Why I Have Hope for the Philippines
by Franco Varona, Jr.
I lived in the Philippines for a grand total of two and half years after growing up in Vancouver for a majority of my life. I finished off high school in Manila, then went on to college there for one sem. I left Manila in the beginning of 1999 for Syracuse, but something happened to me during my short stint in Manila- I began referring to it as “home”. My brief stay in the Philippines had affected me so deeply that I have subsequently geared the rest of my life towards helping the country out.
I took up International Relations, with a concentration in Foreign Policy, War and Conflict Resolution- because I believed that a deep knowledge of all three of those aforementioned subjects CAN and WILL help the Philippines eventually. Before living in the Philippines, my motives were selfish and self-serving- I wanted to be a lawyer to make money, or be a journalist so I could, in my own way, shape the world through my words. But living there and getting to know the country intimately helped me develop a love for the country that can only be compared to the love I have for my family. Now, I have every intention of using that degree to its fullest potential in any way I can for the country. Even though my birthplace is Canada and I spent my informative years in the USA, the Philippines has somehow found its way to my mind and my heart. And I say `my mind’ because I see the Philippines as a challenge, not as a sinking ship. And I believe there is a whole generation of young Pinoys that feel the same way as me.
The Korean essay was right in some ways- sometimes I meet up with second generation Filipino-Americans and they simply do not care. They don’t identify with the Philippines and perceive it to be a dirty, corrupt society. Although initially annoyed when I speak to these types of people, I eventually realize that it’s not their fault- they have lived in a developed nation all their lives and know no better. I myself used to be like that before moving back. But you know what the Korean essay didn’t mention? It happens with all second- and third-generation immigrant kids living in developed countries.
Although I have met many FilAms who don’t wish to go back home, I also have met many Korean-Americans, Japanese-Americans, even Irish Americans who don’t have any connection to home. There is love for the Philippines . . . ., the Korean essay was just looking in the wrong places.
Do you want to know where the national pride is?
It’s in every Pinoy’s face on the streets of Manila, Cebu, Davao, or any other place in the Philippines.
Life is hard for Filipinos- I see that everytime I’m home. But there is a mutual love shared between Pinoys. They enjoy the simplest of the simple things of everyday life- from the fishball vendor dancing outside a nightclub in the wee hours of the morning to the late night security guard that wakes up just to give you a nod and a smile. Although generally the country has come under hard times, the Pinoy has somehow found a way to survive, and do it with a smile.
When I go back to the Philippines, I don’t see the jaded looks of misery I see in the streets of North America. I see in every Pinoy’s face a glint of hope- that everything can only get better from here on out. National pride is also in today’s college student- today’s young working Filipino. I have been lucky enough to have run into a rather large, very motivated group of young Filipinos outside of the Philippines that harbor an immense love for the country. I’ve seen these people in college, I’ve hung out with them in different cities and amongst these young Filipinos, there is one prevailing theme. They have goals, they have passion, and they are driven to succeed. Sure, they may spend a few years out of the Philippines after schooling, but they will go back. And when they do, Mom, I promise you a Renaissance. These are the people that will lead our country into better times- these are the people that will bring back with them the knowledge and the drive to motivate others. These are the people that will bridge the gap between the “masa” and the rich. These are the people that will take that glint of hope in every Pinoy’s eye and create a wildfire of productivity and efficiency.
The Philippines is still, by definition, a young country. There have been mistakes made in the past, but we will learn, won’t we? It’s just human nature. I don’t look at the Philippines as a country that “was” one of the richest in SE Asia and now is one of the poorest- I look at the Philippines as the country that has the largest upside. Just be patient, and watch as the younger generation moves into place. You will see a more educated, less selfish government take the seat of power. You will see plans put into effect that were formulated and perfected which were fueled by years of anger against the poverty we now see. A new Philippines will emerge soon, and soon we won’t have to bear the pity of a Korean student. I can promise you that much mom, because I know I’m one of the many that will be working towards that.
The date posted here is due to our website rebuild, it does not reflect the original date this article was posted. This article was originally posted in Yonip in 2003