Sons and daughters

By Jose Ma. Montelibano
Last updated 11:58pm (Mla time) 07/05/2007

MANILA, Philippines — There are many among Filipino-Americans today who have completely broken away from that era of denial, or apathy, about a motherland they had left behind. I remember when I first discovered the Internet about 11 years ago because a close friend of the family had to leave the Philippines to get medical treatment in the United States. That friendship made me overcome a reluctance to enter the world of computers and cyberspace. I have not regretted it since that first time.


The email traffic then is very different from the email traffic now. Emailing my sick friend almost daily for many years brought me to connect with many other friends I had not seen or talked to for decades. I rediscovered classmates, mostly from college, who had migrated to the United States and were now full-fledged American citizens. Our communications focused totally on family matters, work, vacation and reunions. Affairs of state were not interesting topics at all.


I think I noticed a slight change, though, when government tried to hype the coming centennial of Philippine independence. At the same time, a presidential election was approaching and a popular actor was poised to win and that dismayed many among big business and political advocates. The combination of a centennial celebration and a presidential election triggered discussions in the Internet related to country. It has not stopped since then.


The colorful presidency of Joseph Estrada created scandals and controversies, including a lifestyle that saw the president more
active at night than daytime. Perhaps, because there was a major break of presidential tradition and lifestyle, interesting tidbits found their way to the usual barbershops. They also found their way to the Internet.


People Power II was the climax of a movement that brought memories of a similar uprising in 1986. It also brought Internet exchange among Filipinos here and abroad to a peak. It has not looked back anymore as more overseas Filipinos create egroup after egroup — mostly to focus on advocacies.


It is clear that overseas Filipinos will play a strategic role in the building of a new nation. It is not just the billions of dollars that
they remit to their families, and the Philippine economy. It is the influence that is tucked in with the foreign remittances. Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) do not just send money, they also send ideas, commentaries, and recommendations based on their new and expanded environments abroad.


Filipino-Americans, though, and Filipino-Canadians to a lesser degree, will have the most say among overseas Filipinos. They are the richest, and they are American citizens to boot — meaning they can make Uncle Sam listen to them if they find the secret of strategic alliances. It is unfortunate that the virus of divisiveness that afflicts the Filipino psyche here has found its way to America as well. That virus is the single biggest impediment for a collective forward movement, by Filipinos residing in the motherland and Filipinos residing in North America.


Present-day advocates must address the divisiveness that is almost a Filipino heritage. To do that, Filipinos must try to discover their historical truth, review and reflect on the process that set into high gear this virus of divisiveness, and intelligently formulate social, political and cultural therapies towards common goals. The past must not stay buried for those who are unaware of it, must not be forgotten by those who know it, and must be used not to generate ill will against former foreign masters but knowledge and ideas on how to navigate ourselves today and tomorrow.


The pace of life in modernity beats much faster than ever, and motion, sound and sight is not anymore measured in just linear terms. Technology, if we are already awed by it, will explode to new dimensions that will further expand generational gaps to giant chasms if the older one stays stubborn and rigid. And we must not forget that technology is only a visible by-product of human minds, imagination and creativity. Inside remain ideas that can be considered magical only a few decades ago.


Change will not be all positive, but change is inevitable. We have to learn anticipation, and also an attitude of openness and eagerness to what will be even if we are afraid of emerging realities. Only in openness can we discover effective ways to diffuse what we do not like, to imagine and create counter measures – especially to preserve our moral and spiritual moorings.


The material resources that come from Filipinos abroad also carry the severe challenges they experience. Most OFWs have no permanent security of tenure, unlike those who are immigrants. And first generation immigrants decry the lack of interest, much less concern, by their own children towards the motherland. In the midst of billions of dollars in remittances from Filipinos abroad is a deep wish that somehow life would change for the better, for themselves, their children and their nation.


It is with heartfelt gratitude that I am allowed to witness, and even participate, in the dawning of a new day. For so long, it was just angst, a gnawing ache in the gut, a dream that was more like a fantasy. But the past few years have shown me clear signs that hope has basis, that in the darkest of moments lie the very secret of light. I talk of the tipping point, when angst turns to vision, when vision becomes a mission, when mission draws heroes.


The first heroes are here, and they are here from all over. They are the Filipinos returning from a life of hard work to enjoy the fruits of their labor. They are Filipino businessmen and professionals from abroad who share their earnings beyond their family and relatives. They are college students eager to discover a country they never knew. They are the first wave of sons and daughters of the motherland. They will reunite with their people, and together, build Lupang Hinirang.


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