ON JUNE 12, we celebrated the 166th anniversary of our independence as a sovereign nation and memories of heroes were visited in parades and simple ceremonies.
Where are the heroes?
A new graduate in our neighborhood spent months to look for a job in town and failed to find any. You know the story; there are a number of her kind every year. She applied for a job abroad as a caregiver and after months of waiting, she got hired. She’s happy for having been able to help her family with her salary, also to send her brother to college. But it is a sacrifice to be away from loved ones.
In her first year in Bangkok, she was thinking of what to buy for the family as her first Christmas gifts as an Overseas Filipino Worker. When her mistress asked her to run an errand for her downtown, she jumped at the chance to take time out and look for things to buy to send home.
She was happy to think of being able to be good news to her family every time she sent help with all her heart. She always knew her decision to leave home and work in another country was the right step for herself and for everyone else.
The monetary attraction in OFWs is strong. Statistics on overseas employment was first registered in 1975 citing the record of 36,035 Filipinos working outside. A decade after, in 1985, the number grew to 372,784. In 2012, there were almost two million workers out of the country.
But are things that bad in the Philippines and are people simply running away from home?
From the bus she was riding on that day in Bangkok, the OFW from our neighborhood looked out and saw the sign Sukhumvit Rd. Then she saw a building with a flag raised in one of its windows. It was a flag with familiar three stars around the sun at the head and the compact colors of blue and red in the two bodies parallel to each other.
All of a sudden, she discovered something new about herself. At the sight of the Philippine flag, she quickly held back a tear on its way down her cheek. She was hurting.
The Filipino has a personal attachment to the Philippine flag and the celebratory Philippine Independence Day which is honored in flag-raisings and parades all over the country on June 12. I never missed attaching to the front of the car a small Philippine flag on June 12 and I felt good watching it swing with the wind as I drove. This affection to the family and the community is part of our tribal culture.
The OFWs—people hurt for being taken away from loved ones—are the heroes of our time, feeding the economy even while some unwanted leaders are cheating on the sovereign nation in the pork scam.
Philippine Independence Day is a time to remember the country's good leaders as they fought for freedom. The first Philippine president of the new sovereign nation was Emilio Aguinaldo who spent his lifetime fighting for his country.
But on the 116th anniversary of the nation's official independence last Thursday, which is the country's celebration of freedom, there were rallies with voices hard and pained. The rallyists weren't there to celebrate a flag-raising but to object to the existence of unclean and corrupt leaders. We have a list of heroes in our history and of the new heroes in the OFW phenomenon in our independence. But also a list of swindlers in the power field.
Yes, there were many people who watched the parade in Manila at Rizal Park on Independence Day, despite the rain. Of course, they love the country very much, men of the street said.
Media interviewed the simple Filipino in the flag-raising and the parade, all celebrants feeling sentimental about being a Filipino. But would the people be very serious about contributing mind and effort to elect the right people into office and reduce corruption?