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Blonde and Blue Eyes When I was little, I wanted what many Filipino children all over the

country wanted. I wanted to be blond, blue-eyed, and white. I thought-if I just wished hard enough and was good enough, Id wake up on Christmas morning with snow outside my window and freckles across my nose! More than four centuries under western domination does that to you. I have sixteen cousins. In a couple of years, there will just be five of us left in the Philippines, the rest will have gone abroad in search of greener pastures. Its not just an anomaly; its a trend; the Filipino diaspora. Today, about eight million Filipinos are scattered around the world. There are those who disapprove of Filipinos who choose to leave. I used to. Maybe this is a natural reaction of someone who was left behind, smiling for family pictures that get emptier with each succeeding year. Desertion, I called it. My country is a land that has perpetually fought for the freedom to be itself. Our heroes offered their lives in the struggle against the Spanish, the Japanese, the Americans. To pack up and deny that identity is tantamount to spitting on that sacrifice. Or is it? I dont think so, not anymore. True, there is no denying this phenomenon, aided by the fact that what was once the other side of the world is now a twelve-hour plane ride away. But this is a borderless world, where no individual can claim to be purely from where he is now. My mother is of Chinese descent, my father is a quarter Spanish, and I call myself a pure Filipino-a hybrid of sorts resulting from a combination of cultures. Each square mile anywhere in the world is made up of people of different ethnicities, with national identities and individual personalities. Because of this, each square mile is already a microcosm of the world. In as much as this blessed spot that is England is the world, so is my neighbourhood back home. Seen this way, the Filipino Diaspora, or any sort of dispersal of populations, is not as ominous as so many claim. It must be understood. I come from a Third World country, one that is still trying mightily to get back on its feet after many years of dictatorship. But we shall make it, given more time. Especially now, when we have thousands of eager young minds who graduate from college every year. They have skills. They need jobs. We cannot absorb them all. A borderless world presents a bigger opportunity, yet one that is not so much abandonment but an extension of identity. Even as we take, we give back. We are the 40,000 skilled nurses who support the UKs National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million seafarers manning most of the worlds commercial ships. We are your software engineers in Ireland, your construction workers in the Middle East, your

doctors and caregivers in North America, and, your musical artists in Londons West End. Nationalism isnt bound by time or place. People from other nations migrate to create new nations, yet still remain essentially who they are. British society is itself an example of a multi-cultural nation, a melting pot of races, religions, arts and cultures. We are, indeed, in a borderless world! Leaving sometimes isnt a matter of choice. Its coming back that is. The Hobbits of the shire traveled all over Middle-Earth, but they chose to come home, richer in every sense of the word. We call people like these balikbayans or the returnees-those who followed their dream, yet choose to return and share their mature talents and good fortune. In a few years, I may take advantage of whatever opportunities come my way. But I will come home. A borderless world doesnt preclude the idea of a home. Im a Filipino, and Ill always be one. It isnt about just geography; it isnt about boundaries. Its about giving back to the country that shaped me. And thats going to be more important to me than seeing snow outside my windows on a bright Christmas morning. Mabuhay. and Thank you.

Brain drain Colonial mentality Its a matter Filipinos are looking for the opportunities abroad para punan ang kulang dito sa pilipinas.

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Nationalism redefined
By Bobbie Reyes Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 00:20:00 07/23/2009 Filed Under: Education, Immigration, Overseas Employment

