Category Archives: My country

[Traveliries] How Mt. Tapulao brought me to my knees

I’m not one to broadcast my failures online – Facebook, Twitter, this blog….but I promised myself I’ll be more fearless for this year. Posting this may be a good start. It’s quite poetic that my first post for this year is about failure and probably won’t be the last.

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What a wonderful day for a hike (HAH!)

So early last year, I participated in my fourth climb  with two of my college friends – Len and Jam. Len had been an avid hiker long before Jam and I got into mountaineering and when she told us about Mt. Tapulao which features Pulag-like scenery and fog, we quickly said yes to the invite without researching about the mountain. Our blood is singing with longing for the Great Outdoors, a veritable escape from the tediousness of city life. Not to mention the package is cheap! Just PHP650.00 for a day hike which includes transportation and guide fee*. There’s no way we’re gonna pass it up.

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Mt. Tapulao is the highest mountain range in Zambales region. We left Cubao around 9PM in the evening because we need to get be in the jump-off point at 3 AM to start the trek. The three of us were happily chatting inside the bus, blissfully ignorant to the torturous trek ahead. Looking back now, the whole trip went smoothly. Too smoothly, in my opinion. Knowing my luck, I should have known that was a sign for the things yet to come.

Before the sun rose, we set off to the infamous Rocky Road, the first phase of the trek. Why Rocky Road you ask? Just take a look at the picture below. And if you’re thinking ‘Meh, that’s just the quarter of the trek. It can’t go on forever’ then you’re WRONG. The Rocky Road is like 80% of the trek and by the time you descend Mt. Tapulao, the mere sight of a harmless rock will drive you nuts. Nuts, I tell ya! (I can’t eat a rocky road ice cream without having a flashback of rocks, rocks everywhere)

The rocks don’t disappear. They just keep getting bigger and bigger.

As far as I remember, the route to Mt. Tapulao covers 16 stations of which I don’t know how it was divided. Let’s just say up until Station 14 or 13, you’ll be tripping on rocks until you finally enter the pine tree forest, the most scenic part of the hike. Jam and Len went as far as Station 14 while I, worried about the dusk, decided to climb down earlier. It was around 1 PM and we haven’t reached the peak yet!

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In my previous hikes, I used to enjoy the descent more so than the climb. At least, I have some help from gravity when it comes to pacing. With Mt. Tapulao, the hike down is just as painful to the knees as the climb. The rocks are slippery and my knees are close to buckling down from exhaustion. I swear I have to ask my guide to have a rest every ten minutes or so. And when things couldn’t get any worse, it rained. Heavily.

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Pictures of the pine forest courtesy of my good friend Jam. Check out her amazing blog https://wandergirldiaries.wordpress.com/

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Jam’s cool shots near Camp 1

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Good thing I brought some extra clothes and underwear for the occasion. When we arrive back to the Rangers’ Station, it was nearly 3 PM and I changed off my wet clothes without some competition from other hikes. After comforting myself with a cup of warm noodles, I collapsed to one of the benches and slept until evening like a wimp.

TIPS BEFORE GOING TO MT. TAPULAO:

  • If you’re a beginner, I STRONGLY recommend you to join the the overnight hike instead of the dayhike. If you want to challenge yourself, prepare prepare prepare weeks before the actual hike.
  • A walking stick will be very useful especially during descent. By this time, your knees may buckle anytime and it’s good to have a stick to support you.
  • Always bring a poncho or a raincoat. Don’t take the weather lightly.
  • Wear comfortable footwear. You’re gonna rely on it especially during the Rocky Road.
  • Mt. Tapulao is also a perfect pre-major hike climb. If you want to take on Mt. Pulag’s infamous Akiki challenge, Mt. Tapulao can prepare you for the terrain and the altitude.
  • And don’t get discouraged! Whether you reach the summit or not within the allotted time, it doesn’t matter. We have revenge hikes for a reason 🙂
  • Have fun! Make sure you file your one-day vacation leave after the hike.

 

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Thoughts on the results of #PiliPinas2016 Elections

Finally, after nearly a month of waiting, the official canvassing results of this year’s National Elections are out. The people of the Republic of the Philippines elected Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Congresswoman Leni Robredo as the President and the Vice-President, respectively.

