Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Ambivalence of Filipino Traits and Values

“Most people would rather die than think, in fact, they do so”. – Bertrand Russell

"Certain marks of colonization are still manifested by the people. I have arbitrarily identified these marks as dependence, subservience and compromise." (I add compromise of our homeland and at our peoples' expense) - Dr. Pura Santillan-Castrence

Notes: Bold, colored and/or underlined words are HTML links. Click on them to see the linked posting/article. Forwarding the postings to relatives and friends,especially in the homeland, is greatly appreciated). To share, use all social media tools: email, blog, Google+, Tumblr,Twitter,Facebook, etc. THANKS!!


Hi All,

In my usual blog salutation "WHAT WE FILIPINOS SHOULD KNOW" I wrote:

....There is a need to look inward and realize some unpleasant truths about ourselves as Filipino individuals and as a society. It involves a "shaking of the foundations" or a "rocking of the boat" since it requires us to question our traditional beliefs and values, assumptions or notions. We need to seek an understanding of "why we are what we are, where we can or should be headed," and to therefore be able to formulate ways to attain where we can or should be.

Before everything, let us remind ourselves that we Filipinos have many and known good qualities, just like people of any other country. We all know this fact. However, let us not dwell on them since the objective here is not towards self-congratulation nor to hear/read what we want to.(see: http://thefilipinomind.blogspot.com/2005/10/seeing-philippines-through-eyes-of.html)

The task here is to highlight our weaknesses so that these may in turn be corrected. I believe and think that only through a critical self-analysis or self-examination (ala preparatory to confession some of us learned in Catholic schools) can we change for the better. I am convinced that such an exercise will allow us to pursue truths however shocking and unpleasant they may be.

It is only when we have "come of age," when we have come to think for ourselves as an independent people with human dignity, with our own cultural heritage, national pride and sovereignty can we act and work in unity for our own truly, permanent liberation from the dehumanizing conditions imposed by our so-called leadership in government and business and their foreign partners.

If we are honestly concerned with our homeland beyond simply wishing for the better or fatalism, if we want fundamental changes to improve in the long-term the human conditions for the majority of our present and future countrymen in the homeland, it behooves us to do such a self-examination. 

We must look critically at what we are and why, examine the history and nature of our society which must be changed, then determine the direction of those changes. Finally, we must enlist the energies of that majority to effect such changes [facilitated by such knowledge and understanding.

In the past, I have posted several essays about our so-called Filipino values (click Fr. Vitaliano Gorospe SJ and Fr. Jaime Bulatao SJ in blog sidebar); and below article is a new find that presents some of our Filipino traits which seem to imply our Filipino outlook/world view on human existence or life, our Weltanschauung, to borrow a fancy term from Marx.

In the article, author
Prof. Emerita Quito shows us the two possibilities/functions of our so-called Filipino values, I add, in terms of individual or group/community/society/country benefit [for individually selfish benefit or the common good].

Thus, let us appreciate the fact that applied to our majority, i.e. our society, these values have the potential of working for our human upliftment/national betterment; or leading to our predicament (this latter which seems to dominate our society for so, so long).

I think and believe where we are and where we are going greatly depend on how much conscious awareness and understanding we have about our traits (as "dictated" by our beliefs and values) and how we act based on such knowledge. Obviously, education beyond "education for jobs" is imperative, i.e. liberal education that aids the development of critical thinking.

But as any thinking Filipino knows and realizes, education is no absolute guarantee of collective or social consciousness, which in turn can not guarantee acting for the common good. The Filipino has/is witness to so much insatiable, and systemic corruption by our educated fellowmen. However, education is a good start. At the end of the day, I think and believe that we are not born "tabula rasa." We are born with and shaped by nature (our genes/DNA, native IQ - can be improved on) and by our nurturing environment/milieu (our parents/guardians/role models, acquired knowledge from education and experiences).

Based on where we have become as supposedly and self-proclaimed Christian people, our highly influential Catholic Church and Catholic/Christian schoolings have failed, have not worked well in instilling an authentic Christian living, i.e emulating Christ for the common good in our homeland. Instead, these religious institutions tend to cater to the children of the rich and powerful; and inadvertently or not, led their followers to practicing "split-level" Christianity despite their proclamation of [and thus, paying lip-service to] "being for the poor."

