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That “Smaller But Stronger Bonsai” Within Us

The average Filipino height, of ages 18 and above, for male is 5 feet 4 inches while for female it is 5 feet flat.

One weekend, I happened to be in this exhibit of bonsai trees in the nearby shopping mall in my place. The event was titled “The Living Art of Bonsai”. The art of bonsai making is truly marvelous. Seeing these alive small trees is an amazing wonder, and so I can’t keep myself but take photos of them in every angle possible. From these experience is where I’ve seen a strong resemblance of a bonsai tree’s life to the life of the common Filipinos, hence this post.

First, have a look on some of the wonderful photos of bonsai I captured.







Filipinos Features that Matters
This blog is about the story of the Filipino people, about us being smaller in terms of height and size compared to our neighboring countries and the rest of the world, and our resilience to adversities despite of that. If you’re not a Filipino, you may have a friend, colleague or neighbor who’s a Filipino and it could be quite obvious that he or she is smaller than you. Look on photos taken from events or gathering where there are Filipinos, those that are aired on TV or seen in social media sites, yes, we are really small. That is (the majority of) us, the Filipinos.

You may have quickly figured out that connection between Filipinos and the bonsai trees. Or maybe, you want to know more why. Mesmerizing our qualities as human beings, there are many similarities that can prove this claim of mine to be true. You may or may not agree, but those characteristics as “small but terrible” and this saying “walang malaking nakakapuwing” (there is no such big thing that when got stuck within your eyes and can bring it to tears) are descriptions that really best fits with us, Filipinos. But before I expound on these, let me showcase a few more bonsai arts here.


What is a Bonsai?
According to Wikipedia, “Bonsai is a Japanese art form using cultivation techniques to produce small trees in containers that mimic the shape and scale of full size trees.”





Probably unknown to many, there are natural bonsai trees found in some places here in the Philippines. Well, technically, the term “bonsai” doesn’t apply to them based on the exact definition from Wikipedia. They can be otherwise called as “dwarf trees” or “mini trees” for they are neither cultivated nor grown in containers. But they simply call it “bonsai” because of the same characteristics. The exact place that is commonly heard of as a safe haven for natural bonsai is the Dinagat Islands. Google it and you’ll surely find a lot of interesting and amazing photos of the nature in its miniature size.

Going back to our height and size, I have this very inspiring story of courage to share with you.


An Inspiring Story About a Filipino's Win Over Height Issue
I have this cousin whom went into huge challenges on his professional career that has something to do with his height. He was like 5 feet or so, certainly way below 5 feet and 4 inches which is the minimum height requirement to qualify in the Philippine National Police cadet post. During his study years, he is known for his strong determination to earn a good education and become a member of the Philippines’ police force. He used to have good grades, applaud from his classmates and professors, and finally this certificate for becoming one of the first criminology graduates in our clan.

He passed the PNP entrance examination, for he really wanted to become a police whatever it takes. But there’s that problem about his height. I do not believe this is discrimination. It is that even employers are looking for certain criteria on the applicant they want to hire.

From what I heard from him, it took him more than two years to gather and submit this requirement of the PNP body that will exempt him from the minimum height qualification. My cousin’s father side belongs to a tribe or ethnic group from the Visayas region whom are known to be shorter than the typical Filipino’ average height. We have several ethnic groups in the country by the way, and they are believed to be the ancestors of a larger Filipino race. In other words, to attest that his height is considerable enough to qualify, he has to produce this certificate of ethnic group membership. So he traveled to his clan’s home province of Romblon to get this document, spending months and investing money.



After those long time of sacrifices, training, and waiting, my cousin fortunately got admitted in the Philippine National Police. He won his fight for height, so to speak. He is now a police officer of our land. This cousin of mine is no other than PO1 Josua T. Candido. We're so proud of him!


Filipinos are Like the Bonsai Trees
As a Filipino who has been living here in the Philippines for over 30 years, I can see how courageous and resilient Filipinos are in face of adversities, despite our size. That mentality of “life must goes on no matter what” is what I am observing here. We face the harshness of typhoons, earthquakes, floods brought about by monsoon rains, intense drought, and fires yet we stand on our feet and rebuild what has been damaged. We lost hundreds to thousands of lives during calamities, yet after those tearful days and months, here we are again standing strong and moving on with our respective lives.





