Saturday, 21 April 2007

Despair in May

IF there should be times I do not wish to be in the Philippines, it would have to be during May of an election year.

Unfortunately for me, there was little choice, given my work schedule and my wife’s and son’s timetables, except to pick this time of the year to spend a much needed breather back home.

On the plus side—despite the depression that set in once I saw the same recycled names vying for public office—our family was able to enjoy the fantastic attractions of Bohol Island, in the company of my brother Totol, his wife Apples and son, JM.

The experience was that memorable, I decided to devote last week’s column to sing its praises.

But whatever it is that delights me, somehow it can never fully offset the sadness I feel whenever I see my country, going yet again through the motions of a national election.

It pains me immensely because—

Candidates for public office are again from the same old names—scions of well-entrenched political dynasties that have monopolized this country for ages, and have sadly brought it very little good.

Whoever the victors happen to be, majority of them will have nothing new to offer the country, except perhaps to set in train a series of scandals, corruption allegations and political crises, that would only serve to drag our country backwards, rather than propel its progress forwards.

I know that whichever crop of leaders get into power, there will always be another group of sore losers doing their very best to ensure that those elected will never have a chance of succeeding in office.

Our people have become so jaded with the political process, they now see it not as an opportunity to usher in change, but merely as another chance to make some extra money, to ensure that next meal on their table.

Despite the frenetic pace of development that I see among our neighbors as I travel around within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region, there is very little sign of it in the Philippines. Instead, the only thing that I can relate to in the country as far as Asean is concerned is that embarrassing scandal in Cebu, concerning the hugely overpriced lamp posts that were hastily erected along the route to the Asean convention—from Mactan airport to the North Reclamation Area.

We have an immense wealth of skill and talent from intelligent and well-educated Filipinos, who end up being tapped for the development of the Middle East, Europe and North America, but which our political leaders have no idea how to utilize.

While our health system continues to fail, and our sick countrymen die by the thousands from even the simplest and most easily curable diseases, the only thing our leaders can do is to encourage the tragic diaspora of our health workers to all corners of the globe.

Much as I would love to come back and help my country move forward, there is very little opportunity for me, and others like me here, and the only economically viable choice is to offer our globally marketable skills to the highest bidder.

As l leave my country behind, I have very little hope that things will be better the next time to come back.

When I return home at another May time, a few years down the road, as much as I would like to be writing something hopeful and triumphant then, I may yet again be composing a piece like this—so bereft of hope, so empty of promise, and so full of pain.

Published in the Sun Star Daily, Saturday, April 21, 2007 (

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