BLONDE AND BLUE EYES
When I was little, I wanted what many Filipino children all over the
I wanted to be blond, blue-eyed, and white.
I thought -- if I just wished hard enough and was good enough, I'd
wake up on Christmas
morning with snow outside my window and freckles across my nose!
More than four centuries under western domination does that to you. I
have sixteen cousins. In a
couple of years, there will just be five of us left in the
Philippines, the rest will have gone abroad
in search of "greener pastures." It's not just an anomaly; it's a
trend; the Filipino diaspora. Today,
about eight million Filipinos are scattered around the world.
There are those who disapprove of Filipinos who choose to leave. I
used to. Maybe this is a natural
reaction of someone who was left behind, smiling for family pictures
that get emptier with each
succeeding year. Desertion, I called it. My country is a land that
has perpetually fought for the
freedom to be itself. Our heroes offered their lives in the struggle
against the Spanish, the Japanese,
the Americans. To pack up and deny that identity is tantamount to
spitting on that sacrifice.
Or is it? I don't think so, not anymore. True, there is no denying
this phenomenon, aided by the
fact that what was once the other side of the world is now a twelve-
hour plane ride away. But this is a
borderless world, where no individual can claim to be purely from
where he is now. My mother is of
Chinese descent, my father is a quarter Spanish, and I call myself a
pure Filipino-a hybrid of sorts
resulting from a combination of cultures.
Each square mile anywhere in the world is made up of people of
different ethnicities, with national
identities and individual personalities. Because of this, each square
mile is already a microcosm of the
world. In as much as this blessed spot that is England is the world,
so is my neighbourhood back home.
Seen this way, the Filipino Diaspora, or any sort of dispersal of
populations, is not as ominous as so
many claim. It must be understood. I come from a Third World country,
one that is still trying mightily
to get back on its feet after many years of dictatorship. But we
shall make it, given more time.
Especially now, when we have thousands of eager young minds who
graduate from college every year.
They have skills. They need jobs. We cannot absorb them all.
A borderless world presents a bigger opportunity, yet one that is not
so much abandonment but an
extension of identity. Even as we take, we give back. We are the
40,000 skilled nurses who support
the UK's National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million
seafarers manning most of the
world's commercial ships. We are your software engineers in
Ireland, your construction workers
in the Middle East, your doctors and caregivers in North America,
and, your musical artists in
London's West End.
Nationalism isn't bound by time or place. People from other nations
migrate to create new nations,
yet still remain essentially who they are. British society is itself
an example of a multi-cultural
nation, a melting pot of races, religions, arts and cultures. We are,
indeed, in a borderless world!
Leaving sometimes isn't a matter of choice. It's coming back that is.
The Hobbits of the shire
travelled all over Middle-Earth, but they chose to come home, richer
in every sense of the word. We
call people like these balikbayans or the 'returnees' -- those who
followed their dream, yet choose
to return and share their mature talents and good fortune.
In a few years, I may take advantage of whatever opportunities come
my way. But I will come home.
A borderless world doesn't preclude the idea of a home. I'm a
Filipino, and I'll always be one.
It isn't about just geography; it isn't about boundaries. It's about
giving back to the country
that shaped me.
And that's going to be more important to me than seeing snow outside
my windows on a
bright Christmas morning.
Mabuhay and Thank you.