THERE was a boy, a boy who was promised a land of riches and endless possibilities.
“But papa,” the boy said bemusedly. “Why do we have to leave here?”
“We will not flourish here, my dear boy. The then 30-year old father said. This is a place plagued with chaos; with people bringing their brothers down; with money-grubbing government officials who will stop at nothing to retain the power they have bribed their way to attain; with calamity-driven accidents brought about by the ineptitude of the very people we elected to be our fearless leaders; with leaders whose main concern is the acquisition of their own ravenous desires. My boy, we live in a place where the hero gets shot and the villain runs off laughing, unscathed and unpunished, more powerful than ever.”
“But I like it here,” the boy said.
“That’s only because you have not seen how the other half lives. Where the skies are clear and unobstructed by pollution. Where it is fish that swim in the rivers and not the blood of the homeless. Where the trees are green because there are people who protect and care for them. Where people wave hello without the hidden agenda of snatching your things out of economic desperation,” the father explained.
“What about your job? You love your job.”
“Nonsense. My job here can not hold a candle to what I can accomplish there.”
These reasons were not enough. And so the boy stayed---stayed long enough to have seen his beloved country crumble before him. He stayed only to be exposed to the devastating realities of his nation.
The boy beheld the rise and fall of a pro-gambling president, one who centralized illicit operations right in his palace. On the 20th of January 2001, he witnessed a power-hungry woman’s ascension to power and her alleged illegitimate assumption of the most coveted office in the country. A pygmy of a woman who, little did the country know then, was capable of multiple election rigging schemes amongst other nefarious dealings. We are talking about a woman who had suffered a 20-year dictatorship; one who had the power to catalyze change and help lift the country from the gaping hole that one former dictator had shoved it in, but instead chose to thrust it further into the core; A woman who promised an edifice of peace, progress, and economic stability and delivered the opposite of just that.
The boy mourned on behalf of his fellow Filipinos who have lost families and years worth of hard work by a freak typhoon that took the lives of thousands on October 2009. All because some politician bought manors and luxury cars instead of fixing the city’s sewage system; because we have a National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council that is trained to react rather than prevent. The boy, together with his countrymen, wept for the motherland while the incumbent president and supposed “head of state” was enjoying a million peso dinner party in New York.
The boy grieved the wholesale murder of 34 journalists caught in a power struggle between two prominent clans in Maguindanao. How in the pursuit of wealth and power, 34 soldiers of truth were put down; 34 beautiful minds were wasted and 34 fighting spirits were subdued to silence, forever. A vicious crime that remains unsolved up to this day. An incident that underlines the impunity we, in this country, continue to turn a blind eye to.
The boy witnessed his hard-earned tax money vanish before his very eyes and into the pockets of one money-laundering swine whose hedonism cost the Filipinos billions upon billions of pesos. We’re talking about a controversy that implicates law-making officials whose political power was handed over to them by our very selves.
The boy saw with his very own eyes the very reason why his father, and thousands before him, fled. This is what many call the Filipino Diaspora, where people disperse from their original homeland in search for “greener pastures.”
Our country is bleeding. She has barely gotten back on her feet after years and years of colonization. She is hurt and her children are abandoning her.
Thirteen years have passed and the boy is not a child anymore. He is 23 years old and is writing this column. And up to this day, despite every reason not to, he decides to stay. Why? Because even as the tiny spark of hope we have for this country slowly peters out, we have soldiers who fight for our right to speak; soldiers who remain unfazed by the enormity of the crimes committed by our political leaders. Some of these soldiers even sit in the very offices of the legislative branch. They are scarce, but they exist.
Despite the squalid picture that our country is generally painted, we still have pristine resources untouched by the greedy hands of industrial tycoons.
We have correspondents who risk their lives to expose the truth and foster a well-informed electorate. These journalists run the risk of being shot to death every day, but they continue to deliver. That very spirit is what helps push this country to strive in all its might to develop.
We have fighting spirits, although varied, that resonate a sense of unity for the betterment of this country. And while we constantly find ourselves in the middle of a dispute, the debates stand as promise that we seek improvement and yearn for change. For a third world country, we are resilient and the boy believes that one day, the hopes will become truths and the “ideal” will become a reality.
It is now up to the boy’s generation, MY generation, to restore what this country has lost; to fight, and fight valiantly, for the change that we’ve been hankering for, for decades; to rekindle that fiery passion of restoring the motherland back to its former glory; to make it so, that the people who searched for “greener pastures” will come back; make it so, that they will not only come back, but stay.
One day, in a year undetermined, there will a boy who will be promised a land of riches and endless possibilities. Only this time he will look up, eyes wide and optimistic, and can finally say, “I'm already here."
Kristian Somera, 23, is a freelance writer.