The shortsightedness of the Pilipino

The author: Glorification of life abroad is a tragic thing.

By A. Mabini

When I head back to the Philippines sometime in the upcoming year, I am almost certain that I will hear of another grade school friend trading Davao City for a foreign destination. The delivery of the news commonly contains a mixture of happiness and a jealous tone by the storyteller.

I think it is tragic. Although I am happy for a friend who will almost certainly have a better financial situation, I am sad for another Pilipino who will more likely celebrate the holidays far from family and who will realize that living abroad isn’t what it’s all hyped up to be. The only thing more tragic is the glorification of life abroad.

What is wrong with the picture is the shortsightedness of the Pilipino. Let me explain, but please before I do, I hope that beyond my critical, conscious voice, you’ll hear the sincerity behind the composition of these words.

Pilipinos pride themselves in being a “nurturing people.” In other words, we are a naturally caring group and are apt to take care of people who are in need of help. Although I am not criticizing this wonderful human trait, I am and have always been critical of our ability to enable family and kababayan. I am a believer of the old parable, “Don’t give a man a fish, and instead teach him how to fish.”

When we look at our economic situation as a whole, we see the abrasive challenge to the above parable. One of the nation’s top sources of income (if not the number one source of income) is remittance, and it has been that way for many years now. The accumulation of my understanding from the many discussions and discourses I have had with Pilipinos here abroad can be summed up in the idea of complacency and acceptance of this fact. At the end of these discussions I usually find myself frustrated in reservation.

I am frustrated at the failure of my peers to understand that going abroad and sending money home is a temporary fix. It is never ending; similar to an athlete who takes painkillers for an injury that can be permanently fixed by rehabilitation and commitment to prevent the same injury from happening in the future. The injury I am referring to is the displacement of the Pilipino from his homeland. I chose the word displacement because I remember the melancholy hugs of farewells from fathers to sons, daughters and wives, brothers, sisters and parents at the OFW line at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

We need to find a way for our nation to be self-sufficient, and sending more and more capable and intelligent people abroad is only pushing us far and far behind this essential objective. We need to look beyond sending money back home to fix our homes, and instead we ought to send money home to fix our country. In other words, instead of sending money home for nursing students, we ought to send money home for future lawyers, public administrators and potential community leaders. We need to encourage our brightest and most talented to lead our nation instead of rearing them only to nursing, and caretaking roles abroad. In the process, future generations will no longer need to go abroad and send money home just so their prodigies will inevitably become part of this never-ending cycle. We, as a people need to be more ambitious and audacious. A change of mentality has to occur. The next generation must change the fate of our country by taking on a more pro-active role.

In the beginning of this evolution, many will come short, experience heartbreaking moments, and learn that this article was easier read than done. However, nothing great was ever achieved without painful sacrifices. Therefore there’s a need for a conscious decision to change our fate as a people, without this desire for change, we will remain stagnant in our caretaker role.

This article is not a direct offensive at those who see our people mainly as caretakers. However, it is an indirect and necessary shot at these individuals and their complacent attitudes. An absolutely self-sufficient Pilipino nation is possible. We need to change the mentality bequeathed by the older generation who marched at the People Power Revolution but have lost spirit in the transparent hopelessness of incompetent and malicious public leaders. Persistence and defiance against an overwhelming obstacle have to be once again realized by the descendants of the warriors who could not be stopped by a single bullet and made it absolutely essential for the U.S. Army to issue revolvers to their soldiers during the Philippine-American War (1899-1903).

I am fortunate that I have come to realize that life is a constant struggle so early in my life. I have decided to struggle at home more than anywhere else on God’s earth.

A. Mabini was born in Davao City to Lourdes and Elorde Sr. The youngest of Elorde’s three sons, A. Mabini grew up in Sasa, Davao City until his 11th birthday when the entire family relocated to the Bronx. He still lives in the Bronx — and vows to never leave the Bronx as long he resides in New York. He is a member of a non-profit organization, Pilipino-Americans Unity for Progress, Inc. and like everyone in UniPro, supports every Pilipino community organization in the tri-state. He hopes to find his way home someday.

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