What Filipinos need to be told about life away from the Philippines

There’s nothing more pathetic than a voluntary immigrant constantly pining about her emotional attachment to her homeland. Yeah, I’m talking about you Shakira Sison and the emotional diarrhoea that is your Rappler article, What they don’t tell you when you leave the Philippines. If you are going to spend an entire lifetime suffering from acute separation anxiety from your homeland, you just open yourself to that simple but confronting question: Why don’t you just go HOME?

Filipino immigrants who only see their host countries as a place where stuff works are the worst sorts of resident aliens. They remain fixated on the society they left behind and their never-ending buntong hiningas (melancholic sighs) about the quaint experiences of life in the Philippines — consisting mainly of romanticised memories of the wretchedness of life there — that they “miss” betray a failure to fully embrace and appreciate the deeper substance in and of the societies that so graciously host their foreign residents.


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America, for example, is not just a place where nice cars, nice houses, and nice clothes could be bought. It is not just a place where most public spaces are clean, orderly, and safe and where things work efficiently. A person who habitually takes stock of all that superficial stuff then uses it as a backdrop for lyrical numbers on the social and cultural nuances that made growing up in the Philippines so memorable is cheating herself out of a life of possibilities in their adopted homeland.

All possibilities lie in the future. Your future includes, as a significant part of it, the place and environment where it will unfold. To regard the place and society that will host your future as no more than a collection of conveniences is setting one’s self up for a future of mere compromise. It is understandable for immigrants in the first couple of months living in, say, America to regard their situation as a compromise. But one would reasonably expect some effort to evolve. Those who do not evolve choose to live out their lives in their new country as a sad living with that compromise.

What a sad lot.

Life, like any journey, is about consuming the experience of living it as it unfolds. We acquire new experiences that shape our character as we go through life. Our characters today were shaped by these past experiences and future experiences will continue to shape us. Thus, the fear that Filipino immigrants who embrace the society and culture of their adopted homelands will “lose” something — their home, their cultural roots, even their very identity — is unfounded. Nothing is ever lost when one acquires new experiences. On the contrary, there is always something to gain from new experiences.

More importantly, it is worth emphasising that there is even more to be gained by facing new challenges. Sometimes the future you face takes you away from your comfort zone (such as the smells, sounds, faces, voices, and tastes you are familiar with). Those are the best types of challenges. An ability to face those kinds of challenges with grace is what separates the men from the boys — the whiners from the courageous explorers.

So then it’s simple, really: Immigrant Filipinos should fear not. Your identity is defined by what you achieve — by how you use the experiences you gain in the course of stepping up to the challenges you encounter along the way. Your identity is NOT defined by “how much” or “how less” of a “Filipino” you are on the basis of someone’s presumptuous assessment of much or how little of the society that hosts you you’ve embraced and soaked up.

For that matter, nobody — NOBODY — is given the authority to judge how “Filipino” (or not “Filipino”) anyone is.

[Photo courtesy VoltaireYap.com.]

40 Replies to “What Filipinos need to be told about life away from the Philippines”

  1. NOBODY has the authority to judge how a Filipino anyone is..Is exactly right . The one who judge is only himself.

    And Benignoo. By what I experienced and see here in America is, immigrant Filipinos are not happy alone as long as he or she has family left behind in the Philippines. They whined and yell because they missed their family NOT THE PHILIPPINES…That’s why every Filipino immigrant in America , they, life long goal is to bring everybody in here…once in a while they will missed the country of birth if something remind them of pictures or image of their youth ,,,but aside from that…..All of them are happy to get out of the rotten place Philippines…. we are humans and humans are a kind of animal that always wanted to die in their place of birth if they can help it…..Its human nature, like salmon .

  2. There are two kinds of people. One kind, you can just tell by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas, the other kind keep moving, changing… They are fluid. They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive. You must be constantly on your guard against congealing.

  3. Part of an administration-paid effort to demonize OFWs, since the careless liar of a president said Filipinos went abroad just because they want to, not because they have to? But what does he know anyway?

  4. “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan, ay hindi makarating sa paroroonan…” my late mother used to tell me.

