“As a familiar story goes, one can leave a basket full of crabs and not worry that a single one of them can ever climb out of it and escape the cooking pan. The moment one succeeds in pulling itself up an inch, there will be a dozen claws that will make sure it doesn’t make it to the top.” (Mejorada: The Filipino Express, 1996)
I would like to share my personal story on how I evolved from pessimism to optimism, on how Filipinos could overcome deep fragmentation and distrust among each other called ‘crab mentality’. This story renewed my hope on the Filipino community spirit of giving. The Bayanihan spirit is alive and well. Four Filipinas, they nicknamed themselves the ‘Adorables’, bonded and worked hard to put together a terrific fundraising party, to raise funds to build a hospital lobby in Calamba, Laguna, Philippines in memory of the late Peter Aldeza. They are a living testament that Filipinos could overcome the cultural challenge of ‘crab mentality’ and worked together in Bayanihan, for the common good.
In 2010, I was confronted with intense cultural challenges that I did not expect in my endeavors to raise funds for community projects for the Philippines. These cultural challenges include intense competition among Filipinos and the pervasive ‘crab mentality’ (Nadal: Filipino Psychology, 2009). Crab mentality is the desire to outdo, outshine or surpass another (often of one’s same ethnic group) at the other’s expense. These challenges include fragmentation and distrust and intense competition. I’ve realized that these cultural challenges run deep and might be the main reason Filipinos are not unified to face together larger community challenges including combating poverty in the Philippines, the big gap in income between the rich and the poor and increasing out-migration. Without any solution in mind, I began to accept the crab mentality thinking and just soldier on.
However, in Sept 2014, four Filipinas (Carminda Aldeza, Dr. Dorothy Anoina, Aurora Gagni and Eva Torres) changed my perception from pessimism to optimism. These women gave me hope that Filipinos after all could overcome crab mentality challenge. They recruited 20 other women to help – Ate (older sister) Sally, Ate Chit, Ate Aurora, Ate Aurora, Ate Sionie, Ruth Banatin, Christine Krogmann and countless others, including my mother. They put together the best party of the year – a Hawaiian ‘luau’ theme party replete with grass skirts, leis, tiki torches, a roast pig ‘lechon’ and the Aloha spirit.
However, this luau was not just any party. These women put together a party in honor of my late cousin, Peter Aldeza, who died suddenly of a heart attack. Peter left behind a legacy of goodwill, generosity and kindness in all the people that he touched including me. His wife, Carminda Aldeza, found a folder in his files with his plans to build a charity hospital in his hometown in Calamba, Laguna, Philippines. My name was written on top of the folder. For the past year, I have contemplated on what to do to fulfill my late cousin’s wishes. In 2013, I went to visit Pete’s hometown, Calamba, Laguna and found out that the only charity hospital in town did not even have a proper hospital lobby. All indigent patients have to wait out in a makeshift shed with a few corrugated metal sheets attached together as a roof and a few slabs of wood as benches. I’m glad that it was a nice sunny day when I visited. I wondered what happens when it rains and you have to wait out in the open?
So I shared this project idea with Carminda Aldeza. She liked it and immediately got to work and recruited other Filipinas to help her. It all happened so fast. I thought that the party was going to be a small get together honoring my late cousin Peter but it turned out to be the best of the year honoring his memory, his goodwill and his legacy. But most of all, Carminda and the legion of volunteer Filipinas called ‘Adorables’ were the highlight of the party. They demonstrated the four golden Filipino values of:
- ‘Tiwala’ (trust)
- ‘Kabalikat’ (interdependence, sharing responsibilities)
- ‘Pagkakaisa’ (mutuality, helping each other)
- ‘Tradisyon’ (traditional values of helping ‘bayanihan’)
This fundraising party was a success maybe because of the goodwill that Peter left behind. It was successful maybe because of the wonderful food, decorations and ambience of a fun Hawaiian feast. It was successful maybe because four Filipinas, the ‘Adorables’ bonded, worked hard together and recruited other women to show the wonderful spirit of Bayanihan, helping each other. In the end, the indigent patients of Calamba, Philippines will benefit with an upcoming new hospital lobby where they could wait in comfort and not out in the open. I have indeed renewed my spirit that the Bayanihan spirit of community giving is alive and well.