As far as I can tell, Filipino netizens for the most part are satisfied with the results. After all the issue of cheating allegations especially on the neck-to-neck battle for the VP, none of the people I know bat an eye. Some even took to social media to celebrate the results, pining their hopes and optimism to the Ro-Ro duo.

I’ve drawn similarities and connection between the unlikely tandem: Duterte is a tough-talking, no-nonsense mayor with a down-to-earth personality (as his peers and the people of Davao attested). Right now, he clearly made it clear that lavish lifestyle will not be part of his 6-year term. He is now putting the Presidential yacht on sale, stated that he would donate the presidential choppers to the armed forces and outright refused to use the #1 plate on his car and even a convoy. Despite his tough-as-nails attitude and ‘dirty’ mouth, he has a soft spot for children, women and even the LGBT community. In terms of political stand, Duterte has a category of his own; he is progressive in a way that he is a strong advocate of family planning and even backed same-sex marriage. Yet, his critics described him as being too patriarchal in the conservative sense and he seemed to have a backward view on treating women intensified by his ‘rape’ joke that drew so much flak from women’s rights advocate.

On the other side of the table, you got Leni, a standard-bearer of the Liberal Party, a political party that grew increasingly unpopular with the masses even before the elections. She’s a mom of three kids and a human rights lawyer. Like Duterte, she didn’t hold any higher position than a senator. Even before she declared her bid to run for vice-presidency, Leni has won the hearts of Filipino netizens when a picture of her taking the bus home became viral. Her religion as a Catholic didn’t stop her from separating religion to public service – she has also stated her conviction to grant civil weddings to same-sex couples.

For the first time in a long time, we have two leaders who are so similar yet so different at the same. Both have extensive experience in grassroot communities and macro-management, both have served their respective provinces and both are respected figures by their constituents. The other one is rough around the edges, the other is an epitome of grace and diplomacy. I have no idea how this pans out but I can say one thing – this is going to be one interesting tandem and this is going to be one interest term.

Expectations are high from this two. I almost feel sorry for them. They may be good leaders but they are not perfect. They may have good experience in management but they are also prone to bad decisions with great consequences.

This is where we come in. Vigilance and critical thinking are not some filter we can just take off when we elect the leaders we want. No matter how we respect or even adore them, we must always keep an open mind on everything. We trust them to make this country good, but at the same time, we must always remember we are part of the process. A democracy that has been around for some time. We are still part of history in the making. Our voices, reflections, rants, criticisms and discourse still matter.

At the end of it all, we should be reminded that our loyalty lies on our country, not to our present leaders.

 

 

To My President Madame Miriam

To my president, Madame Miriam.

Less than two weeks before the elections, I have made my decision. I will vote for no less than you.

My decision has not been an easy one. It took me awhile to think it over. It’s not that I have second thoughts about your qualifications, Madame. God knows how you passionately served the three branches of government in your decades of experience in public service.

Yet, issues like your health and your choice of Vice-President made me re-consider my option. Having known and respected you from afar, I wasn’t also able to delve deeper into your motivations for running. Surely, an esteemed, hard-working lady such as you deserves a happy and peaceful retirement with your loved ones, not the unpleasant duty of carrying all the problems of the country on your shoulders.

You are a cancer survivor, Madame. This job may prove to be more exhausting and draining to your health, and with the added frustration of the people, frankly I felt you wouldn’t handle it. When I watched the last presidential debate, I couldn’t help but to notice your lapses of silence, awkward pauses and moments to catch your breath. Truly, you weren’t as feisty as you were once been. Some friends who have been rooting for the other side remarked how disappointed they are in your performance. “Miriam isn’t up for it”, they say. “She’s not strong as she is before.”

But it was on the last debate, I was suddenly overwhelmed by emotions of how unfair it all is. There she is, the most qualified candidate of them all – standing on a podium after keeping an illness at bay, ready to serve once again. Offering herself for the people. I simply couldn’t understand why you decided to run  – you have already made your mark in governance, most people admire and respect you and you will be forever remembered as the Iron Lady – the feisty senator from Iloilo.

Then it struck me how simple it all is. Instead of spending your retirement days with your loved ones, instead of spending your energy with the people closest to you, instead of doing things you want to do and relishing the fruits of your labor, you chose to sacrifice your life for the country once again.