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Almost a year ago, I found myself on a plane to New York City. I wasn?t going on vacation or visiting relatives. I was starting my first year at Sarah Lawrence College, a liberal arts school renowned for its writing program. The first of my family to leave the country, I was terrified. Doubts filled my mind during the 18-hour trip. But one question kept coming back: Am I performing an act of betrayal to the motherland by leaving at such a young age? The question haunted me. Answers did not come easily. But after some serious reflection, I am positive that the answer is no. Socio-economic conditions in the Philippines have been a source of great disappointment and even bitterness, with its sluggish economy, its history of incompetent government leaders, widespread poverty and low standard of public education. As a result, Filipinos from all provinces and social backgrounds look to more developed countries for solutions. In the past 20 years, millions of Filipinos have chosen to study, work, or retire in the United States, Australia and Saudi Arabia, among many other countries. This flight has been called the ?brain drain,? a term that signifies that our country?s best and brightest are building their future outside of the country?and in massive numbers, at that. Out of a population of approximately 90 million, more than 11 million Filipinos have left for greener pastures. At the private Catholic high school I graduated from, a significant number of faculty members have left during the past three years to teach in public schools in the United States at much higher pay. The demand for nurses in the United States alone is estimated to reach 600,000 between now and 2020. It is no longer a surprise to run into Filipinos working as domestic helpers in Italy, Hong Kong and Canada.

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Many of these people leave in desperation. Others simply want better standards of living for themselves and for their children. And this is the reason, the decision to get out of the country is commonly perceived, though not so often openly denounced, as acts of selfishness and betrayal of the motherland. Being a Third World country struggling to develop, the Philippines needs all the help it can get. When we were in high school, our teachers urged us to direct all our efforts to improving conditions in our country. We were encouraged to stay?or come back eventually, should we decided to leave for abroad.

This was how I was taught to love my country. Students at the University of the Philippines, which I attended as a part-time student for one year, are constantly urged to work in the country after graduation to demonstrate their nationalism and as a way of ?giving back? to their fellow citizens. This concept of nationalism was underscored by Patricia Evangelista, who was then a student at the University of the Philippines, during the international public speaking competition conducted by the English Speaking Union in London in 2004. In her speech, entitled ?Blonde and Blue Eyes,? Evangelista discussed the Filipino diaspora and stressed the importance of returning to the motherland as an act of nationalism. ?Leaving sometimes isn?t a matter of choice,? she said. ?It?s coming back that is.? A few months after she returned from London, she wrote an article in a local newspaper to elaborate on her winning speech, ?I condemned the Filipinos who chose to leave,? she said. ?They deserved to be pushed down the road to hell on a handcart. Traitors and turncoats, I called them.? Almost five years later, Evangelista?s piece is still acclaimed as a benchmark of Philippine nationalism. But is idea of nationalism a geographic one? Must one be confined within certain physical boundaries in order to live out what my dictionary defines as ?patriotic feelings, principles or efforts?? The truth is that in a country that seeks desperately to progress, its citizens should consider the world we live in. It is a globalizing one, and as technology, society and people from all parts of the world become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, I cannot see how the dispersal of Filipinos all over the world can be a disadvantage. Aside from bringing in dollars through their remittances, which contribute to the growth of the economy, Filipinos overseas have other very real impacts on Philippine society. For one thing, the competition for local employment is alleviated. Those who criticize the diaspora often claim that it is the best people (or the best students) who migrate, leaving the Philippines with mediocre teachers, mediocre nurses, and other professionals. But these critics underestimate Filipino talent. Our pool of talent is not that small. There are many gifted people in the country, a fact that many fail to appreciate. Those who leave open more opportunities for those who choose to stay. Filipinos working abroad are living proof that we are indeed global citizens, competent and capable and equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in foreign places. As we witness fellow citizens climbing to the top of various industries and professions in New York, London and Paris, don?t we all beam with pride? More than just advancing their interests, they also serve as ambassadors proclaiming by their achievements the greatness of Filipinos and what they can contribute to society. This is the kind of nationalism I know. This is the kind of nationalism I feel. This is the kind of nationalism I believe in. To quote Evangelista again, ?Leaving sometimes isn?t a matter of choice. It?s coming back that is.? I left, and it was fully my choice. And I have never felt my identity as a Filipino as strongly as I do today, thousands of miles away from home. I don?t know when, or if, I will ever go back for good. But I know that I have never been prouder of where I come from and that I can make my country proud of me, regardless of where I am. (Bobbie Reyes, 20, is an incoming sophomore at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.)