‘It’s time, if you ask me, for some radical action. Beginning with a radical rethink of our criteria in choosing the men and women who make the policy that can make
our life’s dreams come true.’
THERE are some conversations you have with your parents that you never forget for the rest of your life.
I have a couple in mind. Mainly with my father. Some, between him and the three of us his sons, some just between him and me. While maybe half of the latter conversations were not so pleasant (he was calling me to the carpet for something I had done or did not do) there were a couple that were truly enlightening, such as why he chose to teach medicine rather than practice; why I should take medicine because not all doctors were poor like him; or even what he told my mother in the 1970s which made her decide to give up her plans of becoming a nurse in the US. But one thing I distinctly remember him telling me and my brothers was this: that a good education was all he and my mother could give us and so we had to make the most of it, and, in effect take it from there.
My father was a believer in the Filipino Dream: a young and talented Filipino who gets the proper training in school will grow up to have a good (if not bright) future ahead of him or her. I suppose it’s because he lived it, under some of the tougher circumstances a young man had to live under in the aftermath of World War 2.
And if he and his generation could hack it, why can’t any other after his?
I could say he was right, at least as far as I was concerned. I too regard myself as living the Filipino Dream. Having gone to as good a school as it gets, where my thinking, reasoning and even debating skills were honed and where my life was enriched by my encounters with others from different generations and a diverse economic and social background, doors opened up and opportunities arose and I was able to make my way up the professional and even economic ladder to a position where I can say I am better off than my father ever had been. And that’s progress, a progress made a bit easier because just as my father didn’t desire much, I too, don’t desire as much. And just as he could have said all his life that he had all that he needed to be happy and survive, so could I say at this stage of my own life that there is not much more I could want for because I have the basics covered, and anything else is a bonus, a plus.
The Filipino Dream is as different as every person is different. For some, it is far more grand; for others, it is much more simple. It doesn’t matter; it is not what matters. What matters is whether we have been able to make it easier for Filipinos of every walk of life to strive to achieve his dream.
Have we succeeded?
If we are to use the number of Filipinos lining up annually to get a passport and then a visa in order to work abroad as a basis for judging whether the Filipino Dream is alive and well, what do we conclude? On the one hand, it is a fact that thousands of Filipinos feel that there are brighter opportunities across the seas rather than in the next town or province, and every year we see them, they whom we hail as our new “heroes,” engaged in teary-eyed goodbyes at piers or airports before embarking on a journey to work abroad.
That they need to leave the comforts of their home and end up missing the embrace of their loved ones tells us that yes, we have in a way failed. The Filipino Dream today can only be achieved elsewhere.
But there’s another side to the coin: the fact that Filipinos continue to be in demand elsewhere tells you that a Filipino with talent and training can get ahead if he works hard.
But elsewhere, rather than at home.
The talented and hardworking Filipino is a direct contributor to progress abroad. We must find ways to make him a contributor to progress at home.
We must find ways to allow him to live his dream on our shores.
Where do we start?
Maybe this is a question we need to pose to those who will soon be presenting themselves to us as candidates for higher office. Rather than falling into the age-old trap of choosing the “mabait” or matulungin” (a trap that has led us to disaster!) we need to be far more discerning, demanding even, of the men and women to whom we intend to entrust the powers of government with which they are to help shape our future. Are we clear about that future? Is it a vision of a future we all share? Are we agreed on the options we have to get to that future?
When a Filipino achieves his dream in some foreign land, he helps that foreign land achieve its future. In the meantime, back home, the mother country remains mired in the present (at best), if not in the past (at worst), a place where progress moves at a more leisurely pace. I don’t know about you, but I am no longer content to see this continue, not that I have much to complain about, but because I am aware of many others to whom their version of the Filipino Dream remains beyond their reach.
It’s time, if you ask me, for some radical action. Beginning with a radical rethink of our criteria in choosing the men and women who make the policy that can make our life’s dreams come true.
Mabait? Matulungin? Are these what we seek in the leaders who will help us live our individual versions of the Filipino Dream?