“Losing your way on a journey is unfortunate, but losing your reason for the journey is a fate more cruel.” Nathan, One Tree Hill
It’s no longer ironic these days that some Filipinos take overseas expats for fools when they decide to re-establish roots in their heartland. This, to me, is a major cause for alarm. The worst thing that can happen to a nation is its people giving up on the land of their birth simply because their lives can get better elsewhere materially or as a career move.
There is no longer anything new about flight for survival, but its multi-faceted and radical impacts on one’s view of self, family, society, and eventually of one’s country of origin behooves the government not to box overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under the cold shadow of remittances and the superficial adornment of “modern-day hero.” OFWs are people, not commodities you can just ship or fly anywhere.
Some will argue, of course, that the exodus is just temporary until those OFWs find their niches back in the Philippines – or at least until things get better at home. And when will that happen?
Meanwhile, the same OFWs lose track of their families, friends and neighbors, along with their sense of belonging. And when the call of adventure or the fulfillment of a global career has reached its end, where else can Filipino expats go?
Every Filipino yearns for the familiar sights, sounds and scents of their land of birth and youth. When the overseas Pinoy has completed his/her journey, what binds him/her to Inang Bayan is a force more compelling than the need to survive. It’s called identity or even nationhood, which are sadly becoming cheaper these days.
Unfortunately, each time government fails to transform those remittances into programs that should have spawned jobs and livelihood for both the expat and those at home, it contributes to the ruthless cycle of families separated (sometimes permanently) by immigration, in the now endemic brain drain that threatens the balance of local industry to chaos, and Filipinos slowly finding themselves rootless and restless.
Ultimately, the cold comfort of material success will never warm the soul of a nation losing its sense of home.