Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Abandoning the Philippines

Conrado de Quiros, my favorite PDI columnist (beside Manolo Quezon and, prior to his banishment to blogosphere, Dean Jorge Bocobo) writes again today about our professionals abandoning our beloved country for the American Dream and other greener pastures.

He says that Singapore's, Malaysia's and Thailand's doctors and engineers do not ask what work they can find in the West. They ask what hospitals and bridges they can build in their countries.

Noble intentions indeed. And I share Mr. de Quiros' sentiment about our brain drain problem.

I remember the spirited discussions I got into with my classmates in graduate school whenever the subject about Pinoy traits come up. The usual claim is that the Pinoy is a loser. He has crab mentality, etc. It seemed I always wound up alone on the opposing side.

People find fault in everything the Pinoy does. But they don't find anything wrong about leaving the country as if leaving makes one less Filipino and therefore not a loser.

So why would a Filipino doctor apply his gift of healing on Americans intead of Filipinos? Why would a Filipino engineer risk his life restoring antiquated, but priceless, Babylonian monuments in war-ravaged Iraq?

Patricia Evangelista, a 19-year-old, Mass Communications sophomore of the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman, has provided the answer in her prize-winning speech delivered in London.

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.

Yes, Singaporean, Malaysian and Thai professionals would rather contribute to their nations' greatness. Alas, there is no such greatness to talk about in our country. The nation is adrift for lack of leadership. The elite is busy looking after their own welfare.

You can read Patricia's speech in the online Inquirer. But I find the following most interesting if only because Filipinos are like Hobbits: they eat a lot.

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.

Yes, perhaps Elmer Jacinto (the Medical Board first placer who migrated to USA) will someday come back to share with us his talents. Many already have, like Barry Gutierrez who was contradistinguished with Jacinto by Mr. de Quiros.

There is no reason to despair.