By declaring to run, you allowed yourself to receive some unnecessary stress from other people. You opened yourself once more to the public, to black propaganda and insensitive rumors. To hurtful statements of you dying or for your lack of mental soundness. To people actually calling you a hypocrite after you declared BBM as your running mate.

Yet, you still continued. You still plow on. Despite what the “surveys” say. I wouldn’t be gushing about your achievements or how qualified you are (Goodness knows how many of your supporters have done this already) I wouldn’t be gushing about the bills you authored – or your brilliant moments during Corona’s trial.

In the end, you eventually won my vote with your drive – your relentless passion.

Back in 2010, most Filipinos chose PNOY as the leader, brought out by the emotion of Cory’s loss and EDSA Nostalgia. I often criticized the reason for that vote – a baseless emotion and nothing more. My friends and I lamented for six years how most Filipinos vote due to emotion – not reason, and that explains why we’re still here.

Personally, my vote for you is more of an emotional one, and I like to think of it as a good one. I can tell you are sincere and you’re as equally as frustrated of this country’s cancer just as I am, but your way of doing things is rooted on the law and Constitution. You are not serving anyone’s interest apart from the youth’s, you are a ‘green-minded’ individual and you have always been a consistent advocate of women’s rights.

Heh, my vote doesn’t sound emotionally stupid now, is it?

Back in 1992, the year I was born, I heard you also ran for president but was ‘cheated’ by your opponents. You were branded as a lunatic due to your high intellect and temperament. I couldn’t help but to wonder if you won that year and how it must have turned out for the country.

On May 09, I will vote according to my conscience. Not because of cold logic. Not purely out of emotion. It’s because for me, you are the right person to lead us out of this misery.

Even if you lose or if the candidate/s I’m not fond with eventually win, I won’t leave the country. After all, this is what you fought so hard for, isn’t it? To never give up fighting for your country.

And this is what you inspire me to do, Madame President.  What you inspire all of us to do.

Fight the good fight.

Yours sincerely,

A random Millenial

 

 

Election Musings: Dissecting Duterte’s Popularity

So if you haven’t been living under a rock these past few days, you already know that Mayor Duterte has apparently surpassed former frontrunner Grace Poe in the latest SWS and Pulse Asia presidential survey. With less than four weeks before the May 09 elections, are we finally going to have a president coming from Mindanao?

Duterte’s soar to fame came hardly as a surprise. First, he’s got this tough-talking, no-nonsense bravado going on. For most, he acts and sounds like your typical Filipino father figure in movies and TV shows with his fearless banters, crude quips and frank one-liners. His leadership in Davao City and his simple lifestyle endeared him to the masses in a way traditional politicians didn’t quite expect.

He’s not my candidate, though he supports Federalism which I’m a firm advocate of and I also grew up in a city where discipline is part of the city’s tagline. I have decided to vote Miriam and that’s it. Still, that didn’t stop me from speculating how and why Mayor Duterte seemed to be this election’s choice of the masses. Here’s my tw0-centavos:

Back in 2010, Filipinos were tired of countless corruption cases hounding ex-President GMA’s term which is a whirlwind of electoral scandal, shady helicopter dealings and basically her family’s questionable acts (especially that of her husband’s) When PNOY came along, looking pristine and fresh, with his ‘Tuwid na Daan’ platform where he promised to get rid of corrupt officials from the government, many of us bought it. I, myself admit it was promising, and if PNOY had have an illustrious political experience and achievements as Mar Roxas have, I would have voted for him too.

But when Tuwid na Daan failed to answer the problems regarding transportation, traffic, sub-standard Yolanda rehabilitation shacks, the massacre of 44 SAF in Mamasapano and the latest Kidapawan massacre of farmers, the Filipinos now want a leader who embodies all the traits PNOY don’t have, do all things PNOY couldn’t or wouldn’t.

And that’s what Duterte apparently represents. Decisiveness. Experience. Unafraid to get his hands dirty. If this is a comic book universe and if Philippines is Gotham City, Filipinos view Duterte as the frickin Batman and elect him as their mayor despite how grossly “unsuitable” Batman is for the job.

