Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. -Philippians 2:14-16 (King James Bible)

Philippine Azkals: National Identity

It seems to me that some Filipinos do not yet understand why the Philippine National Football Team, also known as the Philippine Azkals, had to have Filipino-foreigners (half-Filipinos, half-Pinoymestizos, whatever you would call them) playing for the team.

Here are some of them:

1. Team captain and defender Alexander "Aly" Borromeo (photo at left)American-born Filipino with Spanish mestizo lineage from San Francisco, California.

2. Defender Anton del Rosario, Filipino-American from San Francisco, California,

3. midfielder James Younghusband, English-Filipino from South East England, and his brother;

4. forward Phil Younghusband, English-Filipino from South East England, and;

5. goalkeeper Neil Etheridge, English-Filipino from Greater London.

(Other mestizos are half-Castillan Spanish, half-German, half-Scottish, half-Dutch, half-Danish and plenty more.)

Why do they have to have them when the team has members who are purely locals? Here are some of them:

1. Team co-captain and midfielder Emelio "Chieffy" Caligdong (photo at right), a native of Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo.

2. Forward Ian Araneta, also from Barotac Nuevo, Iloilo.

3. Occasional goalkeeper Paolo Pascual, from Cebu City; and

4. Another occasional goalkeeper Christopher Camcam, from Metro Manila.

It's been rumored that conflicts have arisen among the Azkals' fans, the Azkals' critics, and even the Azkals themselves due to this issue of racial differences.

But was this importation of half-Pinoys significant enough to say that the team could, or rather could not, achieve what they are supposed to achieve?

According to African American social activist Malcolm X about racial discrimination in America:
"Sitting at the table doesn't make you a diner, unless you eat some of what's on that plate. Being here in America doesn't make you an American. Being born here in America doesn't make you an American."

If I take it to the Philippine setting, does this mean the likes of Aly, Anton, Neil and the Younghusbands do not have the Filipino identity? Could the stand of Malcolm X contradict the notion of racial diversity and national identity among a national group or entity? Do these men being here for the Philippine team make them Filipino?

Aly, Anton, Neil, the Younghusbands and the other non-locals can be the sit-ins of this dilapidated diner which is the Philippine National Football Team. Meanwhile, the locals could be the concessionaires or the regular customers, the "suki", of this diner. Considering to be the oldest team in Asia, it has not gained international attention until now. No-one has cared, no one. Until the international scene saw that this diner has not been completely shut down.

The sit-ins could have been enjoying the meals available at the diner, considering it doesn't have any significant government support yet at this time of writing. Like a typical Pinoy carinderia, where food is simple, not too boring, not too overwhelming, the sit-ins have come to relish what has remained of this diner in the past decades. The regulars would have shared to them the experiences of seeing the loss of customers, the bad critics, the underwhelmed public. However these experiences are now being redeemed by this carinderia's win against a number of top-class and prominent restaurants such as Singapore, Vietnam and recently Sri Lanka. The restauteurs of this team are making Filipinos dine in this place again, even if most of its potential customers will eat there for the first time. It's bringing back from its glory.

Let me quote a Facebook note from the Kaya Football Club, an association football club in the Philippines, that talks about what makes someone a Filipino:

What makes someone a Filipino? Do you need to be born here? Raised here? Or have Filipino parents to be considered Filipino?

Carrying our flag and wanting to be one should be enough to call someone Filipino. Yes I know there are rules and laws, but in reality, I have many friends that have no Filipino blood at all, but deep down inside you know and they know they ARE Filipino! And really, what makes Filipino a Pinoy?

It's our passion and characteristics that make us Pinoy, not we're we are raised or born, wanting to be a Filipino should be enough! And for our AZKALS wanting to play for our Country, whether half or not, entitles them to being Filipino!

I would rather be FILIPINO by CHOICE then by RIGHT!

National identity is very controversial here in the Philippines considering the years of colonial rule this country has gone into. And that popular Filipino adage rings a bell:
Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan
If Aly or Anton would have not have been calling themselves Filipinos who can eat adobo or pansit, and rather Americans relishing only on hamburgers and hotdogs, he would not be in a emerging team with a great potential. If Phil and James enjoy staying just where they are, playing with British men their age, then moreno kids of all ages would not have shared an appreciation for them. If Neil would have not thanked his Filipina mother enough, he would've been in the English Premier League playing for England, but would not be noticed that he has Pinoy blood in his veins.

Seriously, would you care if they weren't here?

Social identity is lost whenever one's behavior tends to skew towards a lineage prominent and appealing to the majority. However, if one looks back to where he came from, there comes a realization that he is not just a person fixed from the four corners of this world he lived with. He has to overcome the challenges to this world. Then and there he will go to where destiny calls for him.

And to the locals, paano tayo babangon kung ang mga isipan natin ay parang talangka, laging inaapakan ang mga nilalang na gustong bumangon sa hirap na dinanas nila sa buhay? Kung lagi na lamang tayong ganito, paano na ang ating pagtayo natin sa malaking daigdig na ito? Magiging talunan na lang tayo lagi?

Paano na kaya kung ang ating bandila'y wala nang saysay sa ating buhay?

Ito na ang tunay na laban para sa karangalan at sa tunay na pagiging Pilipino.

Laban, mga Azkals! Hanggang sa huling pagsubok!
Philippine Azkals: National Identity Philippine Azkals: National Identity Reviewed by Kenneth Bernejay Porio on 11:08 AM Rating: 5
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