by Camille M. Carandang
ALWAYS THE IDEALIST, I am one of the few who once said, "I am not leaving this country." While I thrive on the thought of traveling for a living, I simply cannot imagine permanently moving to an entirely different time zone and paying taxes to a government that isn't mine.
My history class has instilled a bit of patriotism in me. It only took two months to convince me why I should love this country, and why I should believe that Rizal deserves to be the national hero. It only took, however, four days, to collapse the foundations where my idealism and patriotism once stood.
I went on a trip to Singapore. It was as simple as that.
For most people, the United States is their great oasis. Mine is a garden city guarded by a mythical merlion. It is beautiful, perfectly landscaped, safe, well-developed, and filled with disciplined citizens. Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Beijing may have captivated me. Singapore, however, lured me.
Twelve years ago, the Philippines was the tiger of Asia. The only progressive country in the Southeast region. Today, we are left behind by the struggling economies of the past. Those, which perhaps, twelve years ago, desperately wanted to be like us. Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia have obviously left us behind. Here we are wondering what went askew. It's easy to blame the government for our snail-paced development, or even the lack thereof. Yet, we probably all know we're part of the problem we're trying to fight. We're all just too ashamed to admit it.
It's tempting to nitpick, it's easy to criticize. I could probably list at least 10 reasons why we Filipinos, as a whole, are part of the problem. Then again, you would already know them.
Albeit leaving the country may be the obvious solution, it only exacerbates the problem. Migration has been the usual resort, it almost seems institutionalized. Tracing its roots in the mid-1920s, the first group of Filipinos left during this era to explore new terrain - the United States. Employed as factory workers in California, they were not only exposed to harsh living conditions, but also to discrimination from their American counterparts and superiors. It almost seems surreal that such a practice has persisted a century later. But social conditions have changed, globalization has emerged, and more often than not, leaving does prove to be more financially rewarding. Obviously.
Anywhere but here seems to be the common mentality shared by millions of Filipinos. Oz is a faraway land and there are many yellow brick roads that can lead one there. It isn't a wonder why. There is simply no question about it. But in finding a better promise for a personal future, people never stop to realize that they are the very reasons why our country isn't Oz.
The people themselves are the promise of the nation. It may fall short of a cliché, but only promising people can make up a promising country. A basket of bad eggs do not make for a delicious omelet.
We are endowed with free choice. There's nothing wrong with looking for greener pastures. It's our divine right as human beings. It's nothing to guilt over. Ironically, we aren't made to settle for less than the best. As evidenced by the myriad of rallies that spring in Mendiola each day, Filipinos always strive for the better life - not always in the best possible way, but they try nonetheless.
Thinking of our personal welfare has obviously led us farther and farther away from our country. Yet, wherever we may be, the Philippines will always tug at our heartstrings. Upon getting to Oz, romanticized notions disappear, leaving us with a plain simple thought: there's no place like home.
Let it serve as a reminder that we do not live for a job. We live for a life.
People clamor for change to the point of unreasonably going against the government. The difficulty lies in the fact that we want quick solutions for complicated problems. Tila isang kahig, isang tuka. No one is willing to work it out on a long-term scale. But at the end of the day, until we realize that each of us is part of the problem, the obvious solution will always be elusive.
While most have gotten cynical and some have gotten jaded, I refuse to be part of them. I am not going to fall into the trap of believing that the glass is half-empty. Because once I do, this country is going to lose another hope of becoming a promising one.