We got this letter that has been circulating on the internet, and posting it on Independence Day is definitely very apt.
It was written by a certain Juan dela Cruz, obviously a pseudonym, who seems to challenge all of us, Filipinos, to reflect on the current situation the Philippines has found itself in.
My fellow Filipinos,
When I was small, the Philippine peso was P2 to the $dollar. The president was Diosdado Macapagal. Life was simple. Life was easy.
My father was a farmer. My mother kept a small sari-sari store where our neighbors bought sang-perang asin, sang-perang bagoong, sang-perang suka, sang-perang toyo at pahinging isang butil na bawang.
Our backyard had kamatis, kalabasa, talong, ampalaya, upo, batao, and okra. Our silong had chicken. We had a pig, dog & cat. And of course, we lived on the farm. During rainy season, my father caught frogs at night which my mother made into batute (stuffed frog), or just plain fried. During the day, he caught hito and dalag from his rice paddies, which he would usually inihaw. During dry season, we relied on the chickens, vegetables, bangus, tuyo, and tinapa. Every now and then, there was pork and beef from the town market.
Life was so peaceful, so quiet, no electricity, no TV. Just the radio for Tia Dely, Roman Rapido, Tawag ng Tanghalan and Tang-tarang- tang. And who can forget Leila Benitez on Darigold Jamboree? On weekends, I played with my neighbors (who were all my cousins). Tumbang-preso, taguan, piko, luksong lubid, patintero, at iba pa. I don’t know about you, but I miss those days.
These days, we face the TV, Internet, e-mail, newspaper, magazine,grocery catalog, or drive around. The peso is a staggering and incredible P44 to the $dollar. Most people can’t have fun anymore. Life has become a battle. We live to work. Work to live. Life is not easy.
I was in Saudi Arabia in 1983. It was lonely, difficult, & scary. It didn’t matter if you were a man or a woman. You were a target for rape. The salary was cheap & the vacation far between. If the boss didn’t want you to go on holiday, you didn’t. They had your passport. Oh, and the agency charged you almost 4months of your salary (which, if you had to borrow on a “20% per month arrangement” meant your first year’s pay was all gone before you even earned it).
The Philippines used to be one of the most important countries in Asia. Before & during my college days, many students from neighboring Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China went to the Philippines to get their diplomas. Like Thailand, they went to study agricultures in UP Los Banos and earned their bachelors in the Philippines and now we imports rice from them.
It is opposite now. Philippines used to be the exporter of any agriculture products but now it is different. We import because not much land (farms) they can cultivate due to private sectors who focused on developing houses, buildings, supermarkets, mall and others. What happened now? What is the government doing? Checking their own pocket, their own personal interest and pork barrels. Wow!
Until 1972, like President Macapagal, President Marcos was one of the most admired presidents of the world. The peso had kept its value of P7 to the $dollar until I finished college. Today, the Philippines is famous as the “housemaid” capital of the world. It ranks very high as the “cheapest labor” capital of the world, too. We have maids in Hong Kong, laborers in Saudi Arabia, dancers in Japan, migrants and TNTs in Australia and the US, and all sorts of other “tricky” jobs in other parts of the globe.
Quo Vadis, Pinoy? Is that a wonder or a worry? Are you proud to be a Filipino, or does it even matter anymore? When you see the Filipino flag and hear the Pambansang Awit, do you feel a sense of pride or a sense of defeat & uncertainty? If only things could change for the better … Hang on for this is a job for Superman. Or whom do you call? Ghostbusters. Joke. Right?
This is one of our problems.
We say “I love the Philippines … I am proud to be a Filipino.”
When I send you a joke, you send it to everyone in your address book even if it kills the Internet. But when I send you a note on how to save our country & ask you to forward it, what do you do?
You chuck it in the bin.
I want to help the maids in Hong Kong .. I want to help the laborers in Saudi Arabia … I want to help the dancers in Japan … I want to help the TNTs in America and Australia …
I want to save the people of the Philippines .. But I cannot do it alone. I need your help and everyone else’s.
So please forward this e-mail to your friends. If you say you love the Philippines, prove it. And if you don’t agree with me, say something anyway. Indifference is a crime on its own …
Juan dela Cruz
[Photo credit: Jolengs]