Telltale Signs

by Rodel Rodis on November 2, 2004

The article was entitled “Misplaced Priorities can Mislead a Nation” and it wasn’t about President George W. Bush and the net loss of jobs in his watch, his unprecedented deficit spending or his catastrophic war in Iraq. In fact, it wasn’t even about the U.S.

While I am writing this column before the elections, most of you will be reading it well after the elections will have been held but probably while the counting is still going on in a few battleground states.


So enough of articles about the elections. Let’s move on.

The news article in the Philippine Star referred to above has been circulating in cyberspace for more than a week. I have already received it from five different sources from all over the world. What is intriguing about the article is that there is apparently no independent way of verifying the facts mentioned in it.

The news is about a young Pinay named “Faye” which the article states is “not her real name for very sensitive reasons”. It claims that she is 11 years old and that she recently represented the Philippines in the “Intercontinental Science Quiz Net” in Australia. According to the article, out of 57 countries represented, Faye garnered First Place for the Philippines. Germany came in second while the United States came in third.

The article reports that in an earlier competition, “Mathematics for the Young
Asians”, held in Indonesia, Faye also came out in the Top Five.

According to the article, this 11 year old Pinay submitted a project thesis in Australia that won “The Best Physics and Science Award”. Because her single parent mom couldn’t afford to pay for her fare to Australia, she asked help from the government for their
trip to Australia to claim her award and to join the Science competition.

“They saw this challenge as a rare opportunity offered to Faye and her country, considering that only two Asian countries qualified – Japan and the Philippines. Unfortunately, our government had other priorities,” the Philippine Star reported.

Faye’s mom then used her life savings to pay for their trip to Australia out of an ardent desire “to give honor to God and to the Philippines.”

On September 17, 2004, they arrived in Australia for the competition, claiming the trophy and cash award for her “Best Physics” thesis. They then flew to Brisbane, Australia for the quiz competition.

They received no assistance from the Philippine government when they arrived in Australia. But the worst was yet to come. According to them, a “kind” Filipina who met them on the plane volunteered her help only to disappear with their bags, passports and plane tickets. Faye and her mom had to sell their few pieces of clothing just to be able to buy food.

“Without money for transportation fare, they decided to walk two kilometers to the competition venue in their native Filipino costumes,” they told the Star.

The young delegates from the other countries were supported by bands, cheering squads and their flags. When the Japanese delegate was eliminated, Faye remained as the only Asian left in the competition and garnering the support of the Japanese cheering squad.

“When Faye finally won first place and the Philippine national anthem was being played,” the Star reported that Faye “prayed silently thanking God for making her a Filipina.”

A Japanese diplomat helped Faye and her mom secure temporary passes to enable them to return to the Philippines. “The money they won was just enough for their fare back
home and their temporary passport,” they said

The Star reported that whenever Faye narrates her story, she always tells her audience: “Let us love our nation, for nobody else will.”

Faye’s story first appeared in a paid ad by the Bread of Life Ministries which was read by Patricia Evangelista, the winner of the International Public Speaking Competition held in London in May of 2004.

In an article she wrote for the Philippine Star on October 22, 2004, Patricia narrated the travails of Faye and contrasted the glory and honor heaped on Jasmine Trias with the snub accorded to Faye.

“It is tempting to blame everything on a country that claims it is looking for heroes and does not acknowledge them,” Patricia wrote. “Why give the Hawaiian winner of American Idol the red carpet to Malacanang, when a homegrown 11-year-old girl went through hell and high water to bring honor to the country?”

Patricia also lamented the fact that after the Southeast Asian Games, “there was no one, not a single member of the National Sports Commission to receive our athletes. True, they did not win but they faced their competitors with a dignity and a skill that befit Filipinos. They too represented the country.”

Patricia wrote: “It is tempting to revert back to the old Filipino condemnation. Awful
politicians, awful government, awful people But it would not be fair. Faye herself said, in spite of everything, “let us love our nation, for no one else will.”

Before writing this column, I went on an Internet search for information about the “Intercontinental Science Quiz Net” in Australia but found nothing other than the Philippine Star’s articles about “Faye”.

What is the “sensitive” reason that prevents Faye’s real name from being known? Just how did Faye and her mom travel around Australia without money and passports? Why has no one from Faye’s school or hometown come forward to verify the story and to accord Faye the recognition she deserves?

These are troubling questions that need answers. But the story is credible because we know Philippine culture places an emphasis on “misplaced priorities”. The recent Philippine presidential elections confirmed this fact. An actor with only one year of high school education and no experience in government was almost elected president over an incumbent with a PhD in Economics. Patricia Evangelista herself never received the recognition accorded to famed artists or athletes.

Regardless of whether Faye’s story is true or just a parable of our times, it bears a lesson for us. The Philippines, because of misplaced priorities, may not always love us but we should always love the Philippines “because nobody else will.”

Send comments to Rodel50@aol.com.

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