My brother Roberto or Ebit and his family is back in Spain after a three-week vacation in Cebu. Without me being conscious of it, the Wenceslao family has become like millions of other Filipino families: having at least a brother, sister, mother or father who is living in another country.
Ebit was the first to go to Spain several years ago; he financed years later the trip of our younger brother Timoteo Jr. or Dodong there. Ebit’s two children with his wife Bebe speaks Spanish, can understand Tagalog a bit but are totally clueless about Cebuano. Dodong has two young kids and it is guaranteed they will be Spanish-speaking too.
My six other brothers and sisters are in the Philippines, each struggling, like me, to maintain a family in an economically backward setting. That means Ebit and Dodong are better-off than those of us who are here. They financed the recent effort to rebuild our house in Sitio Kawayan, Barangay Sambag 2 that was burned in a 2002 fire.
The visit of Ebit’s family reminds me of the flurry of resignations in Sun.Star, the newspaper where I worked in. Several of my co-employees have left for Dubai or got better-paying jobs in call centers and other multinational firms. I once joked that I sometimes feel like a bystander watching everybody leave–while I stayed.
A few months ago, some of my former elementary school classmates invited me to a gathering to reminisce the good old days. Even in that “reunion,” the reality of Filipinos continuously taking their chance abroad intruded. The same thing happened with my former classmates in high school: some of them are abroad unable to rejoin the old gang.
There are times when I wished that the time will come when people like Ebit and Dodong and my former classmates would no longer see the need to stay abroad and come back home. Distance, especially among relatives and friends, can be considered a devil. But that is only what it is–a wish.
Which only brings me back to the way this country is being run. This is not only about economics but more about providing hope to the people. People would have endured the hardships if they can glimpse a light at the end of the tunnel. But the kind of leaders we have are not providing that.
And so the diaspora continues. As long as people believe that their only salvation lies somewhere else and not in this country, families like ours will be divided, our children growing up in separate cultures and eventually unable to feel genuine kinship. And old friends will be no more, snatched away from our memories because of distance.
–Candido O. Wenceslao
August 1, 2006