Sunday, December 12, 2004

What Filipinos Do

I have a friend who's been in Singapore for over four years now. He met his wife there. They now have a son.

He thinks of coming back to the Philippines. No mystery about that, I suppose. He left family and friends. He left home.

But he still is in Singapore with his wife and son.

I find his situation personally relevant because I just recently opted to take a job overseas. At best, I’d have several weeks out of Manila at a time, then one or two weeks in. If I have to stay in the country where I’m employed for an extended period, then I just plan to do this for a couple of years. Then return home.

I’m sure he had similar plans.

"The longer I stay away, the more it makes sense not to come back. It's what Filipinos do."
"It seems so sensible to stay, especially when you see another country making the most of what it has, as compared to ours, which seems to waste most of everything."
"Most people either just look after their own, to hell with everyone else, or just leave."

These are the things he said to me when we last talked.

I didn't disagree. I have in my own mind the country that I want for myself and my family. I’m sure my friend does as well. I’m sure our wishes are quite common, efficient government, security and safety, and gainful employment. Many countries would call these rights. And in many countries other than ours, you can expect that these will be accorded to you.

I suppose that it’s easy to assume that not enough people have the same desire for such a country. It seems that that more than enough see it as a place where you just look out for yourself.

My only reply to my friend was that we have to earn our country. I see this as the only logical and practical way of looking at this.

If one wants something, then only way to get it is to work for it. It was a concept that he readily understood. After all, he went to Singapore to be able to pursue the things that he wanted.

It occurred to me then that a desire for a better country is not the same as a desire for a better Philippines.

I myself want a better Philippines. I’d like to think that I could and would work for it.

I can't imagine that it will be given to me as a gift. Even if it were given, without the experience of building it, we would not have the skills to maintain and protect it. To paraphrase a quote from a president and from a poet, we'll never get to run it like heaven without the memory of running it like hell.

Too many already choose not to do it. So many just leave or just look out for themselves.

I can't do it by myself and I don’t expect to. There are many others who do want a better Philippines. I’ve met and know more than a few.

So I just plan to do my own time abroad and make some cash. Then return to make my life and my home in the land where I was born.

Saturday, August 21, 2004


I’m in the airport waiting to board my plane to Bangkok. I was just trying to doze off then I found myself being kept awake by an American seated behind me, having a conversation with someone next to him.

He said that he was on his way to Bangkok, that he took a trip every year. He wanted to go to Manila but was advised against it due to security concerns. Then he mentioned that everyone hates Americans, that he doesn’t understand it. He says he’s a nice guy, doesn’t hate anything himself. He’s a teacher who just takes a big trip every year.

It occured to me that the people who hated them probably didn’t have much to love in life. I suppose if you don’t have much to have or love yourself, then it would be easy to hate those who do.


I remembered the Burnhams who were kidnapped by the Abu Sayaff three years ago. They were missionaries who were trying to provide for Filipinos what the Philippines itself could not, some education, probably some respect and attention. Then they were the ones kidnapped and killed, made into symbols of hatred against Americans.

I don’t know of any other nation that sends missionaries here so much as the US. I’m not sure whether that’s because we were a former colony or whether as a country, the US is the one with the most people willing to go out and help out where they’re needed. If the second were true, that would be the greatest irony that I can see. The seemingly most hated nation is the one who’s own people cares for others the most. And the caring is shown in its most basic and personal form. They’ll leave their own country to go to yours.

After a while, I found myself getting surrounded by more and more Americans. They’re missionaries on their way to Thailand and Laos. It seems that they’re off on some outreach program to visit schools and orphanages. When their whole group got together, they sat around and started to recite verses and prayed.

These are the people killed in the name of God.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

First Day

Today was my first full Saturday in my apartment. No going home to my family's place. Just spent the day in my own.

It's been a few years since I lived away from home, mainly due to job assignments. This is the first time I've done it not because of work, but just because I could.

I thought that all I'd do at my family's place would be to lay in bed, read, or watch TV.
And I could do all that in my apartment.

That did get to me, the thought that it's not where you are, but what you do. Or what you don't.