I guess that’s my take with Duterte. While his critics talk and rave about the extrajudicial killings he masterminded in Davao, how immoral he is, how his crude speech and lack of tact can be a source of national embarrassment later on, how he views Marcos as the best president of the Philippines, etc., I’m all past that. What I’m most concerned about his brand of leadership most Filipinos aren’t prepared of, one I will talk about more about in a separate post.

I’m not judging his supporters though. In fact, most of my relatives and friends are voting for him in this coming elections and even after I try to convince them to vote for Miriam, them sticking to their original choice is fine with me. I just remind them that you can’t expect Duterte to be this messianic figure who will suddenly uproot the ‘system’ and make our country a better place to live. Change is a process that requires the cooperation of all entities and if you remain as an irresponsible, undisciplined citizen you are, even the great Duterte himself can’t change anything.

 

Election Musings: “Judge me for my candidate” 

As election time draws near, never have I felt political tension and drama in my Facebook and Twitter feed than  what is happening right now. Yes, it is actually happening. We are judging the intellect, ethics and sanity of one another simply because of one’s choice of a presidential candidate. 
A sign of a vibrant democracy? Maybe. This goes to show that we aren’t at least operating under a mob rule and we give each other different perspectives on viewing a certain issue or a candidate. At least, it shows our maturity in how we value and practice democracy. 

But some of us may have taken it a little overboard. As election draws near, social media increasingly becomes toxic, dare I say, a frightening place in expressing one’s political opinion. 

Recently, I’ve read an article of how a climate change advocate received cyber threats simply because she criticized Mayor Duterte, the candidate I believe to be one of the masses’ favorite choices due to his tough-talking stance against crime. 

I sympathized with her plight and I admired the way she never backed down on her political opinion. Some of the so-called threats are even amusing to read, some are really pathetic, and some…well let’s just say they shouldn’t have been introduced to Facebook in the first place. The comments of each photo are understandably unkind: “Dutertard” “Dudirty” etc. 

There is no excuse in the way how a certain candidate’s followers are acting. Who wouldn’t be angry if someone, a complete stranger at best, wishes you to be raped? Who wouldn’t be frightened if someone pushes a candidate in your face and calls you a complete moron just because you don’t want to vote for the same person? 

And then we generalized. How we Filipinos just love to generalize! Like how a certain group of supporters generalized all UP students for being disrespectful all because one of its students cut in one candidate’s speech because “they are running out of time” in an academic forum. We generalize Binay supporters as “Binayarans”, Mar suppprters as “Yellow Zombies” and Poe supporters as “un-Filipino enough for supporting a candidate with American citizenship” 

We never thought for a moment the reason why. Provided of course that vote-buying, personality-over-platform mentality and “hakot” crowd are still rampant, I believe (desperately hoping so) that for this coming elections, most of us will be more conscious with our votes. Most of us are aware that the leader we will choose on May will be a defining moment of what our future is going to be. 

Filipinos are emotional voters, but for this 2016 elections, our emotions will be closely intertwined with our priorities. Some of us wanted the Tuwid na Daan continuity, we vote for Mar. Some of us wanted a fresh beginning and an advocate of a transparent government, we vote for Grace. Some of us wanted a system overhaul through Federalism and ease the crime rate in our country, we go for Duterte.

These priorities have different factors in them and you cannot simplify that these people don’t think as well as you do just because they don’t share the same views. It’s a matter of how these people think differently from you. It may be that they came from this particular social class, or they live on a certain region, or this candidate did something in their lives on the past and the experience still has an ability to affect their choices now. 

We can campaign for our presidential candidate all we want, in Facebook, Twitter, heck even on the streets, but we can do it without stooping down to the level of our critics who would resort to petty name-calling, threats or pathetic insults. At the very least, what we can do is to engage them in a conversation on who they are voting for and why. We can discuss platforms and compare the priorities of our candidates. We can still debate and argue without disrespecting one another. This is the heart of a healthy discussion. We can make statements attacking the issue, not the moral code or the intellect of a person who do not believe the same things we do. 

To top it all of, I’m just going to leave this status of my friend here for you to think about. 