Prof. Quito alluded to us Filipinos as being "other-wordly," which I think and believe is true. Our Filipino-type of Christianity has stressed one of the Beatitudes, i.e. "Blessed are the Poor..;" which is apparently taken literally by these priests, ministers and the masses; and thus play neatly into Marx's dictum " religion as the opium of the people."

While many of us Filipinos console ourselves with the thoughts of the afterlife of "heavenly reward" and thus not attending nor exerting time and effort to fixing our socio-economic and political predicaments, our so-called rulers in business, government and military with their foreign partners laugh at us on their way to their banks.

- Bert

“In the long-run every Government is the exact symbol of its People, with their WISDOM and UNWISDOM; we have to say, Like People like Government. “ - Thomas Carlyle, 1795-1881, Scottish Philosopher, Author



Much has been said about so-called negative Filipino traits. They have been blamed for the weak character of the Filipino; they are the culprits, the scapegoat of our failures, or at least, the explanation for lagging behind more successful Asian neighbors.

I propose to take a second look at these so-called negatives in the Filipino psyche to determine whether there might be a positive aspect, a saving face, a silver lining behind the dark clouds.In attempting to see an ambivalence in our traits,

I will use oriental yardsticks to measure success or failure for it would be unfair to use Western standards to evaluate our Filipino traits. For example, is a materially comfortable life with physiological ailments more successful than a materially deprived life without physical ailments? Is the image of Juan Tamad waiting for a guava to fall such a reprehensible, if not scandalous, picture? Is the similar image of Sir Isaac Newton, also resting under a tree, more refreshing?

It is very Filipino to stress our minus points, to find fault in our behavior, to compare us unfavorably with Westerners by using Western standards. It is common to hear such names as Bertong Bukol, or Ipeng Pilay or Huseng Ngongo.

It seems that we take pleasure in underscoring our weaknesses, faults, defects, etc. Our standards are smallness, averageness, mediocrity; grandeur or grandness is not in the Filipino vocabulary. The West, in contrast, evokes: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Der Führer, Il Duce, El Caudillo, Elizabeth Regina. We seem to enjoy being humble and meek, or what Friedrich Nietzsche called "the morality of slaves."

There is something strange in the very way we look upon success. A person is not supposed to exert effort at the expense of sanity. We ridicule a person who teaches himself how to think and label him Tasio, the philosopher. We warn persons not to learn too much lest they be like Jose Rizal who was executed at the Luneta in 1896.

Assertiveness is frowned upon because it smacks of pride and ruthlessness. Success to the Filipino, must come naturally; it should not be induced or artificially contrived. One should not be successful at an early age because that would mean exertion and hard work. Success must come very late in life, if it is to come at all.

Filipino traits must be understood in the above context. Hence, they are considered negative only according to other yardsticks.

The following Filipino traits show an ambivalence of positive and negative aspects.

Hiya (shame)

Negative, because it arrests or inhibits one's action. This trait reduces one to smallness or to what Nietzsche calls the "morality of slaves", thus congealing the soul of the Filipino and emasculating him, making him timid, meek and weak.

Positive, because, it contributes to peace of mind and lack of stress by not even trying to achieve.

Ningas-cogon (procrastination)

Negative, by all standards, because it begins ardently and dies down as soon as it begins. This trait renders one inactive and unable to initiate things or to persevere.

Positive, in a way, because it makes a person non-chalant, detached, indifferent, nonplussed should anything go wrong, and hence conducive to peace and tranquillity.

Pakikisama (group loyalty)

Negative, because one closes one's eyes to evils like graft and corruption in order to conserve peace and harmony in a group at the expense of one's comfort.

Positive, because one lives for others; peace or lack of dissension is a constant goal.

Patigasan (test of strength)

Negative, because it is stubborn and resists all efforts at reconciliation. The trait makes us childish, vindictive, irresponsible, irrational. Actions resulting from this trait are leaving the phone off the hook to get even with one's party line; stopping the engine of the car to prove that one has the right of way; standing one's ground until the opposite party loses its patience.

Positive, because it is assign that we know our rights and are not easily cowed into submission. It is occidental in spirit, hence in keeping with Nietzsche's "will to power."

