borderless world

Blond and Blue Eyes by Patricia Evangelista

WHEN I was little, I wanted what many Filipino children all over the country wanted. I wanted to be blond, blue-eyed, and white.

I thought – if I just wished hard enough and was good enough, I’d wake up on Christmas morning with snow outside my window and freckles across my nose!

More than four centuries under western domination does that to you.

I have sixteen cousins. In a couple of years, there will just be five of us left in the Philippines, the rest will have gone abroad in search of “greener pastures.” It’s not just an anomaly; it’s a trend; the Filipino diaspora.

Today, about eight million Filipinos are scattered around the world.

There are those who disapprove of Filipinos who choose to leave. I used to. Maybe this is a natural reaction of someone who was left behind, smiling for family pictures that get emptier with each succeeding year. Desertion, I called it.

My country is a land that has perpetually fought for the freedom to be itself. Our heroes offered their lives in the struggle against the Spanish, the Japanese, the Americans. To pack up and deny that identity is tantamount to spitting on that sacrifice.

Or is it? I don’t think so, not anymore.

True, there is no denying this phenomenon, aided by the fact that what was once the other side of the world is now a twelve-hour plane ride away. But this is a borderless world, where no individual can claim to be purely from where he is now.

My mother is of Chinese descent, my father is a quarter Spanish, and I call myself a pure Filipino – a hybrid of sorts resulting from a combination of cultures.

Each square mile anywhere in the world is made up of people of different ethnicities, with national identities and individual personalities. Because of this, each square mile is already a microcosm of the world. In as much as this blessed spot that is England is the world, so is my neighborhood back home.

Seen this way, the Filipino Diaspora, or any sort of dispersal of populations, is not as ominous as so many claim. It must be understood.

I come from a Third World country, one that is still trying mightily to get back on its feet after many years of dictatorship. But we shall make it, given more time. Especially now, when we have thousands of eager young minds who graduate from college every year. They have skills. They need jobs. We cannot absorb them all.

A borderless world presents a bigger opportunity, yet one that is not so much abandonment but an extension of identity. Even as we take, we give back. We are the 40,000 skilled nurses who support the UK’s National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million seafarers manning most of the world’s commercial ships.We are your software engineers in Ireland, your construction workers in the Middle East, your doctors and caregivers in North America, and, your musical artists in London’s West End.

Nationalism isn’t bound by time or place. People from other nations migrate to create new nations, yet still remain essentially who they are. British society is itself an example of a multi-cultural nation, a melting pot of races, religions, arts and cultures. We are, indeed, in a borderless world!

Leaving sometimes isn’t a matter of choice. It’s coming back that is. The Hobbits of the shire travelled all over Middle-Earth, but they chose to come home, richer in every sense of the word.

We call people like these balikbayans or the ‘returnees’ – those who followed their dream, yet choose to return and share their mature talents and good fortune.

In a few years, I may take advantage of whatever opportunities come my way. But I will come home. A borderless world doesn’t preclude the idea of a home. I’m a Filipino, and I’ll always be one. It isn’t about just geography; it isn’t about boundaries. It’s about giving back to the country that shaped me.

And that’s going to be more important to me than seeing snow outside my windows on a bright Christmas morning.

Mabuhay. And thank you.

On Contemporary Nationalism

The grand beauty of Philippine culture cannot be compared to others— though we have been accused of formulating ours through a collage of different cultural heritage: from the western part of the world to ours.

 

We cannot blame anyone for this. Western and Asian domination probably did that to us. Who knows? So our youths end up looking and acting as if they were aliens, aliens in a foreigner sense of the word in our own country.

 

Kayumanggi, maliit at pango ang ilong: that is how our race is described in textbooks. Look at yourself in the mirror, there’s hardly any trace of the original citizens of the islands— Malay, Indones and Aeta, characteristics in our physique. That is because of the combination of nations resulting in a generation of half breeds who call themselves pure Pinoy.

 

I have been thinking, is there any Filipino left who is pure Filipino? Somewhere down the family tree our great grandparents could have married an alien so we know we have foreign blood running through our veins. Same with our beloved heroes, Bonifacio fought against his own race: the Spaniards. Rizal who is known for being nationalistic was not even pure Pinoy, he had Chinese blood— which made me smile somehow.

 

I grew up being fascinated with the Oriental Culture. Thinking that it would be nice if I would someday behave like Zhang Zi Yi in Crouching Tiger and fly through a bamboo forest like she did! In my teenage years, I discovered that attraction in the culture didn’t just sip through my layers overnight. It is rooted into something— dad is of Chinese descent. Not just that, mom has Spanish grandparents, I look at myself in the mirror— I am so Pinoy! At least I think I am, except when my friends kept on asking if I have Japanese blood— which they say is obvious. I don’t, at least to my knowledge— treachery to my own race, or not.  

 

Maybe that is how close we are to our neighbors. Except for the fact that the Chinese and Japanese use their own characters in writing, we don’t. They have small eyes, most of us don’t.

 

So if everyone belongs to different cultures, how would Pinoys depict love of country our history fondly calls nationalism? Is it confining yourself within the borders of home?

 

Asia for Asiatics. That was Jose P. Laurel’s idea of nationalism. You open yourself to the world and allow the world to give you something— that is what he believed in. I realized that when you learn from the others you will be able to adapt that and bring it to your country that is development through observation and adaptation.

 

It is not tantamount to demeaning the essence of heroic battles and sacrifices for Bayan kong Pilipinas. Emigration is not desertion. According to Patricia Evangelista, it is just extension of identity, since we are in a borderless world that presents so many opportunities. Meaning we are able to share with the world our talents, when we are able to learn to speak a foreign language, we don’t just grow individually. We get to work abroad we are also able to contribute to the development of our economy. It is national survival.

 

I am not saying that we should choose to serve other nations but let’s face reality— there’s too many of us in this country, so much competition. Evangelista said that there are so many graduates every year and the country cannot absorb them all. What is important is that we do things for the Filipinos and the Philippines’ pride.

 

As Evangelista put it, no matter what happens and whatever opportunity comes, you ought to give something back to the country that shaped you. Even if we choose to leave, we should someday choose to go back.

 

Rizal studied overseas, he learned as many languages as he could, he only wrote one Tagalog literature but he is still our grandest picture of nationalism, because he came back to the country and died for it, or for us. Of course the modern times no longer requires a same amount of pagka Pilipino. Just singing the National Anthem with respect is enough. Doing something, getting involved in nationalistic concerns like Takbo para sa Kalikasan, following the simple traffic rules is enough—for now.

 

We don’t need to always protest on the streets of EDSA because every time we do, the very first EDSA revolution loses its prestige and historic value.

 

So probably all we can do for now is to serve the country that nurtures our children or ourselves. That is not pagka balimbing as our nationals put it. It is just gratitude. We may be Filipinos, so we ought to be good to the country. But we also have foreign bloods— so we ought to respect other cultures as well. Is it bad if we allow ourselves to help other countries if they ask for it? Loyalty to our culture abhors selfishness. No matter what happens you should know the right thing to do. If you are Filipino you should be for Filipinos, but it doesn’t mean we have to tolerate violations and disloyalty in the form of corruption and abuse of power.

 

I remember reading from a certain book about Jose P. Laurel that success of a country is dependent on the nourishment of values and its failure is due to the degeneration of morality among its citizens. With what is happening today, which the new administration tries to straighten, we know it is true.

 

Nationalism back then required battles and pistols— contemporary nationalism only requires, as I see it, honesty. No matter if you’re pure or a quarter-whatever-blood Pinoy.