The Heart of a Filipino Longing to Return Home

By , on February 1, 2014

Pangarap: So, Our Journey Begins

To live and or work abroad is a personal decision.  After all, life is all about choices, they say.

Growing up, we watched family, friends, relatives, neighbors and even strangers  leaving to migrate or simply to work abroad. We hear about the reasons that pertain to uplifting the social and economic state of loved ones. We hear about all the unselfish motivations and the sacrifices that had to be done to make the choice.

I have never dreamed to go abroad. I was just one of those who grew up watching people come and go. Imagine that at way past the age of 40, I did not even know that there is such a thing as independent skilled professional immigration application in a country like Canada.  I always thought that some relative has to petition you or something. I did not dream because I didn’t think there was any chance at all. Until a fateful day  in 2002 when a new officemate aspiring to be an immigrant encouraged and taught me about it.  And as soon as my decision to migrate had been made,  I became but part of the statistics that continue to save my country from total economic quagmire.

But it does not matter that the remittances of a Filipino abroad has helped propped up the economy of his country. People he left behind still anxiously await to know whether he will make it or not successfully.  Sadly, it makes you ask yourself : What is more debilitating for my country—the crab mentality of many or the corruption of the few?

Crab mentality or corruption, still it doesn’t matter.  Having lived abroad, worked, succeeded, failed, frustrated, hailed, enslaved, downgraded, disrespected, esteemed,  recognized, loved, envied, insulted, snubbed, feared, threatened. Having had plenty or  nothing, begging, asking, amassing, saving, remitting, borrowing, lending.  None of these matter.

You still long for home.  As someone has said—you can take the Filipino out of his country but you cannot take the country out of the Filipino.

For the second time,  you have to make a choice.

How do you make the choice this time?

Maybe a slice of Philippine mango, a long drive to the Manaog Shrine, a quiet walk in the white sand beaches of Boracay, a cozy trip to feel the cool breeze of Tagaytay, then lots of banana cue, fishballs, halo-halo, palabok, balut, sapin-sapin, suman, quesong puti, gatas-kalabaw will get you yearning for home.

You thought leaving was easy because you were passionate about a dream—a dream of a better life abroad.  The lure of greener pasture or brighter future for you, for your children and the family, and maybe the whole clan. But it was not that easy for someone like myself who had a good and comfortable life to leave behind. It was not easy for someone who has to face the uncertainty of having to start all over again.

But is going back an even easier decision to make?

There are two possible, immediate reasons why you may decide to go back—one, it is also a hard-knock life overseas.  There is the feeling of why go through an agony when it is not worth the suffering. Second,  you have grown old and have saved enough to think you can get by until  you die.  You have achieved what you have dreamed and what is the point of prolonging the loneliness of being away from home and family. We just hit the right word—family.

Family is the root, the be-all, perhaps.

With the best of technology today, everything that happens in the Philippines easily reaches the ears and consciousness of every Pinoy around the world.  I must admit, sometimes we get tired of hearing the same old stories happening, only with different set of characters.  It can be sickening and so frustrating to realize that the very reasons why we had left and why we had worried about the future for our children are still the same stories we hear over and over again—crime, corruption, poverty, traffic, unemployment. The same stories being heard by those who left 20, 30, 40, 50 or may even 60 years ago.

We have had it on record that the remittances sent by Filipinos abroad had been for a long time the saving grace of the Philippine economy. Many times outranking foreign investments as the source of  much-needed economic  intravenous medication. This has sparked debates on why there is no hard work being exerted in producing local jobs because the jobs and money remitted  by Filipinos abroad are deemed enough to feed the nation. Thus, Filipinos are instead encouraged to leave and work abroad. This has, of course, had repercussions on the quality of family life;  plus, the horror and sob stories that we have accumulated through those OFW years.

Why the same stories? Was the Korean student, Jaeyoun Kim, correct when he wrote in his essay, “Filipinos always complain about the corruption in the Philippines . Do you really think the corruption is the problem of the Philippines ? I do not think so. I strongly believe that the problem is the lack of love for the Philippines . . .” ?

And so he prescribed, “. . . . I want Filipinos to love their neighborhood and country as much as they love God so that the Philippines will be well off. I am sure that love is the keyword, which Filipinos should remember. We cannot change the sinful structure at once. It should start from person. Love must start in everybody, in a small scale and have to grow. A lot of things happen if we open up to love . . .”

So what shall make one decide to go back and maybe resume life or retire in the Philippines?

Only LOVE . . .

Love for who you are, love for your family, love for the thought of how you could still be happier in a familiar ground, and all that you love about it.

If Filipinos abroad will use corruption, traffic, unemployment, crime, poverty  and all—as reasons not to visit or not to go back home, they will unfortunately not be able to go back home ever.  Not even 10 million signatures can stop any of those.  Why, it seems they have been there forever.  There is no shortcut or band-aid solutions. We can take one little step at a time.  Maybe one piece of pork in a barrel at a time.

As for you, if you feel that a profession of love for country is too profound or maybe even mushy, then mince that into little bits of likes and patriotism. Maybe a slice of Philippine mango, a long drive to the Manaog Shrine, a quiet walk in the white sand beaches of Boracay, a cozy trip to feel the cool breeze of Tagaytay, then lots and lots of banana cue, fishballs, halo-halo, palabok, balut, sapin-sapin, suman,  quesong puti, gatas-kalabaw.  Or  into generous little acts –  to a street kid, to a sweaty traffic enforcer, to a balut vendor, to a loyal messenger, to a takatak peddler, to a suking delivery boy, to a weekly labandera or a sleep-in family driver.

For love can only beget love.  And love can only but increase one’s faith. Yes,  FAITH.

Why would you want to resume your life back home? Why would you even consider spending the remaining  years of your life in the Philippines?

Because, aside from love,  you also have faith.  Because it is the same faith that had carried you through to your life away from your home country. Because it is that faith that will bring you back to believe that your home country will be alright.  Because you have faith that that country, notwithstanding the crabs and the pigs, will welcome you back with open arms and provide you with same, equal opportunities to put your life back together again. To be happy, to be cradled, to be hugged and embraced like a long lost pilgrim child.

And upon your return, if you give enough love and spread random acts of kindness at every little opportunity, you increase the faith of the people who had welcomed you back to trust you again and to believe in the goodness of every Filipino once again, regardless  of whether they have left or they have stayed.

And upon your return, bring the values that you have learned and re-learned from where you had come from or stayed for years.  Bring the sipag that our foreign employers loved us for, bring the new skills and innovations you have picked up along the way, bring the discipline that you had shown we Filipinos are capable of, bring the gratefulness of spirit, bring the respect that you gave other peoples and cultures, bring the funny little stories that you laughed about and made your day brighter, bring the hope and the optimism that had carried you through your lowliest moments away from home.

Finally, upon your return,  leave the bitterness because you thought you are being rejected, leave the anger that you felt because of the discrimination that you see, leave the fears that was caused by uncertainty, leave the tiresome competition only to prove yourself, leave the  weariness of trying hard, leave the helplessness of having to struggle all the time, leave the anxiety of everyday survival, leave the loneliness or aloneness you suffered from. You are home now.

Just leave and for sure, our country will be there to welcome you back.