    It is hard to leave your country. Friends, family members, relatives, acquaintances. However, like cows, we have to go in search for “greener pastures”…

    Thanks God, I applied to a good university, and was accepted. I was just looking, to further my technical knowledge. This lead to working part time ; and studying at the same time. More studies, more hard work, more sacrifices (true sacrifice, not the “political sacrifice” ,that Aquino, Roxas & the LP (“Libog Party”) , are talking about.

    It lead me to working in a good Fortune 500 U.S. company. I have No Regret in leaving the Philippines.

    “While in Rome; do as the Romans do”…is a good saying. I have to blend with the country that has adopted me. On the other hand, I have to offer, what I can do to the land of my birth. My relatives are still living there.

      1. @Grimwald:

        I sometimes look back; but, I don’t use “salompas”, for stiff my neck remedy…I don’t like the smell of “salompas”…

  5. A thing to remember is that the prime reason Filipino ofws miss the motherland because of the good memories they have there. Not the reality of it. In fact, most ofws who return there immediately miss the country they stayed at because things work there. And Even the countries that are war zones, they will miss the fact that they had money and a job.

    1. Just remember the Filipinos, who do not want to leave Libya; inspite of the war going on. They rather die from the bullets; than die from starvation and “kunsumisiyon” in the Philippines.

      1. “than die from starvation and ‘kunsumisiyon’ in the Philippines.”- I’d like to add: to avoid being mistakenly accused of taking part in and/or enjoying the stupidities of most Filipinos. Personally, I’d rather leave than “be identified as one of them.”

    2. Admittedly, i do feel nostalgic when i think of my childhood/adolescence. but i’ve been back to those places and have realized that everything has already changed – not just the environment, but the people too – and those places painted in my memories are all that’s left. So i do agree with benign0, it is all best to move forward.

  6. That my friends are the real problems in the Philippines . LACK of GOOD OF GOOD PAYING JOBS.. all this politicians are promising you everything except talking about how they going to attract jobs to the country????This GRP blogs site should be focusing on that jobs creation put pressure to this government and politician . Coz with out jobs and money for the people ,,, education or whatever nonsense subject you bringing up here is not helping a bit.. My own personal opinion.. I care for the Filipinos .

    1. “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinangalingan, ay hindi makarating sa paroroonan…” my late mother used to tell me.
      I do not understand the meaning of this famous Filipino phrase. Kung Hindi ka pa nakarating sa iyong paroroonan, ano ang purpose mo bakit ka lilingon sa iyong pinanggalingan,,,, unless you giving up na Hindi ka makarating,,, kaya ka Lang lilingon kapag nakarating ka na … Only my opinion..

    2. Innovative people create jobs and industries. The trouble of us is: Politics is the primary industry, in our country.

      Followers like the Aquino’s YellowTards, become rabid political followers. If their candidate wins; they are placed in good government jobs. Do” kurakot” , and get rich. This is the reason , people: die for politics; kill for politics; hate each other for politics.

      Take for example, the automotive industry. A car has many parts. Each part is manufactured by a manufacturer. And, the manufacturer employs people. If a country industrializes; it could have many jobs for its people.

      What we do, is create service industries; consumer based industries; OFWs.

      We export our brains. And the useless politicians steal the money of the national treasury.

      1. Industrial revolution began in the 18th century. We are now in the 21st century. Yet, the Philippines has not industrialized.
        We are two (2) centuries behind any industrialized country.

      2. Totally agree Hayden. esp. with your example.

        Actually, the Philippines can still create a real automotive industry – it isn’t that hard.

        Look at Elon Musk who established Tesla Motors just recently. He is just one man.

        If I could call the shots in this country, I would pool all these dying Jeepney manufactures to unite and transform them into a serious force to reckon with.

        I will allocate billions into automotive R&D; manpower? – no problem. we don’t have a shortage of talented engineers. I will have a program to attract foreigners with key technological know-how in engine & body design / production.

        This industry will create jobs that will keep talent within our shores.

        South Korea did it in just a few decades after Japan gave them independence. It’s not an impossible dream.

        This is better than the hollow Pinoy pride we have circling around.

        1. South Korea’s Hyundia was created, only a few years ago. Look at the company now. Same as the electronic Samsung company. We have to remove feudalism , also. It is a hindrance to progress.