Bahala na (resignation)

Negative, because one leaves everything to chance under the pretext of trusting in Divine providence. This trait is really laziness disguised in religious garb.

Positive, because one relies on a superior power rather than on one's own. It is conducive to humility, modesty, and lack of arrogance.

Kasi (because, i. e., scapegoat)

Negative, because one disowns responsibility and makes a scapegoat out of someone or something. One is never to blame; one remains lily white and has a ready alibi for failure.

Positive, because one can see both sides of the picture and know exactly where a project failed. One will never suffer from guilt or self-recrimination.

Saving Face

Negative, because, being closely related to hiya and kasi, it enables a person to shirk responsibility. One is never accountable for anything.

Positive, because one's psyche is saved from undue embarrassment, sleepless nights, remorse of conscience. It saves one from accountability or responsibility. This trait enables one to make a graceful exit from guilt instead of facing the music and owning responsibility for an offense.

Sakop (inclusion)

Negative, because one never learns to be on one's own but relies on one's family and relatives. This trait stunts growth and prevents a person from growing on one's own. Generating a life of parasitism, this trait is very non-existential. Blaring music, loud tones are a result of this mentality. We wrongly think that all people like the music we play or the stories we tell. This mentality also makes us consider the world as one vast comfort room.

Positive, because one cares for the family and clan; one stands or falls with them. This trait makes a person show concern for the family to which he belongs.

Mañana or "Bukas na" (procrastination)

Negative, because one constantly postpones action and accomplishes nothing. This aggravates a situation, a problem grows beyond correction, a leak or a small break becomes a gaping hole. This arises from an indolent mentality that a problem will go away by itself.

Positive, because one is without stress and tension; one learns to take what comes naturally. Like the Chinese wu-wei, this trait makes one live naturally and without undue artificiality.

Utang na loob (indebtedness)

Negative, because one overlooks moral principles when one is indebted to a person. One who is beholden to another person will do anything to please him, thinking that by doing so he is able to repay a debt. One condones what the other person does and will never censure him for wrongdoing.

Positive, because it is a recognition of one's indebtedness. This trait portrays the spirit behind the Filipino saying, "He who does not know how to look to the past will never reach his destination."

Kanya-kanya (self-centeredness)

Negative, because self-centered; one has no regard for others. So long as my family and I are not in need, I do not care about he world.

Positive, because one takes care of oneself and one's family: "Blood is thicker than water."
At the end of our exposé of the positive and negative aspects of the Filipino psyche, one asks the question: What after all, is its ideal of personality, activity and achievement?

Regarding personality, if the ideal is a personality without stress and tension, then Filipino traits contribute to this. The contention is that success necessarily means hypertension, ulcers and sleepless nights. Could there exist a state of success without these physical aberrations?
Regarding activity, if the idea is that one should engage in a whirlpool of activity or if the work ethic is workaholism, then the Filipino indeed is in very poor estate. But is this not more of the Occidental or Western concept of activity? In contrast, the Oriental emphasizes conformity with nature; hence, one should never exaggerate or overact.

Regarding achievement, if the ideal is that one must achieve an earthly goal, then the Filipino, as a race, will occupy a low rank. But again, is this ideal not more Occidental or Western, according to which one must always set a goal and accomplish it?

Setting a goal is not wrong in any culture, but the manner of achieving it which can be questionable. Does one have to expend one's total energy in the pursuit of an ideal which, after all, is a personal, earthly goal?

If for the Filipino smallness, meekness, and humility are ideals, could it not be that he is not this-worldly?

Could he not perhaps be aiming, consciously or otherwise, at the life in the hereafter where the last will be the first, the weak will be strong, and the small will be great?

De La Salle University, Manila

“EDUCATION is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” - Edward Everett, 1794-1865, American Statesman, Scholar

“The aim of EDUCATION should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think -- rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with the thoughts of other men.” - John Dewey, 1859-1952, American Philosopher, Educator

PLEASE DONATE CORE/FUNDAMENTAL SUBJECT BOOKS TO OUR HOMELAND (i.e. your hometown public schools, Alma Mater, etc.). Those books that you and/or your children do not need or want; or buy books from your local library during its cheap Book Sales. Also, cargo/door-to-door shipment is best.  It is a small sacrifice.  [clean up your closets or garage - donate books.THANKS!]

