· Perspective,Courage,Awareness

Are You Trapped in a Single Story?

Having moved to the U.S. from the Philippines, I've heard many comments, most of them innocent, that revealed how many Americans view people from my country.

Someone once said, after seeing a video of Manila's financial district, "They all look like regular people, like, they were wearing nice clothes. They even had a Starbucks in the background."

I was taken aback, wondering how he pictured the Philippines. A jungle? With natives?

On other occasions, people would be genuinely surprised hearing me sing songs by the Bee Gees or Amy Winehouse or other American or foreign artists. They'd incredulously ask how I knew all the lyrics.

Or when watching old movies, they'd react with equal shock finding out that I've seen it before.

Their ignorance is none of their fault. They were just exposed to a single story of the Philippines.

They're heard of the underpaid and sometimes abused Filipino domestic helpers cleaning houses and raising children all over the world and sending most of their wages back home.

They've heard of thousands of Filipino nurses and caregivers who go abroad for a better life.

They've heard about the foreigner kidnappings.

They've heard of the poverty.

Mostly the poverty.

And usually people equate poverty for stupidity.

A lack of culture.

They picture slums as what is mostly depicted in movies shot in Manila.

They've never heard of Arnel Pineda, who replaced Steve Perry in the band Journey.

They've never heard of Lea Salonga, who played the lead in Les Misérables and Miss Saigon on Broadway for almost a decade and is one of the youngest winners of the Laurence Olivier and Tony awards.

They did'nt know that any English-speaking foreigner could never get lost in the Philippines, with almost all the locals able to converse in English.

They're unaware of the magnificent beaches that dot its 7,641 islands, such as Coron, Siquijor, Boracay, Mactan, Panglao...just to name a few.

They don't know that real estate in some parts of Manila are way more expensive than the average property in California.

That it's a melting pot of world-class food, prepared by the best chefs fusing cuisines from every country that has colonized us.

That two of its malls are two of the top ten largest in the world.

That it has casinos fancier than most of those found in Vegas.

All because they had a single story of the Philippines.

I now live in California and I have found myself guilty of the same when I visit unfamiliar and less developed parts of the country.

Kingman, AZ

Youngstown, OH

Santa Rosa, NM

Clarksville, TN

Dothan, AL

I had my own pre-conceived idea, a single story, of what these places are like along with its people.

But each place debunked all the cliches I had in my head.

The people, though they looked different, were just like me. Warm when spoken to, curious, and laugh at the same things.

At the end of the day, we are more alike than we are different. And it's just our single stories of each other that keep us apart.

Hopefully, one day, if we all shared our real stories more often, whether it's online or to a stranger just passing through town, we'll get a chance to live in a world where we see each other for who we really are and dare explore places without the fear of being seen as different.

Because we aren't.

A Life Well Lived Team

"We all live with the objective of being happy; our lives are all different yet the same."
- Anne Frank

P.S. Beneath our different lives and experiences, we all share the same longing for a life well lived. It's our common thread. We invite you to connect with this truth and join us at A Life Well Lived.

1. Kindness Manifesto - Inspire generosity of spirit. Click here.

2. Affirmations for Humility and Releasing Ego - Let go of ego-driven perspectives. Click here.

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