SO… Having been so boundlessly blessed with opportunities to travel outside our country, I always find myself amazed at the global width and breadth to which Filipinos have been flung. Even more amazing is how I’m bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the varied mindsets and points of view of the Filipinos when we go somewhere.
Foreign places continue to bewitch me. Cultural differences and similarities fascinate me because they open the door to possibilities. I always ask myself, “Can we do or be this at home?” And my imagination gallops away.
First and top on my list of bothered and bewildered is the Filipino’s need to shop when abroad. I get confused because we will spend obscene amounts of money here at home on imported items, especially fashion accessories and clothing, and then buy similar or related items when abroad.
What is it exactly that we are buying there? Is it the things themselves that we desire? Or the perceived social elevation and bragging rights (“I bought this in *Paris*”) that force us to part with our hard-earned money? Does the illusion of breathing the rarified air of the financially endowed bring a rush of adrenalin which we confuse as meaningful living? I’ve often wondered how some people can part with tens of thousands of pesos on a single handbag or wristwatch and yet are not willing to pay househelp more than three or four thousand pesos for more valuable services rendered. But I digress. Let’s save that for another day.
Another thing I find bewitching is how much braver our young people are today. They will unhesitatingly throw caution to the wind because the world has gotten smaller for them. But bothering and bewildering is how, living in another country, an undisciplined loosely responsible Filipino morphs into a seriously law-abiding, diligent, punctual, generally upstanding member of the community. We follow traffic rules, queue up politely, hold doors open for others, come on time for appointments and meet-ups, and don’t litter. Generally becoming wonderful people… except to other Filipinos. When we become critical, disdaining, uber competitive while maintaining superficial niceties.
As tourists, we will go to all the mandatory photo-op spots, comment on how different and better the place is than ours (except maybe India). We will dream of how, maybe, we or our children could find a way to immigrate there. We will dream of how our lives would be vastly better, more pleasant, more comfortable, more enviable. As tourists, we will return home with dreams of one day travelling abroad once more.
But my biggest source of bother and bewilderment is the fact that we easily appreciate the wonderful things that we see during our travels and yet… and yet…
Why is it so difficult to dream that all the wonderful things are actually possible to achieve at home? That we could be Filipinos who are responsible, law-abiding, community-oriented, hard-working, nationalistic, living in a rapidly-developing almost corruption-free country? Where health care and good public education can be had by all? Where economic opportunities and financial stability are available? Where the choice to stay home is at the top of the list rather than at the bottom?
I dream that one day I will no longer be bewitched, bothered and bewildered by all of the above. I dream that one day the dream of going abroad will be for the curious and the adventurous, not for the desperate and hopeless.
And if we all work hard enough at it, maybe my dreams will come true.