Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fighting For

When I left the Philippines in 1989, I resolved to return to fight for all those poor schoolchildren who with their parents made great sacrifices each day just so they could attend school. Every time I get discouraged by the seeming indifference of the masses and the deadly cynicism of those in positions of power, all I do is visit a schoolroom and I look at the eager eyes of all those little children and I know that I must do something about the terrible situation we find ourselves in.

All those years abroad however made me conscious about a whole new class of Filipinos who tolerated 18 hour work-days, overt sexual harassment, bitter discrimination, and above all dehumanizing loneliness. All over the world, I became aware of maids making $125 a month and sending $100 back to the families they left behind. Meanwhile, how many families were permanently torn apart with this arrangement?

Economic institutions claim that the Philippine economy is rapidly growing. Granted that next to China, India and even Vietnam our economic growth can be classified as picayune our nation notwithstanding is still growing. What bothers me is that the architects of government assert that all this growth is the result of their planning and wisdom. Nothing can be further from the truth. Whatever demonstrable growth we see is mostly from the combined sacrifices that all these Filipinos overseas make daily.

And yet the moment we return "home", we are met by corrupt customs and immigration officials at the airport. Beady-eyed porters and taxi drivers can't wait to take advantage of us. Our license to drive abroad is not good enough and we have to begin as "student drivers" once again (pending a donation). My license to practice medicine in the US was not good enough either even if I had passed the Philippine medical boards many years ago (again, to skip all the scatological hurdles, money had to change hands). The overseas Filipino is called the "new hero", and rightly so. But no hero is ever appreciated in his own country.

I have a gnawing dread inside that tells me it will take more than billions of dollars in remittances to right this almost totally corrupt society of ours. This is something we cannot redeem with money alone. It will take much more than treasure. This is a dream that demands much more serious commitment.

No comments: