Filipino Diaspora

If you're a Filipino, you've possibly heard about Patricia Evangelista's having won
the 2004 International Public Speaking competition by the English Speaking Union (ESU) in London. For those who haven't, here's a copy below of the winning piece she delivered. She bested 59 other student contestants from 37 countries including the US, UK and Australia. Patricia Evangelista was a 19-year-old Mass Communications sophomore at UP Diliman. Her piece was a very balanced holistic view of the "problem" we all experience that she calls the Filipino diaspora. (Note- for whatever it's worth, "diaspora" is defined by WordNet as diaspora n 1: the body of Jews (or Jewish communities) outside Palestine or modern Israel 2: the dispersion of the Jews outside Israel; from the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 587-86 BC when they were exiled to Babylonia up to the present time [syn: {Diaspora}] 3: the dispersion or spreading of something that was originally localized (as a people or language or culture)


by Patricia Evangelista

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, I'd
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." It's not just an anomaly; it's 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 don't 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
UK's National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million
seafarers manning most of the world's 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 London's West End.

Nationalism isn't 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 isn't a matter of choice. It's coming back that
is. The Hobbits of the shire travelled 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 doesn't preclude
the idea of a home. I'm a Filipino, and I'll always be one. It isn't
about just geography; it isn't about boundaries. It's about giving
back to the country that shaped me.

And that's going to be more important to me than seeing snow outside
my windows on a bright Christmas morning.

Mabuhay and Thank you.