I have always loved my country. I have even dreamed of serving her. Reading my journals, which dates back to the times when blogs weren’t yet invented, I could see entries containing my plans on what I would do for the country if ever I was elected the president. I love my country that I had never even considered going abroad to work even when my relatives all around me kept migrating to one country after the other.
I have told myself that the Philippines is enough for me; that I will learn to survive on her shores; that I will do my best to alleviate her suffering. I have been full of idealistic ideals back then. Again, that is, back then – when I was still a student, a mere spectator of the reality of dire situation of our country.
Now I am part of the workforce – no longer a spectator but an actual player in the country’s economy. I know what it takes to earn every single cent in my payroll; to pay every single centavo of tax automatically deducted from my salary. I know what it means to budget my money since I am not just paying for my own needs and wants but also catering to my siblings’ needs and wants. I now know what it’s like to be part of the country’s workforce.
I have felt what it’s like to earn something, to want to buy something from what I’ve earned, yet be denied because the money needs to be used for more practical means and the thing I wanted was a bit way above me current means. In short, I know what any other member of the Philippine workforce feels. I have entered the real world.
Indeed it is true that I went back to living in my parent’s house – thereby greatly reducing the cost of my daily living by more than 80% ( I don’t pay for rent or food or laundry) but still I have my own financial obligations around the house.
Earning had made me realize in perspective what would be the scenario when I have my own family to feed; to send to school; to attend to. Earning had made me realize what life would be like when I have other people depending on me and it is their needs and wants, not just my own, that I want and am obliged to fend for. Earning made me realize that if situations in the Philippines don’t improve or my salary doesn’t increase, then a job abroad is indeed very, very tempting – especially if you have a lot of relatives willing to process your papers for you.
Yet I still remain true to my initial desire of not leaving this country just so I could earn more; of hoping against all odds that everything will turn around somewhere and the nation will be a better place after all. But just so no one becomes surprised, being exposed to the real deal, to the real state of things, gets one thinking about the more pragmatic options there are out there.
It is never anyone’s conscious decision to leave the land of his birth. It is, I believe, no one’s choice to spend the most part of life away from the company of loved ones, of familiar people and familiar surroundings or cultures. It is, I believe, no one’s desire to serve in a foreign land and adapt to alien customs. But then practicality forces one to make such hard decisions – the need to be away from family and friends for long periods of time, the need to brave a new culture and environment for months, even years on end.
In the end, we tend to think that those who left the country didn’t love their mother land. We tend to think of them as somewhat traitors to their country, serving a foreign race when there are more people in need of their help and services here. But then who are we really to blame them if they seek greener pasture elsewhere? Who are we to judge them if they decided to live in a land they deem would bring a brighter future to them and their family? Who are we indeed to judge them when we do not know an inkling of the decision process they went through.
My aunt said that in order for her to become a US citizen, she had to memorize and sing the Star-Spangled Banner, which is the national anthem of the US. That song is a ballad, very much unlike our national anthem which is a march song. My aunt does not know how to sing. I can imagine her pains, memorizing a song, foreign to her and having to sing it in front of scrutinizing foreigners just to prove her desire to be part of their nation – a nation I know she would under different circumstances exchange for the Philippines. Yet she was left with no choice. To remain in the country and raise her family here would serve her a life sentence similar to her brother who is barely skimming above the country’s poverty line. Another scenario would be like that of her older brother – the family only becomes complete once in a blue-moon. She chose to have her entire family in the place where she knew she would be most richly compensated for – and she has a mansion of a house to prove that.
Now, my dad is on his way to Madagascar. It is sad. It is not what we would have originally chosen for ourselves – once again we would be missing another family member in the house, just when I have decided to come back home after years of studying far from it. But then I still have two siblings who have yet to finish their college degree and this is just practical for our family.
I guess the day would come when our country would drastically improve its economy; when the taxes that are deducted from my salary are 100% diverted to public funds and not personal pockets; when the salary one earns is enough to pay for all the needs of a household because the price of goods is at par with the payroll.
But until that time came, I am not closing my doors to the possibility of a greener pasture beyond Philippine shores.