      3. They don’t want to industrialize because there is more money in technical smuggling. In this admin of PNoy, Ochoa controls and manages the three kings at the Custom who control a virtual toll gate that collects the toll from all smugglers. At a trillion, 10% toll is 100 billion Pesos. No wonder these cabinet secs and smugglers could afford to build 200 to 300m peso houses for their respective #2 or mistresses, not to include the Ferraris in the garages. In the meantime they killed the manufacturing sector.

        Same goes for why they don’t want to improve the agriculture sector. On the G2G importation like rice, the kickback is hidden in the freight, arrastre, port service and land transport. Say $100 per mt, that’s $100 million tongpats on the total one million mt imported in the last 15 months. LP has enough in their war chest and more. Election operators even those in retirement will be out in full force. They will be making a killing like they won a Lotto three times over. In the meantime, the agricultural sector is left to rot.

      4. >> Actually, the Philippines can still create a real automotive industry – it isn’t that hard.

        It’s a bit off-topic, but it absolutely IS that hard, Zaxx. Elon Musk is not just one man. He’s supported by thousands of suppliers and innovators, not just in the US but abroad as well.

        The Philippines has no chance of building an automotive industry for several very good reasons: they have no national experience (it takes decades to get good at something like that), they can’t import reliable components (very few car companies make their own engines), and they can’t even tool up with world-class equipment.

        Point is, they should not NEED to develop an automotive industry. We’ll ignore the fact, for the moment, that automobiles are an obsolete technology: but if the Philippines wants automobiles, they can import them. In exchange, they can export whatever-it-is that Filipinos are good at. It’s called comparative advantage.

        Of course, the problem here is that Filipinos need to learn to be good at something.

  7. Now now you guys are talking with sense and very important purpose,,, do not tell that to each other ,,, yell that to the damned politicians and the upcoming politicians who wants to be president , isak sak ninyo yan sa mga utak nila,,, if they don’t do something about creating jobs in the Philippines ,,, all hell will break lose I guarantee that..

  8. @Cezar:

    Most of the political leaders skulls are thick; and most have no brains…some have barely a clue of brain. They are elected by Filipino people of the same species.

    Are you one of them who elected them?

    1. I do not vote on a candidate that do not have a solid plan to change the living condition of the unfortunate poor Filipinos..if you cannot change them , join them they said…why bother..Not me i don’t even want to join them in fact I have to go away from people I cannot learn anything from and no sympathy for the unfortunate poor.


    “I’d rather have bad times with you, than good times with someone else
    I’d rather be beside you in a storm, than safe and warm by myself
    I’d rather have hard times together, than to have it easy apart
    I’d rather have the one who holds my heart ”

    I spent 3yrs in Malaysia and 5yrs in Japan (every 6 month 1week home visit). But I still choose to stay for my loveones – family anf friends.

    1. I can’t bring all my family – parents, friends, places, foods, drinks and people I like.

    2. Discrimination and 2nd/3rd class or Gaijin (bad word refering to outsiders) status you gain in other countries.

    3.”It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and master, and intends to be the master” – Ayn Randolph

  10. Good article, Benigno.

    >> One would reasonably expect some effort to evolve. Those who do not evolve choose to live out their lives in their new country as a sad living with that compromise.

    That right there sums up the whining article in the link (“What they don’t tell you when you leave the Philippines”), which I’d like to rip into:

    >> Nobody tells you that you’ll miss the noises of home – the blaring of jeepney horns, the takatak of the cigarette vendors selling Winstons by the stick.

    I’ve often wondered if Filipinos make such a godawful noise because they enjoy it. Some have told me they can’t stand the countryside because it’s too quiet. So thanks for the confirmation, Ms. Sison.

    >> You’ll want to wake up to the stench of fried danggit, longganisa, the acid of spiced vinegar for dipping, and garlic rice that anywhere else would be too early to eat in the morning. You’ll stare at your box of cereal and flavorless milk and at that moment you’ll wonder if being away is all worth it.

    Well, learn to damn well cook, then; and to eat properly. One of the things that the Filipino has in common with the American (and the author seems to be talking about North America as if it represents the entire world) is that he has an extremely limited palette. On the other hand, America is awash with different flavours if you make the effort to find them and understand them. A plate of rice is as nutritionally deficient as the bowl of cereal that the author derides.

    >> You’ll promise not to mind the inefficient government employees if it means their service comes with a smile and an offer to eat

    In other words, the Filipino will accept a ton of mediocrity and corruption in return for a few ounces of ego-massage.

