THIS is one of those columns you write with misgiving and a sad, heavy heart.

An email sent by a friend a few days ago from faraway Queensland in Australia needed pausing and pondering. It was a greeting after having left our city months ago without notice or farewell. He said he now has a new life, enjoying the amenities of living in an orderly society. He said life there is a far cry from the one he knew in Cagayan de Oro, which he and his family left just a few months ago.

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It wasn’t a long message, and my first reaction was: Of course it’s different, it’s a foreign country! But I couldn’t help reading something else between the lines as he went on. I had known such a life in Europe and America for over a decade, great public transport, predictable schedules, elegant avenues, responsive officials, disciplined public, well-kept villages, and so on. But I could also imagine him feeling homesick amidst it all, and somehow relieved.

I could imagine his relief at having relocated his family, liberated from the stress and strife of our traffic-choked, squatter-infested city, gratified at neighborly residents that live by civilized rules, then working without the aggravation of posturing, incompetent, or corrupt officials.

Regret showed between the lines too, sorrow and longing that says: I wish I didn’t have to go away, I wish I were in my home city, but if only it were orderly and well-governed! then it would have been well-developed, pleasant to live and work in, and I wouldn’t have had to leave!

Who can blame him for leaving? He has a family; their welfare is his first responsibility; he has to make an honest living, and so forth. One understands. Still, it’s such a pity losing such a decent Filipino. He may yet return, but that is by no means assured. Thus, wish him well, and pray that God will bless and keep him and his family.

Meanwhile, one can’t help bemoaning the fact that he is one of over 3,000 Filipinos that depart daily for other countries to seek what life and living here does not provide. It is not their fault that we are a badly-organized and badly-governed community. There is little they could have done about the harshness of surviving in a city dominated by squatters and power-greedy trapos who manipulate them to stay in power. Sad, no?