   
   “Me waiting for the presidential elections to be over”

BALAng Araw…

Nitong mga nakaraang buwan, medyo nag lay-low na din ako sa pagiging critical sa gobyerno, tutal two months na lang naman si PNoy. He’ll be out of our hair soon and we’ll be out of his hair na din (pardon the pun) Na-realize ko, nakaka-stressed lang maging reklamador. Balewala din naman sa mga taong tinitira mo.

Medyo positive na nga ako ngayon. Nageeffort na ako maging optimistic at hopeful sa magiging future ng ating bansa. Alam kong mapupunta din tayo doon. BALAng araw…

Pero pagbigyan ninyo na ako. Tutal two months na lang. Pagbigyan ninyo ako, kahit isang hirit lang.

Isa lang naman ang  masasabi ko tungkol sa administrasyong ito: BALA.

Nitong huling taon ng 2015, Nobyembre. Lumantad ang isyu sa publiko na may nagtatanim ng BALA sa NAIA. BALA sa NAIA. Only in the Philippines! Sadyang may mapaglaro lang talagang engkanto sa airport na nagtatanim ng bala sa bagahe mo. Ang nakakatuwa pa, malalaman mo lang yun pagkalabas ng bagahe mo sa X-ray machine. MAGIC! May bala ka palang souvenir mula sa pinanggalingan mo?!

Hindi lang ikaw ang biktima e. Pati mga turista galing pang ibang bansa, hindi sinasanto. Na-feature na din tayo sa CNN, Fox news at iba pang international news dahil dito. May Amerikano pa ngang nag-publish ng blog post on “4 Effective Tips to Curb Laglag Bala in NAIA”

Collective shame natin ‘to. Kahit Ninoy Aquino International Airport ang pangalan niyan in honor of our president’s late father na namatay dahil sa bala sa ulo, pero para sa ibang bansa, ito pa din ay kilala bilang airport na nasa Pilipinas.

Ano’ng nangyari? Pakinggan mo na lang ang mga salitang ang sarap pakinggan. Probe. Investigate. “Watch the Watchers”. Pero hanggang doon lang tayo. Di na siya mainit. Di na siya trending. Siguro dahil lagi tayong sawi sa ating mga lovelife at madalas nating pinipilit ang sarili na mag-move on, mas mabilis na din tayong mag move-on mula sa mga isyung pa-tungkol sa lipunan.

April 01, 2016. Kidapawan. Nag-protesta ang mga magsasaka, ang mga magtatanim ng ating bigas, dahil wala na silang pangkain sa kanilang mga pamilya. Ano ba ang laban nila sa Kalikasan? Ano ba ang naging paghahanda natin sa El Nino? Sa halip na pakinggan ang kanilang hinaing, BALA at dahas ang sumalubong sa kanila.

April 01. Nakakalokong isipin. Ang mga “nagtatanim” ng BALA sa NAIA, sindikato o opisyales, hindi man lang nakasuhan. Walang nasibak. Wala man lang pray-over kung engkanto ba yan o ano.

Pero ang mga totoong nagtatanim ng bigas na nagiging kanin na kinakain mo ngayon,  pinaulanan naman ng BALA.

Kidapawan. Hacienda Luisita. Lupao. Mendiola.

Ani ng iba, komunista ang nasa likod ng mga yan. Etong mga NPA na ‘to. Mga balakid sa pagbabago. Hindi ninyo sana sila makukumbinse magprotesta kung wala silang hinaing at pangangailangan sa simula pa lang. Hindi ninyo sana sila ‘maloloko’ na ibuwis ang kanilang buhay sa pagpoprotesta kung sila ay ‘kuntento’ na sa kanilang pamumuhay. Bakit ba kasi kayo mga sawsawero’t sawsawera?

Anim na taon. Simula pa lang daw ang Tuwid na Daan. Madami pa tayong kakaining bigas para makamit ang tunay na ginhawa. Sana hindi lang pinagpapapatay ang ating mga magsasaka.

Mr. President, narerecognize ko naman na mabuti ang iyong intensyon *hindi na ako sarcastic at this point on* Pinilit ka nilang tumakbo, kahit ayaw mo naman sa simula, at ginawa mo naman ang iyong makakaya. Na-appreciate ko yun at kinikilala ko naman ang iba sa mga magaganda mong ginawa, ang pagiging masipag at mahusay ng ibang kawani ng iyong gobyerno.

