet another Filipino hero that we can proudly boast about.  Sure, Filipinos are known as great singers, but try breaking into the world dominated by Italians, French, Germans, Russians, Americans, etc.  That’s like the Jamaican bob-sled team… only better…

So, Happy Thanksgiving, and I hope you find something to be thankful about, even if you’re as cynical as I am…

Written by Tolitz in: Rants and Raves | Tags: ,

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