Posted on 30 May 2012.
Jessica Sanchez recently lost on American Idol, a talent show, ultimately decided by viewer voting. But by the way many Filipinos reacted to the results, you’d think it was a presidential election. Few accepted Jessica’s defeat, many giving Jessica — and themselves — the consolation prize of believing that while Phillip Phillips was the American Idol, Jessica Sanchez was the World Idol. Some went as far as asking for a recount.
But within the range of reactions, I found one particularly interesting. The argument goes that Phillip Phillips only won because he was American — and the White Guy With Guitar always wins — and that if Jessica were American, too, she would win because she obviously had more talent. And wasn’t American Idol above all a contest of talent? Wasn’t it supposed to avoid becoming a contest about race? If so, wouldn’t this count as racism? Ironically, these are the questions many of Jessica’s fans — and those who subscribe to Pinoy Pride — need to ask themselves.
On the face of it, Pinoy Pride — the kind that would champion Jessica Sanchez and Manny Pacquiao and Charice Pempengco because they’re Filipino — is harmless. Being Filipino is just one of the arbitrary traits that people use to pick their favorites, something that makes it easier to identify with and relate to one person, one out of many others who have less to do with them. And it’s not like race (or for that matter, ethnicity) is the only thing that makes a fan a fan. Jessica Sanchez is an awesome singer, and no one can throw a million punches like Manny Pacquiao.
But such sentiments are not what make Pinoy Pride. I’m a fan of Manny Pacquiao’s boxing myself, and so are many of my friends. But when his last match with Marquez went his way even though it looked like a definite defeat, his being Filipino didn’t keep us from thinking that he unfairly got the decision because of his champion status.
So how can we tell whether someone has Pinoy Pride? Two related logical fallacies are dead giveaways: hasty generalization and confirmation bias. When you say that Filipino boxers and singers are unusually talented because there are people like Sanchez and Pacquiao, you are taking an observation of an individual of a group and making a conclusion about everyone from that group. Because Manny Pacquiao is a good boxer, all Filipinos boxers are good. This is hasty generalization.
Such categorical (all or nothing) statements are easy enough to refute because all you have to do is find a single example to disprove the claim. There are many mediocre boxers and singers but these examples are easily forgotten (consciously or unconsciously) or not noticed at all. Only the examples that would prove the preferred claim are remembered. This is called confirmation bias.
Again, Pinoy Pride when applied to sports or talent shows seems harmless on the surface. But if left unexamined and uncorrected, this kind of thinking fosters negative thinking habits: lazy thinking at best, blatant racism at worst. There are many such statements that display Pinoy Pride, but I’ll use one that has bugged me since the first time I saw it: “Where I’m from, Everyone’s a Hero.” To this day I am annoyed at the patent stupidity of the statement, and perplexed that even smart people subscribe to it.
It sounds nice and nationalistic. But is it true? It says that in the Philippines there are only heroes — no villains. Everyone deserves to be emulated and admired. Sure, there are many private individuals, public servants, and even celebrities we can consider heroic. But everyone? Even the murderers, rapists, and murderer-rapists? Even the corrupt public officials who give us the reputation of being the most corrupt country in Asia? Even the Ampatuans who allegedly killed their political rivals and innocent journalists in the Maguindanao massacre?
Again, categorical statements are easy to disprove. But in this case, Everyone’s a Hero is not just inaccurate, it’s a blatant lie. For starters, count the people in the Philippines you truly consider heroic. I’ll assume that your standards are relatively low and that you’re patient enough to count up to 1000. If the Philippines had 100 million people (without an RH law, this will be very soon), heroes count for only 0.001% of the population. So it’s actually more truthful to say that “Where I come from, almost no one is a hero.”
Everyone’s a Hero can only be true if you argue that a hero is someone who is located in the Philippines. Then why don’t we make that our tourism slogan? Everyone wants to be a hero, right? “You’re more heroic in the Philippines.” But kidding aside, this kind of thinking trivializes heroism, disrespecting the legacy of true heroes like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, the Katipunan, and the many modern day heroes who truly deserve the title.
But Pinoy Pride doesn’t just ignore statistics and trivialize heroism. It gets worse. Some people think being Filipino (not just being in the Philippines) is worth being proud of. This makes it easy for them to swallow such statements as Everyone’s a Hero. But in the same way that Pinoy Pride hides contradictory examples — confirmation bias — so too does it hide necessary implications that a person wouldn’t normally make. That is, people who make Pinoy Pride statements only consider their positive implications, completely ignoring their negative ones. (Maybe this can be called implication bias.)
Let’s examine Everyone’s a Hero. When you say that all Filipinos are heroes, you are making a positive statement about Filipinos. But what are you saying about those who are not Filipino? If your answer is, “Well, they’re heroes, too, I guess,” then the statement loses its meaning. If people, whatever country they’re from, are all heroes, why make the statement at all? The statement either has no informational value, or it implies something that you’d rather ignore: “Where you’re not from, not everyone is a hero.”
This could be taken to mean that “only some are heroes” on one end to “there are no heroes” in the other. The point is that when it comes to having heroes, the Philippines is superior. And in the end, this is what Pinoy Pride is about: the inherent superiority of someone for the simple reason that they belong to a particular race or ethnicity. This is nothing new, of course. Almost 80 years ago, this nationalistic way of thinking was fashionable in Germany.