I am part of a nation that has no borders.
You can call me a coward, another bastard child of brain drain, an escapist that has fled my homeland for the prodigal greener pastures of “abroad.” Call me a modern day hero, an OFW or immigrant. Call me a FOB. I am like you, or someone you know—and like many of my brethren, I have slipped away from the Philippines, willingly. But today, August 23, 2010, was a wound upon us all—as international eyes were once again focused on the Philippines.
I was at work when I saw the news appear on my computer screen. Cringing at the first tweet I saw about the hostage situation, I watched in mute horror as the problem escalated and boiled over. My co-workers, here, in the side of Europe that not even Spain managed to influence, scouted through their local news sites, and mouthed “massacre” to me. And I simply sat in front of the computer, glued to the fury of twitter—the continuous trending of the stupidity, sympathy, faith, beauty, wretchedness and encouragement of our country.
I was shamed—for what could I possibly say to these foreign eyes?
A colleague, more politically aware than others, cautiously asked, “Was it in the southern part of your country?” I could only mumble that it happened in the location where our new president was inaugurated—in the capital region. It struck me, then, that this is blood on my hands—guilt and shame on all of our consciences, both the scattered and gathered Filipinos. No, international eyes were not the only ones scrutinizing the Philippines. We, the children of our global nation, were looking as well.
Am I proudly Filipino? Though I have lived my life in a teetering sort of suspension, swaying as I walked a precarious tightrope between my Americanized childhood of Sesame Street and my Filipino adolescence of Wowowee, I have always placed a hand to my breast during the national anthem. But what of true nationalism?
On my flight to Europe, months ago, I sat next to a Filipino couple who were permanent residents of Germany. Amiable and kind, they spoke to me about their idyllic life abroad—yet when I asked them about their trip home, I was interrupted with a snort. They saw no more reason to return, no hope for our country anymore. Going back to their provinces only made them yearn for Germany again—the discipline of it. Yet, something inside me recoiled at this.
I may be abroad, but I haven’t given up my origins. I mourn for her, my motherland—but I still, and will, call her mine. More than the adobo and sinigang dishes that we cook, we are a people with a shared history—whether this means shared victories or tragedies. Maguindanao was ours, as was the bloodbath in Rizal Park, as were our Pacquiao triumphs, as were Noli and El Filibusterismo. We cannot allow ourselves to be separated from our past—we are a nation, though now somewhat borderless, spread beyond 7,107 islands. We cannot abandon hope yet—for the actions of one man, one of us, can be as significant to our nation as the loathsome slaughter of innocent tourists, or the stirring triumph of tearing of cedulas for freedom.
We, the Philippine nation, must look at our hands. We have blood on them for our inaction, but we also have calluses of resilience for having endured. We have strong hands, capable of killing for our own misguided causes, or healing a wounded nation. But our hands are part of our nation’s hands—a collective set of hands that came from our land. As our José Rizal said, “He who does not know how to look back at where he came from will never get to his destination,” and our origins cannot be amputated from us, borders or no borders.