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.