Monday, November 28, 2005


I am inspired by what I read in:

F. Sionil Jose is probably the most eminent living Filipino author. Nick Joaquin may probably be more brilliant in his turns of phrase and perhaps in his palatability to the upper crust. I consider Sionil Jose a better read, and in novels he is miles ahead of Joaquin.

Filipinos have the curse of short memories, and in this piece, the author harps on a most valid point: we will not progress until there is a complete change of mind-set among the people. I believe the true middle class is the Overseas Filipino Worker community - we are better educated, we keep in touch with national issues even more fervently than the average Filipino.

OFWs are more prone to react to the burning issues of the day than the Filipinos who live oblivious to the events occuring around them. OFWs put in hard work, sacrifice, and separation from home to help keep the Philippines afloat. Personally, I don't believe in the sincerity of the government. Of any Philippine government. Our leaders have hopelessly overdrawn on our bank account, fiscally and emotionally.

I doubt it if my colleagues would feel the warmth of being hailed as "heroes." Please, I'm just doing my own bit for my family, and the country could go hang. Rarely has a Philippine administration matched its rhetoric with true reform. I couldn't care less about being a "hero," but that for the country's leaders to discharge their duties with probity and true love of country.

Beyond the tourist-y campaigns and the half-hearted tributes, we OFWs are left with an empty bag. The government has robbed us blind in processing fees and in medical benefits we and our dependents cannot even fully use. The government is weak in providing reintegration services and displays more alacrity in securing more berths for those who wish to go back.

Most of all, the government is largely inutile in protecting our workers from employer abuse. They are already inutile at home, so what can we expect them to protect our interests abroad? Media has hyped the Flor Contemplacions, the Sarah Balabagans, the Delia Magas, the Angelo de la Cruzes, the Robert Tarongoys. But I'm sure they also fail to mention so many others. Some have literally chosen, in the stupid words of former DFA Secretary Raul Manglapus, "to lay back and enjoy it."

We have no choice but to send money home. It is our fatal mystique, our vicious cycle. We have no choice but to swallow pride and all, for the sake of a better future. And it's funny --- many of our intellectual snobs laud the movement of people from the lower rungs of the economic ladder but decry the departure of those from the middle --- when it's those who have less in life who should receive the majority of our attentions, because they need more help. Here we are, squeezing blood out of a stone.

All for the sake of a fighting chance to make things different.

But even the best of fruits bear bitter tidings. The manufacturing industries are all virtually wrecked. Health services may go next, and soon we would lose the capability to invest more in our human capital.

We have already set the stage for the next generation of families --- indulgent children who fail to connect with the reality of hard work, and parents who for their own reasons, make the fateful decision to sever ties from the Philippines. We have boors of men who drink away the money their wives have slaved for.

This, I think, is the greater tragedy.

For as long as this possibility of a better life continues to exist, we will have people lining up for the exodus for the promise of economic salvation.

For the sake of the memory of our Filipino nation, OFWs must discover and remember what it is to be Filipino, beyond the "economic patriotism."

OFWs now have the vote. We must be able to wield our power through this franchise. We must not lose hope that our vote still counts, and then be vigilant in ensuring that the proper tallies are submitted and not subverted.

OFWs have long been organized. Now is the time to exercise the power of our organization, to better educate not only ourselves but our fellows and our children on the issues of the land.

OFWs also have learned the secret --- that mediocrity is bred, that Filipinos can aspire to the best we can be. The secret of success lies in pure industry and a respect for the rule of law. That discipline is not imposed from without but developed from within. That getting along is not the first rule of professional life, but that getting results is.

If only we would remember and then strive to come back.

I don't believe in "remittance nationalism." We cannot change the inertia just through the remittance, whether in excess or scarcity. What I do believe in, is that my sense of self as a Filipino is stronger now that I breathe the air of a foreign country. But my struggle, my life teaches me that it is possible the transcend our own mental boundaries. I have this dream that my fellow OFWs continue dreaming and working to change our country, not just from without but from within.

I don't really cherish my self-imposed exile. For it to end, life in the Philippines must change.

The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.
- Aristotle -

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