By Aurelio S. Agcaoili, PhD
We could invest upon the community spirit Filipinos are known for and tell the people who are wont to tell us that what we have is a damaged culture or we do not have any culture or civilization at all.
Some of those scholars and rah-rah boys of the extremist kind do not look kindly on Filipinos in the Philippines and in other lands, the United States included.
They even deride us for showing this penchant for anything Western as if to open yourself up to the possibilities of change and the future is some kind of a mortal sin that does not merit any redemption.
There is one transcript of a radio talk show that is going around the cyberspace community of the knowledgeable. The subtext of the transcript says that we Pinoys have not outgrown our being "Negritos in the mountains."
The fossilized view is that we seem to have remained like the "monkey of Zamboanga" and the G-stringed specimens at the 1904 Louisiana fair and, therefore, we are to be gawked at, maybe even investigated, and assessed for our carnival value.
The easier way out in this outsider's view of who we are is to react to the callous carnivalesque charge of these people who look down on us.
We countercharge: we can dance the delicate dance of the civilized and the cultured of New York or Hollywood. We can dance even the cha-cha, on the floor or in the House of Representatives, di ba?
We begin to rattle off the many first that we can use to easily put together a parade of names and our gifts--even our extraordinary abilities.
We have the Filipino American lady chef in the White House serving President George Bush and family and all the dignitaries that go to the most powerful place on earth.
We have Leah Salonga with her Tony and her other international awards, the Leah Salonga we had to lose in order to share her with the larger and bigger community.
We forget one thing: that we have to lose these Filipinos in order for us to see and learn and understand that we were not able to offer something better to them in the home country that was why they had to leave. The irony is that they had to leave in order to live.
We keep on losing them--dem Filipinos who could have otherwise offered our people some living and dynamic imaginations, some dream of the good life, some hope to die for just to pursue it.
Our loss of nurses and other workers is not news anymore. Sagsag na ito. Gasgas na.
What is news is that our hospitals are folding up and closing shop because there are no more doctors and nurses and other medical workers who are willing to take up a slave wage equivalent to $300 per month when in the United States you can easily earn 15 times more.
The bigger news at this time is that we are losing our brainiest of the teachers--those who could have otherwise taken on the cudgels of transmitting the needed information to the younger generation and facilitating self-transformation for this generation for the sake of the home country.
I have two former students who were exemplary teachers back in the home country.
Both have decided to come to the United States to pursue their dream of the good life: one is in Washington; the other is in New Mexico.
These students were teachers par excellence. Committed. Dedicated. They went out of their way just to teach--and teach well.
They both had the penchant for learning, in and outside the classroom. One is even a politically committed teacher in the state university. She thought of the kababayan all the time.
But here they are now--here they are in a different classroom with a different set of educands.
One is teaching American students the beauty of language and literature--and the redeeming in the metaphors and idioms of a poetic piece. She is teaching her students how to look at life in the way language gives us a reading of the world and human experience.
The other student is into early childhood education, believing that if you train them young, they will grow up to be good citizens of their own country.
As I reflect, I feel sorry for the homeland. I feel sorry for our people.
It is that same sorrow and loneliness that I feel when I realized that we are losing our competent and skilled teachers to the South East Asian countries as well: to East Timor, to Brunei, to Thailand, to Vietnam, to Cambodia, to Singapore. Where else are we sending our teachers?
To think that they are not our surplus labor--we need them in the same way that we need fresh air each time--this is a vicious circle, this leaving and feeling sorrowful for leaving.
If nothing is done to abet this human resource hemorrhage, the Philippines will soon end up the way it began--with knowledge privatized, owned by those who have access to the educational resources only the rich can afford.
This parochial form of education was what the Spanish colonial program aimed at pursuing. The Spaniards held on to this set-up in order for them to maintain their stranglehold over the people by creating only an educated elite that eventually talked like them, spoke like them, thought like them, loved like them, and lived like them: self-centered, colonialist, conqueror, despotic, individualistic.
The situation today has changed: We have one of the best-educated people around the world.
Our language resource--our ability to speak many languages because of our OFW experience?could veritably be some kind of a United Nations of speakers and interpreters.
You go to Italy and you hear the Pinoys from Batangas speaking Italian the way a native does. I saw this on a train ride to Rome from Reggio Calabria down south close to the Greek country. Multiply this--and we see Pinoys speaking German like the native, French like the native, Spanish like the native, Greek like the native, Arabic like the native. And English too--and they can even write good English.
Now we see: we may be a flawed people. Our history may be flawed. Our leaders are truly flawed. But damaged? Or lacking in civilization?
Come again? But we teach in the better classrooms and in the better universities, do we not?
And we staff the hospital and health care organizations, do we not?
And we feed dignitaries with the best food, do we not?
And we sing beautiful songs, do we not?
The nescience of angels, ow, come on. Get real.
Pub, INQ, V1N24, Dec 2005