When I returned to the United States last April, arriving in Los Angeles to start working here at DeviantArt, one of the first places I visited was the monument to José Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, in Carson.
130 years ago, and ten years before the Philippines declared independence from Spain, Rizal landed in San Francisco, making his way across the United States until he ended his journey in New York City. His words, apt then as they are applicable now, were very spot on.
Undoubtedly America is a great country, but it still has many defects. There is no real civil liberty. [...] However, as they say rightly, America offers a home too for the poor who like to work.
In "The Philippines, A Century Hence", he hinted that only the United States might be interested in colonizing the Philippines. Little did he realize that within 15 years, that's exactly what happened. But we can't deny that without that experience, we wouldn't be what we are today. Heck, I wouldn't be what I am today if it wasn't for my experiences here in the United States, both growing up then and living here now.
The Philippines will always be imperfect, but it is always home, even for those who are abroad, and especially for the millions of hyphenated Filipino-somethings out there like myself. It has lots of things to make up for, lots of things to catch up with, and lots of things to work on. Yes, it is poor, and yes the politicians are corrupt, but it will always be that country that we were born of, that whose children of the sun will one day return to. I can never love my country any less because of what many a politician can do and have done to our country.
Filipinos make mistakes, and we make a whole lot of them. But we are also the type of people who learn from those mistakes and raise their heads up high in admitting we were wrong. And in doing so, we remain ever committed to building the nation, not because we have to, but because we want to. That is where the love lies, if you so choose to love your country.
I remember watching a Current TV documentary on Cuba so many years ago. A university student once said that if you want luxury, don't live in Cuba, but it'll work if you give it a shot and have appropriate expectations. Perhaps that's what we need in the Philippines: a shot of reality, tempered expectations, and a determination to continue working for what's right, better and true.
The Philippines is so far away, but on this Independence Day (which was actually yesterday, but I digress), it is just a stone's throw away. And no matter what, I'll continue to do what I can to build the nation, not because I have to, but because I want to. I certainly hope we're all thinking to do the same, for if I love my country from 8,000 miles away, what more the 105 million Filipinos still living at home?
I hope we think this through carefully. Loving the Philippines is not just about romanticizing the good, but also facing the bad head-on. And the only we can do that is with genuine love for our country and a devotion to doing what is right. To that, I can only wish us all a maligayang Araw ng Kalayaan sa ating lahat. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!