I'm somewhat involved in a debate that I've attempted to stay out of, as a whole, until recently. The topic is the participation of foreigners in Filipino competitions or business endeavors, where advancement of career or profit is the motive. This is a complicated issue for most people, and also one that stirs up a great debate when it's mentioned. For the most part, it is accepted that foreigners are basically excluded from most major athletic competitions and only allowed to invest in certain kinds of business up to 40%. To define what it means to be a foreigner, this is basically a person who is neither born of naturally born Filipino parents nor is a resident of the Philippines. In other words, if your parents are born in the Philippines and are of Filipino blood yet are now citizens of the West, you are still basically qualified to participate in sports if you present the proper documentation. I must clarify a point to the effect that if you are born in the Philippines but have parents who are not citizens of the Philippines, you are not considered Filipino.
This debate is most commonly raging in professional basketball. There have been numerous athletes who have been found to be fraudulently playing in the various leagues following congressional investigations. Basically some athletes were from Micronesia, Samoa, or even the USA, but couldn't prove their Filipino bloodline. In some cases, the documents they presented were a complete fraud and the athletes were ordered to leave willingly or face deportation hearings where they would be banned from re-entry.
I, for one, agree that Filipinos should have first preference to play in sports in the Philippines. But this is only dependent on timing and need. For example, we are at a point in professional basketball here where I believe that 50% of athletes allowed to play can be foreigners. Filipinos are crazy about basketball and produce some great athletes for the leagues. But they need to raise the level of play in the league to take it to the "next level". In Europe, this was accomplished by allowing foreign players to "teach" the European teams how to compete with NBA players. Following this influx of foreign players, we are seeing many Europeans playing in the NBA and USA basketball is no longer #1 in the Olympics. I believe the same thing will happen in the Philippines.
This brings me to the personal debate. As many of you know, I'm deeply involved in the fitness industry. Shortly I'll be competing in fitness and figure competitions. The current debate is whether or not to let foreign girls into fitness and figure competitions here in the Philippines. For me and others I know is a resounding "NO!" After what I wrote above, it sounds like I'm completely contradicting myself. But I clarify that I'm arguing for the same point...or will be after fitness and figure girls here have a chance to pioneer the industry. The point is that I think that native Filipino girls need a chance to learn for themselves and gain confidence onstage before we let Filipino-foreigner girls in to blow us off the stage. Right now, that's probably exactly what will happen. These girls who want to compete have been trained and some have competed in their native countries. That gives them an unfair advantage to those girls without the resources to go abroad and seek out the best coaches. In Asian countries, there's not exactly an abundance of coaches or athletes that can teach us to compete on an international scale. The argument has been thrown out that these Filipino-foreigners can teach us how to compete on an international scale, just like the case for basketball. That's all fine and dandy, but it would be better if they just coach us. Let me be clear here that these foreign girls don't scare me, and I believe that I can beat the two or so Filipino-Canadians and Americans in a head to head competition. But that's because I have the gymnastics background as well as have found a few videos from the States to practice my routine. My argument that this is not about me. It's about the many other potential fitness girls out there. If they find out that they will be competing against foreigners their first time out, it will be hard to convince them to join. What good is a show that only has 2-3 girls on the stage when there could have been 20? What's worse is that these foreigners have the EXACT same competitions in their home country. To me, and most native girls, we see this as gaining a name for themselves and thus getting an invitation in their native countries' show through the proverbial "back door". My challenge to these Filipino-foreigners is simple: "If you can't cut it in your home countries, what good is gaining an invitation to compete there by winning here? Don't you think your native producers would ask you why didn't you just compete 'back home' and save yourself the airfare?"
This argument does go hand in hand with what I feel about Filipino-foreigner girls who can't cut it in modeling or acting in their home countries, come here and get a big head, and then go back to their native lands to fail miserably. They think that just because a bunch of squatters have their posters hanging on the walls of their sari-sari stores, this transient popularity will translate into the same success back in the States. Their first dose of reality should have been at US Customs when the (Filipino-American!) official says, "So what have you been doing in the Philippines for the last 2 years?" Her reply, "I've been a successful model and actress. You haven't heard of me?" The official: "Never." Her: "Oh. *Sigh*"
As I said, that should have been her first clue, but she goes on to sell her albums only to local Filipino communities and gets no call-backs for work at modeling agencies or from her agent about acting roles. This girl didn't understand that if she wanted to be the best, she needed to compete with the best. She further didn't understand that while she was trying to hone her skills in the Philippines, there were thousands of other American-Asian girls and even Asian foreigner girls who were pounding the pavement making real connections. It is these girls who got all of the breaks by busting their asses against the best while she was away. Their experience got them somewhere...and they didn't get it by trying to "sneak through the back door." For all of you Filipino-foreigner girls trying to compete where you aren't wanted, "go big or go home"...in this case, "going big" means staying home. Let us gain confidence on our own. Once we're ready to take it to the next level in our competitions, then you will be more than welcome to join us to "raise the bar". Until then, you'll only turn away and intimidate those girls who've been conditioned to believe in the "colonial mentality".
May 20th, 2005
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