By FR. ROLANDO V. DELA ROSA O.P.
The things you don’t want to hear are often the things you need to hear the most. Those who are re-popularizing the slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” must be told how ambiguous, ambivalent, and equivocal the word “fun” is.
You will be surprised to read in the Dictionary of Etymology that the word “fun” did not originally mean “diversion” or “amusement.” For many years it meant cheat, trick, or hoax. There was even a time when fake dollar bills were called funny money.
“It’s more fun in the Philippines” could therefore mean “There are more cheats, hoaxes, and counterfeits in the country.” Or worse: “Philippines is a funny country,” i.e., what you see in this country is fake. Just look at the glossy pictures of ever-smiling Filipinos whom the Department of Tourism projects as fun-loving. They are actually squeezing humor out of tragedy.
The Department of Tourism might say: “Who reads the Dictionary of Etymology, anyway?” And judging from the dramatic increase of tourists in the Philippines, the slogan appears immensely successful in seducing foreigners to come in droves. Who could resist powdery white beaches, the mystical rice terraces, the eerie underground river, immaculate blue skies, and the proverbial Filipino hospitality? All these are theirs to enjoy at bargain-basement prices.
But while foreign tourists stampede towards the Philippines for cheap thrills and fun, many Filipinos go abroad, seeing places and natural attractions that actually pale in comparison with those our country is blessed with. While we promise foreign tourists that the great fun they hope to enjoy in our country is cheap, we spend a fortune when we visit their countries. While we pamper tourists, we are met by unwelcoming, grouchy, and inattentive people in foreign hotels and restaurants. Worse, they bill us high and use the money to have fun in our country.
Worst, they use the money to BUY our country.
Travel around the Philippines and you will see foreigners owning many of the most pristine and beautiful lands of our country. You see exclusive villages and subdivisions inhabited by foreigners and their families, living luxuriously and getting richer because they are allowed to engage in business and trade. They don’t even make an effort to learn the local language and traditions. They set themselves apart, and using their money and connections with high-ranking government officials, they live in an atmosphere of privilege and entitlement.
I dread the day when we cease to export domestic helpers abroad because they are already employed as servants of foreign residents who could not afford even one house help in their own country.
It is ironic that while the government is contesting ownership of some remote islands in the West Philippine Sea, it is doing nothing to curb the invasion of thousands of foreigners who are supposedly here to have fun, but actually intend to stay permanently.
The government is selling the Philippines short. And considering the government expense and effort to advertise the country using that slogan, I remember what Dolly Parton once said: “Honey, you can’t imagine what it cost me to look this cheap!”