Nakakalungkot isipin na nabalewala ang competence nila dahil sa gross incompetence ng iba. Dahil malambot ang iyong puso, kahit alam mong may pagkukulang sila, hinahayaan mo lang na sila na ang bumitiw. One More Chance, nga diba?

BALAng araw, sana ma-realize mo…hindi lahat makakamove-on sa mga isyu na ‘to. BALAng araw, sana hindi maabutan ng mga magiging anak ko ang ganitong klase ng pamumuno.

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Cheers to us: the ones left behind

 

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For the most part of my life, I’ve always watched people come and go…and there’s nothing I can say or do about it. I don’t want to sound like I’ve been abandoned many times in my life and being whiny about it, but I often pause and wonder how it would feel if it’s the other way around. What does it feel to be the one who’s leaving, instead of the one left behind? What does it feel like to be the one pushing the luggage cart to the terminal reserved for international flight instead of the one waving goodbye through glass doors?

Last January 18, a dear friend of mine left for the States for greener pasture. She wasn’t the first one in our immediate circle to leave the country for a job. Another friend also left the country two years ago, but she’s in contract and she’s going to return every four years. Now this one, she left for good. She’s going to apply for an American citizenship. She’s the good, hardworking daughter who wants her parents to grow old in the States. And frankly, her decision has left me questioning my own life choices at this point.

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Yours truly and my friend

My life choices are determined by what I want, not what I should do. I know there’s no problem with this. What’s wrong with pursuing what you love? Still, I’m burdened by the knowledge that I’m the first born of the family. I graduated college first. My grades were okay. I’m burdened by the knowledge that my mother placed all her hopes and aspirations, all these expectations of being the future breadwinner, on me. Better pay, better job security, and definitely a better life for my mom and two brothers.

To be fair to my mother, she has always supported me in whatever I want, despite the shortcomings and failures. I guess she is just worried I haven’t decided a proper course of my life yet. Perhaps, I’m burdened by the knowledge that I’m making her worry. She has supported my decision to stay here and not go abroad. She is now supporting my decision to go back to school.

I wish I can give her a better life in just a snap of a finger, especially after what she had gone through in the past years. The thought of going abroad crossed my mind many times and even my aunt overseas offered to take me in. In the end, I decided to stay to pursue law school but the feeling of guilt remained. It would take another four years for me to have a proper job, and I would have to endure another four years of watching my peers build their career, go overseas, get married, have a family or just travel around the world for fun.

Making a decision is like popping a gum into your mouth. Sticking by it is chewing it for many years to come (gross – but it depends on how long you should chew it) and NOT wondering about the flavors of gum the others are chewing, then spitting it out before you can taste the real flavor of what you chose. If you can have one gum or more, that’s alright but remember that you cannot just bite off more than you can chew.

I made a decision and that is to stay in this beleaguered country of ours. I’m open to studying abroad but I will always go back here. You may be thinking, ‘You’re still young. Your decisions may change’ and I guess I’m a fool to declare avowals of love of country at the prime of my youth, where I’m unabashedly thinking I can grace the world with my passion and drive for social change.

And that’s the point: I’m still young. I’m still in the intersection of choosing what path should I take to serve my country. I still have the energy to do what I can and I’m still brimming with the prospect and ideas of contributing to the change. It might not be amount to much, but hey, it’s the thought that counts, right?

A day before my friend left, I told her that our country isn’t as hopeless as she think it is. That when day, when she decided to come back for vacations in-between applying for her immigration status, she will see the change, eventually. It’s not about having foolish expectations or having blind hope, but being optimistic to what lies ahead, to what this generation can do. And yes, the ones left behind, the ones ‘foolish’ enough to stay despite the system, the burden of making it possible falls mostly on our shoulders.

While our modern heroes are working hard on other countries, ploughing through the loneliness, homesickness and discrimination just to send money here, it’s up to us, the ones left behind, to make their sacrifice worth it.

 

Because we ourselves have sacrificed comfort and security, the pleasure of having turkey dinners on Thanksgiving Day as snowflakes dance outside our windows, the efficiency of medical services provided by other countries we cannot afford here, and the overwhelming difference of earning dollars instead of pesos, we might as well be all-out in making this country worth returning to.

If we’re going to stay here for good, we might as well change this country for the better.

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