Carlos Bulosan, Here I Come

As soon as you get to the NAIA, you get the feeling that you are being robbed. Call this paranoia, or some other form of abnormality, but there are crocs in the NAIA and they are experts in spotting the gullible.

I have had some fat chance but I gave that the attitude: Hey you, I did not go on exile to pick dollars on the streets!

There is much romanticization of exilic life nowadays that the ordinary person who has not gone into exile cannot simply comprehend what that experience is all about.

There are, of course, a variety of reasons for this romanticization:

1. Some people can be so lucky they did not have to go through the difficulties of finding a job like those immigrant nurses and physical therapists and their clones. But other than those, it is a difficulty life. Doctors, in general, are a no-no here. They are competitors. This is the reason why our Filipino doctors are going back to nursing school to learn the trade. The trouble is some health care organizations are now becoming wary of doctors-turned-nurses--and some do not simply accept those with this change-of-hear/change-of-mind qualification.

Those on the lucky side magnify their stories and their stories become the stories of a model I call, "See, see, I made it!" Those who are not lucky are forgotten, they do not exist, they did not succeed--and they do not have to be heard because their very stories are an anathema to the gospel of labor exportation.

2. Those who do not belong to this category, those who are not on the lucky side, you better be careful. Rarely are these professionals given the green card right on the dot. Many professionals I know of had to go through a rigorous process--and long long waiting period before they ever get the green card.

So if your relative has come home with not much on hand, you believe him. Exile is not a walk in the park but a journey, a sojourn in the dark as well as in the light, in the plains as well as in mountain fastnesses, in deserts as well as in valleys, in the calm of days or in their wrath.

Many of those who go on exile lose face when they tell their stories. I heard them say the same thing over and over again: Why would we ever tell them of our failures, of how our dreams failed us?

There is a dynamic here: social expectation--and the whole thing makes you sick and sad, desperate and despondent. How to explain to kith and kin that you did not make it--and soon?

O lala, it is really damn hard, right?

I am working on a book right now--and this book is the other side of exile: Exile and Down Under. We need to hear these voices the way we need to put our hands together for the triumphant, right?

I am warning Carlos Bulosan now: You have not seen it all, amigo.

A. S. Agcaoili
Manhattan Beach
Saturday, May 20, 2006

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