Friday, July 08, 2005

Country Woes

I am an expat who is on a three-month sojourn to the old homeland. Motivated by a personal agenda, all intended to improve and enhance my personal capabilities to indulge in the avowed task of being able to help others and myself in the country where I was born, educated, and I worked for a time.

And after already a month into the trimester, I have tallied that I have garnered some modest successes in some predetermined areas, such as financially incrementing my holdings in our fast-growing credit union; enhancing the values of my real estate holdings by making cosmetic repairs and value-adding improvements; and initiating plans to invest more in our commercial building endeavors with the end in view of generating more rental income; and other similar investments/expenditures designed to position us both to earn more and thus, improve the overall value of our estate, and help those less unfortunate.

In fine, I could say that things are looking up and the future is quite rosy. I find myself not having any plausible or discernible reason to think that being in this country would be a big disadvantage for me, taking into account the fact that I have spent the last 26 years of my life and that of my family in the United States.

Granted that my initial reason was not because of purely economic imperatives, however, part of the reason for leaving was to try to live and work abroad with the scheming notion that exerting the same amount of passion, sweat, and dedication focused to the then current job, I could earn more working in the US. The fact that the wife was an American citizen made it easier to decide to try something different.

Admittedly, also factored into the decision to migrate were the frustrations and cynicism then experienced in the job. Idealistic pursuits, honed and inebriated by years of study under the Jesuit motto, man/woman for others, that could not find place and fulfillment in work. Still, I left the old country as a member of its working class, solely dependent on livelihood to support family and myself. Though contented with the material benefits accorded by work, it was then thoroughly threshed out and decided that living and working for a while in the US would be a welcomed and personally advantageous change.

And so it was. And now, 26 years later, I am back in the old country thinking and acting much like the way it was, though now sporting a foreign citizenship. Getting re-acclimatized to the humid weather. Being indifferent to the silly and at times, abhorrent, politics of the country. But experiencing a lot of countrified goodness, downright humility, unspoiled simplicity, spontaneous helpfulness, etc., in the locals I have reacquainted with. Of course, abject poverty and most dire deprivation daily stare one in the face most everywhere one goes, heightened and made more pronounced by the life experienced in the first world. Definitely, many things are a lot worse than when I left the country. There are also more people in the same places that used to be populated by very much less. Worse, talks of citizens leaving the country for greener pastures abroad fill and electrify the air.

Still, I am of the mind that Filipinos belong to the Philippines. It is their only proper place, however messy and unrecognizable it may now seem and look. In most countries where Filipinos gravitate, my experiences and studies suggest to me that many find it difficult to assimilate because their innate desires and qualities to continue to be Filipinos make that task that much harder. They want to remain Filipinos and will only give up their Filipino-ness in areas where they really have to to survive. For the most part, they want to remain and be identified as Filipino. Most continue to adamantly pine that someday they will be back in the old homeland. Such irony, if you ask the natives in those countries, who assume that migrating to their respective countries presupposes that the immigrant desires to give up the old culture to assume a new one.

That long premise done with, though I would say in a rather long-winded and ineffectual way, I now say that I was taken aback by a blog entry I read in the Sassy Lawyer, where the author opened herself up and poured out the seeming initial dilemma in her family regarding the husband's desire to migrate to another country.

Having read her blogs and many of her most loyal following for at least a year, one couldn't find a more cohesive pack of Filipinos, standing tall and proud for Filipino-ness, warts and all, in peace and turmoil, the country against the world, especially against the perceived arrogance and indifference of a number of first world countries and their bungling leaders.

But why the abrupt change in heart? It is not for me to get involved, of course. But I am curious. As expressed, the desire to migrate for one thing, stems from the goals of providing a more secure and opportunity-laden future for the kids and for their own golden years. As theorized, migrating to another country, most probably to a first world one, would considerably improve the chances of attaining these goals.

In my most humble estimation, this seeming dilemma can be resolved if one examines how each individual person perceives the "journey of life". How one defines the purposes and goals of life and living in general determines to a great extent how one views or adapts to one's immediate environs, and on a broader context, to one's country. Country, not just as a political construct and/or as an abstraction, but as one where one thrives and interacts with people and environment, and everything else in between.

Is the journey of life perceived as a smooth sail on a most hospitable sea caressed by friendly winds, or is it one done amidst treacherous waters where danger lurks at every turn or change of winds? Stated differently, is life one big test and trial that will incessantly stretch one's indomitability? Or is it one where one expects a yeoman's share of peace, tranquillity, prosperity, goodness, etc. to settle on and bless one's family before one departs to the great beyond?

Is the actual attainment of the goals, rather than the manifold but resolute and continued attempts at accomplishing the goals, the greater and more important measure of one's life here on earth?

Where is the "eye" to one's intentions?