Hi All,

The below link will show a short list of my past posts (out of 540 posts so far) which I consider as basic topics about us native (indio)/ Malay Filipinos. This link/listing, which may later expand, will always be presented at the bottom of each future post.  Just point-and-click at each listed item to open and read. 

Thank you for reading and sharing with others, especially those in our homeland.

- Bert



  1. THE FILIPINO MIND blog contains 532 published postings you can view, as of December 12, 2012. 
  2. The postings are oftentimes long and a few readers have claimed being "burnt out."  My apologies. The selected topics are not for entertainment but to stimulate deep, serious thoughts per my MISSION Statement and hopefully to rock our boat of  ignorance, apathy, complacency and hopefully lead to active citizenship.
  3. All comments are welcomed for posting at the bottom window. Comments sent by email will also be posted verbatim. However, ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL BE IGNORED.
  4. Visit my other website, click --> SCRIBD/TheFilipinoMind, or the SCRIB FEED at the sidebar, or type it on GOOGLE Search to read or download ebooks and PDFs of essays I have uploaded.  Statistics for my associated website:SCRIBD/theFilipinoMind : ALL FREE AND DOWNLOADABLE: 123 documents, 207,458 reads
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Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Dear Sir:

As Cassius says (in Shakespeare's play, Julius Cesar), "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars [i.e., character] but in that we are underlings."

All the so-called Filipino faults or "negative traits" mentioned by academic sociologists and supposed historians are human traits. Hiya, ningas cogon, utang na loob (gratitude), mañana habit (procrastination), family orientation, etc., are to be found among all peoples in all climes and periods. Name one trait that you cannot find among other peoples.

The fact that the term "mañana" habit is Spanish in origin speaks volumes. The Spaniards spend the longest siestas, while Filipinos take on one or two jobs at eight hours each stint. Name me a people who do not mostly put "family first" as a priority. To say that these traits (negative or positive) are peculiar to Filipinos is to propagate a lie, one that is harmful because it inflicts on our people a feeling of imferiority, the same feeling that has been implanted in our psyche by our conquerors from the Spanish to the Americans for centuries so that we would supinely accept their superior dominance.

It is parochial to state that we Filipinos are unique in having faults.

Our tragedy is being "underlings" of Spaniards then and now the Americans, and their local colonial elite, and the education they perpetuate to implant in Filipinos an inferiority complex so that they will eschew critical thinking, thinking for themselves and independence of thought and action.

It is not true to say that the Filipinos who have martyrs, inellectuals and heroes like Jose Rizal, Mabini, the del Pilars, Claro M. Recto, and others, are a flawed race. Filipinos, the farmer, the laborer, the small businessman and the government employee, are all hard-working, and if freed from their colonial education, would be able to stand up like other peoples in other fortunate countries.


Anonymous said...

re filipino traits we should discourage our children from watching those tv shows shown at channel 2 and 7. puro kababuyan, kabaklaan,
kababawan at kahalayan. the two tv networks - abs-cbn and gma-7 should
be boycotted.

- philip lustre

Bert M. Drona said...


Thanks for your response.

Firstly, I think and believe that no honest, seriously thinking Filipino will disagree with you that all these traits that we exhibit are human traits; they will not say that these traits are uniquely Filipinos. What is seemingly unique is the degree we Filipinos exhibit with respect to these traits/values. It's all a matter of degree as in many issues in life: whether we talk of corruption, poverty, etc. as they are present in all of humanity or societies/countries.

in most instances, traits can have good or bad effects to the person or to whoever that person interacts with. be it another person or group of persons or country. The good or bad effects of a particular trait/value depends on the situation. For example: "pakikisama" as friendship is good in itself; but the same "pakikisama" in corruption or used as excuse for not exposing such if committed by friend or relative is not good.

The more "wholly" educated a person, (not just instructed or attended school/university to qualify for a profession for livelihood)-with some so-called liberal education; the more this individual can appreciate his traits/values and probably be able to change them IF he wants or needs to.

Secondly, what is stated as acquiring an inferiority complex due to exposing our traits is only true if the hearer is ignorant and does not have the capacity to think critically.

Ignorance and/or illiteracy brings sensitivity "balat sibuyas" outlook and thus becoming defensive at the slightest statement that he perceives as insulting.

