Let me just say this straightaway: I love my country, and I love my countrymen. I believe that we're a people of endurance and of wit, and though we sometimes tend to misplace our faith, I believe we are a nation that is good, intelligent, and full of potential.
But there are moments that shake my trust in the Filipino people, that make me--unfortunately--feel ashamed of the way we can sometimes act. One such moment occurred at the San Francisco International Airport on the day I was to leave the US for home sweet home.
It's standard protocol that when boarding a plane, the seats are filled in from back to front. This is to avoid passengers bumping into each other too much on the narrow aisles of the coach section of an average 747. It is a rule meant to promote order and control. So when those in charge of getting passengers aboard announced that those seated on rows 81 to 97 may now embark, it should have been an easy task of looking at one's boarding pass and falling in line.
But that day was proof that what should be usually isn't. Instead of travelers quietly filing toward the gate, chaos reigned. People whose seat numbers were not from 81 to 97 milled in front of the doorways, chatting loudly and getting in the way of those trying to get in. Parents, children, old men--everyone jostled and pushed and tried to get in front of the person ahead of them. Those who were supposed to be there waved their passes and passports in the air, calling out loudly, "Ako! 81 to 97!" As I myself was shoved around (my brother and I were on row 94), I saw the attendant desperately attempting to restore--or I should say establish, since there was none to begin with--some sense of order.
"Please line up, everyone," she all but begged in as loud a voice as possible, a voice unfailingly drowned out in that palengke atmosphere. "Let's show them that we can do this!"
Nobody listened. I tried to stand still and force a line behind me (and I'm not saying I'm some kind of model citizen for this; it was really just the shame in my belly that made me swallow my anger at being cut three times by three different families, and becoming one with that wailing crowd) to no avail. It was... EDSA at rush hour. It was SM during a weekend sale. It was, as my Taft-educated brother put it, the MRT's on a weekday morning. It was something Filipinos do all the time, and it was embarrassing as hell.
We made it through eventually, though as I walked toward the plane I looked back and saw no semblance of any line at all. And it made me sad, really. I remembered my twelve years of Philippine education and saw myself lining up for every single day of it. I had been taught to line up beside my classroom, at the cafeteria, at the covered courts during assemblies; we were made to stand in line from enrollment in kindergarten to graduation in senior year. It is a standard of discipline, and we enact it in our schools here much more strictly than they do in many countries abroad, including America.
And yet we, the adults, can't seem to make it happen when it truly counts. It's a sad thing to learn. If we don't have the patience and the discipline to form a line at the airport to make it easier for everyone; if we have to put ourselves first and shove our way to the front every single time, what hope do we have of gaining the fortitude and self-restraint that will make our country better?