Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Random Thoughts

March 2, 2008

On Malaysia

Today I woke up to the sound of church bells ringing. It took a few seconds to register in my half-awake brain that I wasn’t back home but in a “very Muslim” country. It brought me to a start, the way Malaysia is both so conservative as regards its own beliefs and traditions ---and flexible at the same time, as to the existence of other faiths.

Dawn breaks in downtown Kuala Lumpur (as seen from my room window)

This kind of religious tolerance is the stuff of dreams for so many other countries in the world. It amazes me that such a racially and religiously-diverse country (already a nightmarish situation for some)—is in fact, socially and economically sound.

After having celebrated only its 50th year as a nation last year, it is enviable indeed—-how far Malaysia has come in this short span of time. Within 50 years, Malaysia has succeeded not only in building the tallest twin towers in the world but more importantly-- provided free education and healthcare insurance to all its citizens. It was able to provide to its people all the much--coveted basic human needs that my own country, until now, has never achieved. Over a hundred years of nationhood and yet the Philippines continues to lag behind Malaysia, especially in terms of providing the most basic social services to its people.

It is this fact I think, from which the contentment and peace in Malaysia springs. Its government has not failed its people.

Politics takes a back seat here. It is not the same as the noisy, volatile, chaotic, betrayal-ridden, patron-beholden politics in the Philippines. Politically-charged passion and anger in this country is almost a non-occurrence. And yet democracy is alive and kicking. Malaysians are pretty much able to do whatever they want and live their life the way they please.

Their discovery of oil must have done wonders to their economy I suppose. But of course, there are also other important factors that could have contributed to its thriving economy. I may not have the chance to discover them all. I am just thankful that I got this chance to visit this country. Very nice people here (except some rude people in the street).

On Vietnam

It must be really something to live in a country that your not-too distant ascendants fought tooth and nail for, and even died for. Such is the case of Vietnam. Being so close to two spunky Vietnamese girls these past few weeks have given me a revelation about this country, an awareness that I otherwise would never have discovered.

the beautiful Hanh and brilliant Cham

Imagine a communist country where radios play Britney Spears songs? Knowing Cham and Hanh has destroyed all my misconceptions about Vietnam. In my growing alternate point of view, I could see how this country is communist in name only. Not in spirit.

Vietnamese people even have divorce for goodness sakes. Look at so-called democratic Philippines! Vietnamese people can do almost anything that Filipinos are allowed to do. Imagine that. And there I was, thinking all along that Vietnam must be one very restrictive, somber, intimidating place to live.

They take care of their own. I saw that so obviously in the case of Cham and Hanh. These girls have a forty US dollar daily stipend from their government. At the rate we’re going in the Philippines—this is SO not possible.

After all the bloodshed, all the mortal sacrifices, the pain and misery of war— Vietnam has come out on its own—proud and sure of itself as a nation and as a people. This is a country that once defeated a superpower. This is a country that went to hell and back to defend its right to self-determination. This is a country that achieved the impossible with very limited means.

Time and again I ask the two, if ever offered a job outside of Vietnam, would they accept? And the answer is a consistent resounding no. Their happiness and pride as Vietnamese is so apparent, you could almost share their joy. In my country, you ask the Filipinos the same question and you know what their answer would be-- and not only that, to leave the Philippines is actually their ultimate dream! But you couldn’t fault them with it too. How tragic.


  1. i enjoyed reading your very heartfelt and candid article, very much. Getting to know both Hanh & Cham (yeah spunky is right) also transformed my views on Vietnam. Now even more than before, i'd love to go there and see for myself. Maybe we can all arrange a trip at the same time (won't that be grand..?)

  2. Well, sometime we unable to make a full view of a thing thoroughly. Each country actually has its good & bad side.

    e.g if all these while only the good side of the country "A" has been "promoted", so "A" would be too good in our mind.

    however if the bad side of the country "B" been enlarged, then we will automatically have bad impression on "B".

    Unless we have experienced it ourselve, or else we will never know if wat we heard or we read it true or false.

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