When I first read about and understood our Filipino values back in the 1960s, thanks to the published articles by Fr. Bulatao and Fr. Gorospe, I did not feel offended or inferior. The knowledge and understanding gave me an appreciation of "how we Filipinos tick," what we are as Filipinos and was therefore able to interact better with our fellow countrymen and foreigners (sometimes when I want to).

Thirdly, obviously you appreciate the conditioning we obtained from the colonizers we had. Unfortunately, our so-called native leaders when the colonizers left continued an elitist attitude/behavior and apparently used their power to perpetuate these traits, some probably knowingly and others unknowingly. As some of them carry these traits/values with bad consequences/effects to our majority.

We can not continue to blame these colonizers since they are gone and have effectively propagated and perpetuated the conditioning through our educational system that is not nationalistic; plus the ever-dominant foreign media and our unquestioning copycat attitude.

We can not blame them but we can talk, expose and study our past for a better knowledge and understanding of our history or why we have the so-called damaged culture, etc, ad nauseam.

I do not want to go into the details here. But if you are interested, please visit my blog which touched on these issues that reflect the absence/lack of Filipino nationalism on several postings.


Anonymous said...

Dear Bert:

I was enlightened when you told me that you learned about "Filipino values" (which I insist are universal ideals and traits, positive as well as negative) from two priests, Fr. Gorospe and Fr. Bulatao.

As the intellectual and sectarian descendants of the Spanish friars, it is only expected that they should invent lies and excuses to put down the Filipino, for certainly they could not go against the authorities of the Catholic Church which had ruled our country for three and a half centuries.

To claim that bad traits are of a higher degree among Filipinos than other peoples is to insult us. Did they conduct a global survey?

If these priests were and are representatives of God in our country, the Philippines today would be blessed with prosperity and peace, and not be a land of poverty and hunger, for 350 years should be enough to change the character or "traits" of our people.

If the Filipino character is flawed, who should be blamed, if not their creator and rulers. Instead of reading these friar acolytes and descendants, read Jose Rizal, their victim, especially his essay, "The [alleged] Indolence of the Filipinos."

Surely in social and intellectual matters, we should place Rizal high above these ecclesiastics who are experts in obfuscation, sophistry and pretended wisdom.

Yours truly,


Bert M. Drona said...


I do not agree with your generalization, in which you seem to imply, that everything that come from members of the Church are just lies, etc. I realize it is your right to make such claims.

But anyway, if you visit my blog, you will note where I stand on these issues and find we have some convergence and also divergence of thought.

I respect Rizal and so do our other heroes like Bonifacio, Mabini, Sakay, Recto, Constantino (I consider him one) and many others. I have touched on these heroes in my blog.

On Rizal, he was prescient about our nationhood (as a few others of his time). We can learn from him and from these other priests whom you dismiss outright.

Note that Rizal learned too from his Jesuit priests.

Sure he was bright though I think and believe Recto was brighter in terms of Filipino nationalism. But that is not my point here.

Thank you again for your comments.


8:25 AM

Bert M. Drona said...


I agree with your comments on some common, disgusting shows and topics in our Philippine media, all of which contribute to our cultural deterioration, to diversion of the attention of the impoverished majority from seriously questioning national decision/actions that adversely impact them and to cause the demise of social consciousness.

But lest we forget, the owners/managers/producers/editors, etc of media and their advertising sponsors, especially in the all-powerful TV, find that these stuffs sell and perpetuate the illiteracy and ignorance of the masses, which they want to maintain power, economic and political.

Given that we are great copycats, the media and their puppets get their cues/materials from so-called modern,advanced nations,i.e. mainly the USA in our case (which is supersaturated with similarly trashy TV programs since the American mind has shown deterioration. There is a claim that there are more illiterates in South Carolina than the whole of Japan).

As the cliche goes, roughly stated here: "we deserve what we get." Sadly, our ignorant masses are kept,conditioned and perpetually shaped to like trash.


Anonymous said...

Nag post ako ng 'comment' sa lumang post 'nyo, muli paumanhin at mahina tayo sa 'englisan'.