    Sison’s article reminds me of Americans or Europeans who emigrate to (say) Japan and complain that you can’t buy decent pulled pork or cheese, or that Japanese people are too polite. Those people end up hanging around expat bars, growing ever more fearful and resentful of the culture around them, and they are rightly laughed at and pitied by their fellow expats who seek out and enjoy new experiences.

    1. Most Filipinos do not have those food , you are talking about. That’s why they leave the country , how can you a country that makes you hungry and in survival mode…I surly don’t.

  11. On Sundays, OFWs in HKG converge in Central around the Star Ferry, in SGP, in Lucky PLaza; in Korea, in Anyang. They spend whole day just gossiping among themselves. What a waste of time.

    Travel actually affords one something equivalent to a full university course. It shouldn’t be wasted.

    1. There you goes again , they sit around and gossips because they cannot afford to travel…geeeseeee…if they can afford it why will they leave their homeland the Philippines…geeeseee get real…..your advice is we’ll out of line…..they are poor and no jobs in the Philippines…periodddddd.

      1. I am talking of OFW in Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea respectively converging in one area by the thousands spending entire Sunday every Sunday gossiping. They are already outside of the country, so they traveled already. They are already in a different culture, so why waste that travel by spending some time learning a different culture, instead of gossiping whole day on their day-off. Now, I am giving an advice, not in my ear!ier comment where I just made an observation. Apologize for the earlier comment made in haste; hope this one makes things clearer for you, Cesar.

        1. Correction …so why waste that travel by spending… should read …so why waste that travel; they should be spending some time learning a different culture, instead of…

  12. Simply put, the Rappler article confirms what I said in my earlier article. That some Filipinos’ minds are addled and they have made dysfunction a part of their Filipino identity. That article says, if you don’t long for the dysfunction of Manila, the poverty, pollution, traffic and all, you’re a traitor. And what a sad sight to see someone consider efficiency as something bad. Basically, what the Rappler writer did was to make the good look bad, and the bad look good. Same old tactic of twisting morality and values.

    1. Exactly my impression.

      Noise=Good. Peace and quiet=Bad.

      Rice=Good. Varied, affordable, tasty and nutritious food=Bad.

      Uncritical consumerism and warehouses full of Chinese tat=good. As long as it’s not in Abroadland, in which case it’s bad.

      I mean, if you just miss your family, fine. Cold weather is horrible? Fair enough. But if you genuinely miss the dystopian failure that is the RP, there’s something wrong with your head.

      1. I’m also pretty sure the article’s contrived. Probably given an assignment: “make an article that makes Filipinos pine for home, no matter how broken it is.” So the writer does it. But most likely, she doesn’t feel what she wrote in it genuinely. It was just an assignment.

        1. Ah, another prostitute. Mom and dad must be proud.

          It’s possible I guess. Writing lies for money would actually be slightly more honorable than writing with a genuine desire to defending the indefensible, IMO.

  13. Sison is right about all the issues she wrote about in her article.
    I am living in Europe for over 40 years and it is like she has described ; without a proper education recognized by the western countries and you come to the west without it, you are nothing more than a finacial and economic burden to the westerners. You can assimilate and intergrate as much as you want, you will never be fully accepted.
    And folks stop praising the West as being a paradise; in fact it is real hell.
    Stop degrading your own country and origin as that wont help you at all.
    Wherever you go in the West and you arent a westerner you will always be seen and regarded as a economic immigrant.
    Hell tell those who are still in the Philipinnes or any other comtry outside western world, that most of the westerners are just living from welfare, social security and that the majority iis just low-class educated people!!

    So all you folks who are writing and criticizing the autor have a good hard look at yourself and at least acknowledge the harsh fact that she is right all along.
    As a veteran lawyer I have seen how immigrants are suffering on dialy basis here in Europe!! They arent living in safe neighboorhoods or in fancy appartments at all. Most of them are on welfare and hanging on the streets almost 24/7

  14. Cool off folks, Sison wrote something about her experience, tutoo naman yung feelings niya, bakit kayo nagagalit? ganoon din ang feelings ko at some point pero nabago din. at some point magbabago din ang feelings ni sison, and then isusulat niya kung ano yung nabago. hindi naman yun nakasulat sa bato. she is writing about her current sentiments not her final will!
    note: hindi ko kilala si sison fyi.

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