Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dark Shadows On a Beautiful Country

It is amazing at how little it takes to actually change the perception of an entire country. Here in America we have a president who doesn't know about or care about other cultures and as a result, we have more countries that are sworn enemies than ever before.

I have a wife who is a Filipina and currently (as has been the case for a couple years) there is a travel advisory warning citizens of the United States to not travel to the Philippines because of the Abu Sayyaf. The Abu Sayyaf is the smaller of the Islamist groups fighting to establish an Iranian-style Islamic state in the southern island of Mindanao and is known to kidnap and even kill foreigners. Their active members are thought to be only a couple hundred with a thousand or so supporters. Mostly their actions have been confined to the very southern part of the Philippines but occasionally they have bombed places as far north as Manila. It is these few times, that these few people can influence other countries' views upon their nation.

On my last trip to the Philippines, I found the citizens to be extremely friendly people who would give you the shirt off their back even if it were their only one. In the market places, most vendors would try to take advantage of my ignorance of prices and try to overcharge me for things but I would guess that happens in any country. Even if it didn't, I think they have every right to try to maximize their profits from someone who doesn't take the time to learn their culture. If the both persons believe they are getting a deal, is there anything wrong with that?

I have to admit that when I am in the Philippines, the thoughts of the Abu Sayyaf are ever present in my head. The difference between me and some of my countrymen is that I don't let it stop me from visiting such a beautiful place. I know other like me but I feel that we are still a minority. When I go there, I just take the precaution of being aware of my surroundings and enjoy the trip. The travel advisory was on the last time I went and the next time, I am sure it will still be in place especially after the latest bombings. It's a shame that a few can cast dark shadows on such a beautiful country.

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