Hiling ko lamang na wag kayong magsasawa sa inyong magandang naumpisahan...sa paghahatid ng mahahalagang impormasyon sa larangan ng kaisipang makaPilipino na magiging daan tungo sa totoong pagbabago at pagsulong, totoong kapos at iilan lamang ang may kaisipan at pananaw na kagaya ng sa inyo sa ating mga kababayan. KUng kaya't napakahalaga na maisapubliko o makarating sa nakararami ang mga panulat at impormasyon na inyong inilalahad sa 'Blogsite' na ito,subalit nakakalungkot at iilan lang naman sa mga Pilipino ang may 'access' sa 'computer' at ang may 'access' naman halos iilan lang din ang totoong nagkakainteres sa ganitong usapin.

Ganunpaman malaking bagay na rin na may iilang Pinoy ang nag-titiyaga na maiparating sa anumang paraan ang paglilinaw kaugnay sa mga bagay-bagay may kinalaman sa mga ugat na kalagayan ng bansa.

Bert M. Drona said...


Maraming salamat sa iyong pagtangkilik dito sa THE FILIPINO MIND blogsite. Sinisikap kong huwag magsawa at tamarin sa pagsulat tubgkol sa ating bayan.

Kahit anumang siryosong usapan tungkol sa bayan, pagiisipin natin ay mauuwi, unnanguna sa pagkawalan ng nasyonalismo ang pinakadahilan (may iba pang factors o mga dahilan pero bottomline ito).

Dahil nga sa hirap,kakaunti pa rin ang may access sa computer; at kung meron man, hindi marahil ginagamit sa pagaaral at pagintindi gaya ng tinukoy mo. maraming distraction para sa mga kabataan sa computer: mga laro, entertainment, at iba pa.

Ako naman ay hirap magsulat sa sariling wika. In fact, nagsimula ako ng IsipPilipino blog pero hindi ako nagtagal dahil napakabagal ko; at sabi ng isang kaibigan dating maestra ng Pilipino, para daw Engllish and pagsulat at pagiisip ko sa mga sinulat ko. Gusto ko ngang buhayin iyon ulit. Maybe when I have more time.

Ganyan tayong Pilipino, mediocre sa sariling wika at sa dayuhang wika. Ang kailangan ay excellence first on our own native language.

Maraming salamat!!


ladygem said...


Naisipan kong maghanap about Filipino Values sa internet dahil assignment ko ito. Our professor asked us to write an essay about pakikisama (social acceptance). Maaaring ipadala ko ito sa iyo pagkatapos kong magbasa at mag-isip-isip ng mga nalikom ko sa internet na masasabing sarili kong katha. Maraming salamat sa mga impormasyon!


Anonymous said...


Why don't you try coming to the UAE and see more of the negative traits that are rampantly practiced by lots of Filipinos. Pinoys alone are acting as bugaws to their fellow Filipinas, and the Filipinas are totally and blatantly ----- I can't find the right words. I have always been proud of being a Filipina until I got here. Lots of people view the Filipinas the same way because out of 1000 maybe 1 is different. It is awful. I get invited to a lot of parties but I often refuse to bring Filipina friends because they end up asking people for jobs or side-whoring or what knows what. I have yet to see some Filipinas who maintain their integrity and nobility - I hope there are some left out there.

Bert M. Drona said...

I got your point. In fact, I was in Kuwait for almost a year back after Desert Storm, as a project engineer for Bechtel, out of our San Francisco office.

I understand at the time that Kuwait was the more, if not the most "liberal" among the Middle East countries. But still, I appreciate how the women of the Third World, Filipina or other, are treated.

It is a shame and it makes me angry too. Even as recent as last year and in Singapore; where an Indian engineer-colleague about his getting "cheap" Filipina. He may be lying or bragging as younger men do. I felt like hitting him.

Anyway, that's one of the dangers of being poor and a woman especially in another country. And how one of our kind behaves can lead to sterotypes, bad or good.

That's why I am angry at our so-called leaders (more aptly, rulers)who do not have any empathy for the common tao, and just keep on kissing the foreign ass at the expense of their fellow countrymen, to keep their positions of power and the prerogatives from such.

That's why we natives should know/learn from/understand our nationalist past and work actively to free ourselves as our other Asian neighbors have done.

It will take a long while but if we start now, the next generation or so will not forget that we struggled for them.