The bonsai is sturdy, and so we are. The bonsai is beautiful, and so are our hearts and our very own land. The bonsai can be grown and cultivated and so are our Overseas Filipino Workers honing their talents and skills in the foreign lands. The wild bonsais despite the threats their facing from collectors can manage to survive because of the environmental protection in place; we Filipinos can survive too because we choose to live together under the protection of our Philippine constitution. Some varieties of bonsai are highly valuable because of the quality and features they have, the same is true for some of the Filipinos who have built their names in the profession they’ve chosen - they are highly valuable in their own rights. Like the bonsai trees, we have our short, brown, and other distinct traits that are something to be proud of.




While we have the unique features and good qualities we can associate with our smaller height and size, we cannot as well deny that being short and small could also mean disadvantages in some regards. I always get frustrated whenever we lose international games like basketball, volleyball, and soccer. While we have the muscles, maybe it is really the truth that the height and size we possess are what brings as away from winning those gold medals and titles. Yes, we excel in several sports categories, but the medal tally in olympics and other international competitions is sufficient enough to say that we somehow lack the body features to compete well and win. I might be wrong, size doesn’t matter in sports as you may say, but the numbers have probably spoken a lot of times.





In the first place, height, color, race, size or whatever bodily features shouldn’t be a topic on any conversation about our existence as human beings in this planet. We are all created equal. We just have the qualities that distinguishes us from one another. We live the life we were gifted of. But here comes the sports, competitions, and events where these bodily characteristics matters and we Filipinos choose to participate. In that regard, haven’t we think that there are battles we really can’t win on?

So let’s focus more on the advantages we can pull off from our naturally smaller height.


Bonsai, a True Inspiration
I want to emphasize something more about bonsai, it’s smaller height, miniature size, and rare varieties that cannot just be found elsewhere. Why is it expensive? Why is it grabbing the attention of the crowd? Why it last for years, many years? Perhaps, there is something in us Filipinos that when cultivated, like the bonsai, can mimic the shape and scale of bigger size races or human beings. Or at least, we can do something good for our own irrelevant of what others are capable of. We can be better in sports or we can invent things that will further improve our lives and even the lives of others. What others can do, we can do it as well. If not sports, then maybe on other fields or aspects of life.





What is sad today is that within our own Philippine land, given the fact that we’re shorter and smaller, is that one still chooses to take advantage of the others. What’s happening outside our country is far worse, those that leads to discrimination of some resort.


In a sense, what we need are more “shorter people” with stronger minds and hearts, like those Filipino generals who fought for our independence, like those entrepreneurs whom are now known to the world, and like the attitude of many modern OFWs who are working for survival and fighting for their own rights. We need thinkers who can uplift our nation. We need the “smaller us” to unite and make a better nation. We need to be proud of our height, our size, against all odds. We are a bonsai; that smaller but stronger attitude within us. That’s our identity. That is who we are!




About this Blog
The author would like to give credit to the organizer of this event "The Living Art of Bonsai", Philippines Bonsai Society, Inc. and SM Dasmarinas, among others. This blog would not be possible without that opportunity given to capture the amazing beauty of the bonsai trees in this exhibit. This blog compares the physical characteristics of the common Filipinos to the bonsai trees, of them being smaller in height but stronger in personality, the intention of which is to share the positive side of our being a Filipino. It is not the intention of this post, in any way, to promote discrimination or inequality. Project Pilipinas aims to introduce Filipinos as one the most beautiful races in the world. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions or concerns. Sharing this post will be much appreciated.


About the Author
Noriel Panganiban is the sole blogger of Project Pilipinas. His advocacy is share to the world the Filipinos and the Philippines, the good, the bad, and everything in between. In line with this advocacy is that intention to promote the country as an excellent travel destination, Noriel's small act of patriotism. Noriel is also an advocate of free to affordable quality education. You can get to know more about this advocacy by visiting his website, www.knowriel.com.

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