Thursday, June 23, 2011

Coffees and Frappes for Good

Three, five or ten years from now, how many among the 196 graduates of our batch will I still spend homecomings and Christmases with? How many of my batch mates’ weddings will I still be able to attend? How many of my friends will I still be able to sit around with for nonsense conversations over cups of coffee or frappes?
Year after year, I hear of proud relatives and neighbors speak of their niece’s or nephew’s sojourn in search of greener pastures. I oftentimes find them envious and with great wanting to be able to go as well. I know they would trade anything just to step on foreign grounds. However, lack of financial resource is one of the major obstacles that prevent them from doing so.
I understand their fervent desires and perhaps their longing knowing that most of their loved ones are miles and miles away from them. And in a month’s time, I too would be looking up in the sky staring at airplanes and praying for two of my friends to have a safe trip as they embark on different destinations abroad.  And maybe a couple of months from now there would be another two, three or four of them… I really don’t know. 
As I look back, I can’t help but feel a bit of sadness in my heart knowing that two individuals whom I have spent my fondest years are no longer a ride, a phone call or a text away. Gatherings will never be the same again and as I think of them leaving the country, I can’t help but be mindful of what future awaits them.
For someone like me who’s never been able to go to places outside of the country, I can only listen and imagine how it is like abroad through descriptions made to me by my aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and even  colleagues. Some say it’s pretty tough out there and that it’s no place for weaklings. I hear my aunt tell me she wakes up at about four o’clock in the morning just to prepare breakfast for her family and do some chores before heading to work. She adds that the weather isn’t built for people who have low tolerance to cold.  But then, she tells me it’s nice to live there knowing that some of the services we usually pay for here in our homeland happen to be catered abroad for free just like medical services, and education to name a few.
And just when you’ve made up your mind about dreaming of being abroad [because, to you, the advantages weigh heavier than the disadvantages], a friend  suddenly converses with you and tells you all these crazy stuff about racial discrimination, harassment, rape, failing economy , retrogression and the like forcing you start all over again, weighing your thoughts.

To feel the tiniest speck of white snow melt on their cheeks, to see one’s breath form what seems to be smoke as he speaks, to experience a climate far different from that of the tropic’s  and  to be able to earn in a month what an average worker earns in half a year’s ceaseless toil… These are just a few of the many reasons why Filipinos are in such a rush to go beyond Philippine boundaries. And maybe, some of these desires might just be the same as mine.
I am one of the millions of Filipino aspirants willing to take the risk in the hope of a better life not just for myself but for two important individuals who have worked night and day to give me the best food, clothing and shelter I could get. Their supplications may not be that grandiose but they sure were enough to keep me alive and at certain circumstances, they have given me more than enough possessions I can possibly live without. And it’s because they’ve given me much love that I feel, I too, should have something to contribute.
I don’t see myself living permanently in foreign lands. Maybe I just want a taste of it. Maybe I just want adventures and experiences to tell my grandchildren some day. But you see, I’m no business tycoon. I’m just an ordinary person willing to strike back at life’s hardest blows and I know I would greatly hurt myself if I never took the opportunities presented in front of me. What if these opportunities might just have been the key to my success? I don’t think I wouldn’t be willing to risk that.
My country had been in such turmoil recently. It had undergone the worst corruption in Philippine history. Not all of our government officials are corrupt but most are and it’s just so disheartening that the one person we thought we could trust was the very person who failed us and robbed us of what we had.
I couldn’t imagine how she manages to sleep at night knowing that that there are hundreds of thousands of hungry mouths to feed. Knowing that there are sick individuals who die in hospital beds not receiving proper care because of financial constraints. She should have known how many children opt to work under the sun tilling their lands instead of studying in school because they say that education will take them nowhere.
Had not these officials squandered our taxes, there would be no room for unemployment, underpaid employees, poor economy and even immigrants in search of better compensation for their professions and in search of a more responsive government.
The number of Filipinos dissatisfied with their way of life is increasing year after year. Some of these Filipinos are left with no other option but to try their luck overseas. Some make it big-time while some end up feeling like they shouldn’t have left the country.
Many times I have sat in front of the television, watching documentaries about Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) telling their happy and not so happy tales to the world. OFWs are what we call the millions of Filipinos working all around the world and we have been relentlessly taught and informed that they should be called “Bagong Bayanis”  [translation: new heroes].
Why shouldn’t we? They boost the economy through the dollars they send their families year after year. They make us proud of them when they strut all the way to some popular awards night and all. They inspire us to become better individuals when we see them involved in organizations to help mankind. They make us believe that dreams do come true with hardwork, of course. But when I hear of sad sojourns, when I hear of their bitter stories, I can’t help but feel for them.
I know they took the risk in the hope of becoming successful in whatever paths they chose to tread but they just didn’t make it no matter how hard they tried. Instead, life had been harsher, crueler than they expected. And when I hear of their hardships, I can’t help but think of the “what ifs”. These stories just make me weak and change my decisions and my perceptions of going abroad.
Now, I’m thinking, do I really want to go? Had I belonged to 32 million affluent hacienderos, hacienderas and business tycoons of my generation and had the economy sustained enough funds to give proper compensation to budding nurses like me so I may give my family not just food to eat but the life I envision them to live, I wouldn’t go.
And just like the millions of other Filipinos who are willing to tolerate cold and lonely nights, I too, wouldn’t be thinking about leaving my loved ones and longing for their love while I work abroad. Perhaps, I wouldn’t find myself years from now crying myself to sleep while I long for my parents’ embrace and care.
And maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t be looking up in the sky staring at airplanes and praying for my friends to have a safe trip because they will be sitting around with me for nonsense conversations over cups of coffees and frappes for as long as we please.


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