By ANGELI C. ALBA
As the Philippines’ national election nears, the calls for change and political revolution is growing in intensity. The candidates pledge that they will be the answer to the Philippines’ problems—Senator Benigno Aquino III is promising no corruption; Senator Manny Villar, no more poverty; former President Joseph Estrada, service to the poor and disadvantaged; former Defence Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, an intelligent leadership; Senator Dick Gordon, political will and disciplined transformation; evangelical leader Eddie Villanueva, integrity; councillor JC de los Reyes, Christian morality.
But a recent essay that came to my attention told me that no amount of fidelity to promises will enable whoever our future president will be (along with his government) to lift our country from the mire—of poverty, illiteracy, environmental degradation, corruption, etc.—that it is stuck in.
The essay is written by a Korean: not grammatically perfect, and definitely, unapologetically written by an outsider about our country. Written by a certain Jae Youn Kim, the essay opens with this: “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.”
The Korean explained the personal and collective experiences of Koreans right after the war that impoverished South Korea and the sacrifices the Koreans had to make abroad—for love of country and their countrymen—in order to save money for their country and to be able to one day return to their motherland. And somehow, his explanations also served as enumerations of what many Filipinos are not doing for their country.
The list goes: “Korea was able to develop dramatically because Koreans really did their best for the common good with their heart burning with patriotism. Koreans did not work just for themselves but also for their neighbourhood and country. Education inspired young men with the spirit of patriotism. Many Korean scientists and engineers in the USA came back to Korea to help [in] developing [their] country because they wanted their country to be well off. Though they received very small salary, they did their best for Korea. They always hoped that their children would live in [a] well off country.”
Contrast all these with what many Filipinos are doing: Many of us have been reared on complaints about the Philippines and so many of us have grown up being distasteful of our country—no wonder our nation don’t have collective pride in our country, customs and traditions. Many of us have seen the seeming hopelessness in our country, and decided to throw our hands up in despair and save only our own families. Many of us have started thinking: what can we do to escape the mess of this country?
Our education, too, for the few of us lucky enough to finish high school and graduate from college, do not focus on fostering nationalism or patriotism. While we do have subjects in Filipino and Sibika at Kultura (Civics and Culture) to supposedly plant patriotism in our hearts and minds, we are simultaneously trained to grow up uncomfortable with what should be the basis of our identity as a nation—our language—in favour of training in English as we are forced to think and speak in a language other than Filipino. If we think about it, while learning English and any other foreign language is good, the government is pushing for the use of these languages basically to enable the Filipinos to earn more outside the country, so that the government can export more of our manpower as if this is the only avenue by which the country can survive.
Which brings to focus the third item on the Korean’s list: That many Filipinos’ goal is to leave the Philippines in search of greener pastures, not merely to earn a few dollars or dinars or to gain better education and more rigorous training. Many Filipinos has lost the desire to come back and nurture the country. In a locally-published “Go Negosyo” book, a collection of success stories of Filipinos in microbusiness, one man wrote that most Filipinos have forgotten how to look at the country and see its potentials—that the ability to become rich, be successful does not solely lie in a life abroad, but also in the vast untapped wealth in the country’s natural and human resources.
The observations are applicable for many Filipinos. But I must make an exception, as I am unable to agree with the Korean wholesale. I have been writing for a mostly migrant Filipino audience for close to two years now. Contrary to what the Korean wrote, I have become witness—through the stories I write and the Filipinos I have had the privilege of interviewing—to the love that migrant Filipinos bear for their motherland. Many of them pledge their energy, as well as material resources, to trying to help the Philippines and other Filipinos move towards success, or towards a more humane existence. These Filipinos, although many of them have already found a new life in Australia and have built families and careers in their adopted country, look back at the Philippines and see not a desperate mess but a nation that can be improved. I believe that that love, that unbreakable connection, that desire to reach back to the Philippines and make it a better country is truly well and alive in the hearts of migrant Filipinos. Unlike the Korean, I am of the belief that we do not lack love for country; our patriotism is merely banked, stagnant.
In this time when we again seek for better alternatives, when there is an opportunity to effect developments and advancements by changing the Philippines’ government leaders, I ask that Filipinos—whether migrant or not—remember that no kind of leadership can prosper in our country and uplift our nation if it is now supported by the willing action of Filipinos—by the limbs and minds of Filipinos who love their country. This is not just the time to elect better leaders of integrity and intelligence, it is also the time to plant or dredge up or strengthen the love that we owe the Philippines. Let that love galvanise us into moving the country forward.
I echo the Korean’s words: “If you have a child, teach them how to love the Philippines. Teach them why they have to love their neighbourhood and country.” Teach ourselves to love our country again.
(From old file: http://philippinetimes.com.au/clients/philippinetimes/love-not-just-political-revolution-p3734.htm)