The United States of America, for me, is a place for visiting family and loved ones. If I had really wanted to stay there, I would have done so ten years ago, when I set first set foot on the US mainland and had all but one kid. If I had really wanted to stay there, I would have acceded to my mother and sister’s requests to petition me for the Green Card. In all instances, I’ve said NO because silly old me wishes to make my home in Manila where I feel comfortable with the smog, the dirt and the ‘flying’ jeepneys.
I am sure this sentiment is shared not only by me but countless other Filipinos who have OPTED to stay in the Philippines. Because living in the Philippines is a matter of choice, not desperation. Some of us have been the world over, in places more beautiful than
some parts of America, and came back like a prodigal child because in our hearts we feel there’s simply no place like home.
Home for us is the Philippines and Asia, a world blessed with eternal sunshine, resplendent beaches. al fresco cafes and cities that never sleep. This is my comfort zone, a queer place where some houses are separated by clotheslines, not white picket fences; where malls have ‘midnight sales;’ drivers pride themselves of road shortcuts; and pot-bellied men drink San Miguel Beer or Ginebra in roadside stores.
True, millions of Pinoys have ventured to foreign shores to have a sense of normalcy and to search for a better life. What is ‘normalcy’ and what is ‘better?’ A place, perhaps, where the air is fresh, the trains run on time and there are no beggars knocking on your car window.
Sometimes I am tempted to scratch my head and pronounce myself silly for putting up with the polluted air, the crowded trains and the beggars knocking on my car window. I actually say a prayer every time I go out into Manila’s streets because I believe too much of what is highlighted in the newspapers. But I guess this is also a risk in whatever part of the world you’re in.
Wala namang mangyayari sa atin dito.” Nothing will happen to us here is the oft repeated reason of my kababayans in opting out.
To these friends of mine, I wonder how they are now. Has being in the First World made them happier, better, fuller? I cannot judge their choices in the same way that I don’t want them to judge me for being foolish enough to stay.We all have our own definition of what comfort is. To you, it may be a eight-bedroom mansion that you can show off, to me it is our three-bedroom house that is easy to clean and full of the laughter of my children.
I really don’t know where heart and home leads me someday but am staying because I feel comfortable in this country’s own skin, because I have affection for this sun-kissed, sometimes typhoon-battered islands. Just think: if all of us talented people flew out of here, what will happen to this Philippines? We are after all NOT one of those who choose to stay here because ” there is so much money to be made from the public coffers, let’s raid the treasury dry!” Some of us, particularly the doctors in the barrios and public school teachers, are staying out of hope for this country, love for the Motherland and the desire to serve.
Going back to my beginning statement, it is amazing how a rejection by those “shitlomats” at the US Embassy in Manila can make you reaffirm your roots. Wake up gentlemen, the world is fast changing! If your high and mighty Embassy should reject us poor Filipinos who merely want to visit your “overrated” country (after robbing us of $131, of course) , it wouldn’t be any loss. There are 244 other countries who’d be willing to welcome us with open arms, as if our visa-peppered passports aren’t proof of that.
The map has shifted. These days if we want to gamble, we wouldn’t even have to fly all the way to Las Vegas, bigger and better Macau is just nearby. Golden opportunities are opening up, not in recession-hit, terrorist-paranoid, tornado-battered America, but in the Middle East, Asia, and God knows where else. So what are they being so arrogant about??