Given the alarmingly increasing number of people I know who have chosen to leave the Philippines in search of a better life abroad, I am understandably confronted by this same query more and more often these days. And with the disheartening onslaught of negative news and events that our poor nation has constantly been battered with, I find myself having to probe deeper and harder within myself for an honest, plausible answer.
There were many instances in my life when I could have packed up and gone – easily. In fact, if I wanted to right at this moment, I would have no problem stuffing my belongings in a suitcase and leaving tomorrow. I am one of those fortunate to have never had much trouble getting a U.S. visa and having it renewed as needed, to the consternation of the hundreds, nay thousands, of desperate souls out there who have tried to move heaven and earth to overcome their literal state of constant denial.
I am sure I can easily find a good company to work in overseas, armed as I am with a resume’ boasting of a Master’s Degree in business management, a lengthy list of academic achievements that would seem almost made up, varied work experiences and awards in top multinationals and glowing referrals from my very well-connected former superiors. Heck! I know I could have my folks gleefully rolling in remittance dollars by now if I really wanted to actualize my potentials in a more industrialized foreign country.
Ah, and there lies the rub: If I really wanted to. As hard as it is to believe, I have never found myself ever really wanting to.
I admit that I love to travel. I fall in love with each new country I visit. I love to experience the magnificent thrill of new places – the sound, the smell, the sight, the taste and the feel of them. I love uncovering their startling nuances, admiring their novel beauty and marveling at their outstanding uniqueness. I love going abroad and staying….but only for a while.
Always, for just a while.
It is not long before my heart and soul yearn once again for home –the Philippines. For despite the chaos and madness, the cruel injustices, and the hurtful betrayals that this country spuriously inflicts, I realize that I am helplessly in love with her. Tell me, how can one not be drawn?
I close my eyes and sigh as memories of life in these islands warmly embrace me and engulf my senses.
I inhale the romantic scent of gorgeous pine trees and savor the cool mountain air in Baguio.
I feel the soothing comfort of fine powdery white sand underneath my feet as I walk the shoreline of Boracay while taking in the breathtaking sunset that emblazons the horizon with a bursting prism of pink and orange.
I taste with unbridled relish the large juicy pineapples, luscious bananas and sinfully sweet avocados that can be bought for a song from the smiling market vendors in Tagaytay.
I hear the familiar multitudinous noises upon entering yet another new mall in the metro – the musical ringing tones spewing from the celfones of teen-agers hanging out after school; the delightful giggles of children as their parents bring them to their favorite toy stores and game amusement centers; the excited chatter of women ready to unleash their spending power as a Midnight Madness Sale hits the area on payday (usually accompanied by the disgruntled muttering of their unfortunate male companions); the cooing of oblivious lovers strolling while holding hands as if they were in a middle of a park instead of a shopping center; the clinking of beer bottles as tired office workers roll up their sleeves and relax with their buddies in a bar; the inevitable audible mixed commentaries of a procession of moviegoers coming out of a theater after watching the latest touted blockbuster – all these and more make up a mixture of sounds that may be considered odd, almost cacophonous even, but still are able to come together to provide a scintillating, one-of-a-kind experience.
And then, I gaze up carefully from where I stand and take in the sight of the Filipino people. I see the public school teachers patiently engaging in light banter with their enthusiastic pupils who are carrying schoolbags bigger than them. I see the kids helping their grandparents cross the street towards church. I see the vendors perseveringly peddling their assorted wares to earn a decent living.
I see the excited townfolk preparing sumptuous roasted pigs and other mouthwatering delicacies while hanging colorful banderitas for their upcoming town fiesta where all and sundry are invited to join in their celebration. I see the young and old together fervently reliving the passion of Christ during the Lenten season and then sharing in the joy of the Resurrection during Easter Sunday. I see the throngs of families braving the worst of traffic jams just to be able to return to their hometowns and pay homage to their dearly departed during All Souls’ Day. I see the housewives putting up Christmas trees while humming carols as early as October, eager to usher into their homes the joyous spirit of the yuletide season which lasts a record duration of three months in this country. I see the dazzling display of fireworks light up the sky during New Year’s Eve.
I see that Filipinos who are among the kindest, most hospitable, most helpful, most talented and most caring human beings on the planet surround me. I am amongst people who wear their heart on their sleeve, who toil hard daily not for themselves but for their families, who are generous despite their poverty, who have hope when all seems lost, who hang on to their faith despite the worst of trials, who laugh amidst their tears, who treat friends as bloodkin, who love without condition.
Suddenly, I am filled with a deep sense of awe.
Simply, I am enthralled.
So again, as the question arises…why the hell am I still here? I look you straight in the eye and answer: WHY THE HELL NOT??? You can have your milk and honey. I’m happy with mine, thank you.