“I have a dream”
by James “ Kojak ” Hughs

Martin Luther King had a dream that we all should be judged by our character and not the color of our skin.

When I first settled in and fell in love with Dumaguette City I also had a dream. I dreamed to bring Filipinos and foreigners together in mutual respect and build a better community. Everyone I loved lived in the Philippines. I dedicate myself to learning about and supporting my adopted home. After 15 years of failure, I finally figured out why. I made the same fatal mistake many foreigners make when living in a different culture. I assumed because my intentions were honorable and facts and logic were real Filipinos would support my goal. After all, who does not want a stronger healthier less divisive community.

With the sage council of several learned and articulate Filipino friends, such as Jun Remollo III , Alfredo Bustamonte, a few others, I slowly came to the realize why everything I have attempted failed.

My epiphany explains why an American lady who tried to save lives was figuratively slapped in the face and pushed out the door; but a Filipina lady who did the same thing was considered a hero. Why I and other foreigners can go to local leaders with the best intentions and explain in detail programs that would improve the quality of life and even save lives only to be mysteriously ignored.

The flaw is in that the foreigner says one thing and the Filipino often hears something totally different. The foreigner, with the best intentions is saying facts, figures and logic but the Filipino hears 500 years of foreigners meddling and saying “you are little brown children that need my wisdom to show you how to run your life”.

The foreigner sees “helping”; while the Filipino sees a condescending paternal slap in the face. Myopically the foreigner insults and humiliates the very people he is trying to help.

My first clue should have been Quizon’s famous quote on how the Philippines should be run; but I was culturally blind. I had been conditioned to believe facts and results were more important than feelings. I failed to put myself in the “shoes” of my host and insulted him. I apologize.

Now that my eyes are finally open, what should I do? If I continue to recommend solutions to problems, great and small, I insult and irritate the very people I respect and love. If I confine myself to telling stories of “everyday heroes” I would need to be there to research and visit sources. My health prevents that. If I have the hubris to write more “critic’s corner” articles I not only slap the face of those I criticize but my actions beg the question, “Who died and made him the caretaker of wisdom?”

I am in a personal quandary here. My desire is to continue writing and hopefully help. My heart says I must not patronize and slap my host in his face. I think I have been tolerated all these years because not only I sometimes put voice to feelings many Filipinos have but are too polite to put into words; but also possibly the readers know my heart. I never asked for pay to write for the paper. I write out of love. The question is am I providing a service or merely feeding my ego and irritating my host?

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