Still Questioning the Filipino

Still Questioning the Filipino

“I really wanted to butt in there,” a frustrated Phil Younghusband said after the pre-match press conference at the Edsa Shangri-La.

Bahrain’s media officer had asked a question during the press conference. It wasn’t a question that no one had asked before. In fact, it has been asked over and over in many different countries by many different people.

Does the Philippines just fly in professional footballers from Europe and just give them Philippine nationality? Incredibly, the media officer followed it up before anyone could answer. He gestured to Phil and said that he had what was remarkably close to the accent of the people from England.

Yes, of course Phil has an English accent, and so do Neil Etheridge, Mark Hartmann, and Rob Gier. Manny Ott, Patrick Reichelt, and Stephan Schrock have German accents, and if you get caught in the middle of a conversation among them, Martin Steuble, and the coaches, good luck to you.

And then of course there is the Spanish contingent composed of Juani Guirado, Javier Patiño, y Tomas Trigo. Hearing them speak in Spanish or English with a smattering of Tagalog harks back to Rizal and the Ilustrados. Jerry Lucena speaks with a Danish accent.

Kenshiro Daniels speaks English with an American accent, while his father has an English accent but speaks some Filipino. “Sayang, no?” Kenny’s dad asked some of the Kaholeros after the match versus Vietnam in Hanoi last year.

Daisuke Sato (Japan), Misagh Bahadoran (Iran), Simone Rota, and Dennis Villanueva (Italy) have improved their English and Filipino drastically. Just before training at the PSS yesterday evening, Daisuke kindly offered some chocolate wafers that he was snacking on. He then asked Ace to finish them or hold on to them when training was about to start — all in Tagalog. Misagh, of course is famous for his antics, and his accent.

The two grassroots boys, Amani Aguinaldo and Patrick Deyto also have accents, by the way. One has what in Manila is known as a “southern” accent.

The new guys also have accents: Australian (Iain Ramsey), English (Luke Woodland), German (Kevin Ingreso), and Austrian (Stephan Palla).

But do the accents really matter? Do they make someone more or less Filipino?

“Our country is composed of almost 100 million people,” said PFF General Secretary Ed Gastanes, “and 10 million of them are not IN the country.” “Most of our players right now just happen to come from the 10 million,” Atty. Gastanes said with a shrug. “It’s that simple.”

“Everyone has Filipino blood although their name may sound different because they have their father’s last name. We feel that this our home — this is where our family, our friends are,” Phil explained, probably hoping he could have some conversation with the guy who asked the question instead of preaching to the choir.

“I find it quite offensive.” Phil was on a roll and no one was going to stop him. “I think it’s always a sensitive question, a tricky question that we deal with. Rob (Gier) has said that the blood that flows through the players based abroad is as thick as the local players. We feel just as Filipino and there is nothing more proud than when we represent the Philippines, we represent the flag and fight for the country.”

In a lot of ways, most of the Azkals had to deal with being Filipino differently from those who grew up in the Philippines. Stories of bullying, not belonging, or outright racism are not uncommon with the members of the team. Having to grow up somewhere where they or their parents did not look like everyone else is not a situation you really have to deal with when in the Philippines.

And then there is the fact that they chose to represent the Philippines. They could have opted not to, they could have stayed where they were and lived out their lives.

Some argue that they chose to represent the country because they weren’t called up in the country where they were born or grew up in. While this may be true for some of them, it does not take away the fact that they still chose the Philippines. They disrupt their lives to fly out here for a few weeks each year, to a climate they are not used to, to play a game. Some of them have used football to come home to the Philippines and make a living here. The bottomline is that they chose the Philippines.

It is funny to note too, by the way, that Bahrain actually has a naturalised player in their squad right now — Jaycee John Okwunwanne is a Nigerian — and has had a history of naturalising players to join their national team. These players have no Bahraini blood.

It was coach Thomas Dooley who replied to the media officer’s question. He then recounted his own story, that he could play for either Germany or the US since he himself has a parent from each country.

“Everybody who plays for the Philippines has Filipino blood,” stated coach Dooley as a final statement.

At the end of the day, the men who will be wearing white today are as Filipino as you and me, wherever you, I, or they are from.

They are Filipino because of the blood that runs through them from their nanay or tatay, and because they choose to proudly wear that beautiful red, blue, and yellow flag on their chest.

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