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.
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.]
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