Filipinos always complain about the corruption in the Philippines. Do you really think the corruption is the problem of the Philippines? I do not think so. I strongly believe that the problem is the lack of love for the Philippines.
Let me first talk about my country, Korea. It might help you understand my point. After the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. Koreans had to start from scratch because the entire country was destroyed completely after the Korean War, and we had no natural resources.
Koreans used to talk about the Philippines, for Filipinos were very rich in Asia. We envy Filipinos. Koreans really wanted to be well off like Filipinos. Many Koreans died of famine. My father's brother also died because of famine.
Korean government was awfully corrupt and is still very corrupt beyond your imagination, but Korea was able to develop dramatically because Koreans really did their best for the common good with their heart burning with patriotism. Koreans did not work just for themselves but also for their neighborhood and country. Education inspired young men with the spirit of patriotism.
40 years ago, President Park took over the government to reform Korea. He tried to borrow money from other countries, but it was not possible to get a loan and attract a foreign investment because the economy situation of South Korea was so bad. Korea had only three factories. So, President Park sent many mine workers and nurses to Germany so that they could send money to Korea to build a factory. They had to go through a horrible experience. In 1964, President Park visited Germany to borrow money. Hundred of Koreans in Germany came to the airport to welcome him and cried there as they saw President Park. They asked him, "President, when can we be well off?" That was the only question everyone asked him. President Park cried with them and promised them that Korea would be well off if everyone works hard for Korea, and the President of Germany got the strong impression on them and lent money to Korea. So, President Park was able to build many factories in Korea.
He always asked Koreans to love their country from their heart. Many Korean scientists and engineers in the USA came back to Korea to help in developing the country because they wanted their country to be well off. Though they received very small salary, they did their best for Korea. They always hoped that their children would live in well off country.
My parents always brought me to the places where poor and physically handicapped people live. They wanted me to understand their life and help them. I also worked for Catholic Church when I was in the army. The only thing I learned from Catholic Church was that we have to love our neighborhood. And I have loved my neighborhood.
Have you cried for the Philippines? I have cried for my country several times. I also cried for the Philippines because of so many poor people. I have been to the New Bilibid prison. What made me sad in the prison were the prisoners who do not have any love for their country. They go to mass and work for Church. They pray everyday. However, they do not love the Philippines. I talked to two prisoners at the maximum security compound, and both of them said that they would leave the Philippines right after they are released from the prison. They said that they could start a new life in other countries and never come back to the Philippines.
Many Koreans have a great love for Korea so that we were able to share our wealth with our neighborhood. The owners of factory and company distributed their profit to their employees fairly so that employees could buy what they needed and saved money for the future and their children.
When I was in Korea, I had a very strong faith and wanted to be a priest. However, when I came to the Philippines, I completely lost my faith. I was very confused when I saw many unbelievable situations in the Philippines. Street kids always make me sad, and I see them everyday. The Philippines is the only Catholic country in Asia, but there are too many poor people here. People go to church every Sunday to pray, but nothing has been changed.
My parents came to the Philippines last week and saw this situation. They told me that Korea was much poorer than the present Philippines when they were young. They are so sorry that there are so many beggars and street kids. When we went to Pagsangjan, I forced my parents to take a boat because it would be fun. However, they were not happy after taking a boat. They said that they would not take the boat again because they sympathized the boat men, for the boat men were very poor and had a small frame. Most of the people just took a boat and enjoyed it. But my parents did not enjoy it because of love for them.
My mother who has been working for Catholic Church since I was very young told me that if we just go to mass without changing ourselves, we are not Catholic indeed. Faith should come with action. She added that I have to love Filipinos and do good things for them because all of us are the same and have received a great love from God.
I want the Filipinos to love their neighborhood and country as much as they love God so that the Philippines will be well off. I am sure that love is the keyword which Filipinos should remember. We cannot change the sinful structure at once. It should start from person. Love must start in everybody in a small scale and have to grow. A lot of things happen if we open up to love. Let's put away our prejudices and look at our worries with our new eyes. I discover that every person is worthy to be loved. Trust in love, because it makes changes possible. Love changes you and me. It changes people, contexts and relationships. It changes the world.
Please love your neighborhood and country. Jesus Christ said that whatever we do to others we do to Him. In the Philippines, there is God who is abused and abandoned. There is God who is crying for love. If you have a child, teach them how to love the Philippines. Teach them why they have to love their neighborhood and country. You already know that God also will be very happy if you love others.
That's all I really want to ask you Filipinos.
Why I Have Hope For the Philippines
By Franco Varona
I lived in the Philippines for a grand total of two-and-a-half years after growing up in Vancouver for a majority of my life. I finished off high school in Manila, then went on to college there for one semester.
I left Manila in the beginning of 1999 for Syracuse, but something happened to me during my short stint in Manila -- I began referring to it as "home." My brief stay in the Philippines had affected me so deeply that I have subsequently geared the rest of my life toward helping the country out.
I took up International Relations, with a concentration in Foreign Policy, War and Conflict Resolution -- because I believed that a deep knowledge of all three of those aforementioned subjects can and will help the Philippines eventually. Before living in the Philippines, my motives were selfish and self-serving. I wanted to be a lawyer to make money, or be a journalist so I could, in my own way, shape the world through my words. But living there and getting to know the country intimately helped me develop a love for the country that can only be compared to the love I have for my family. Now, I have every intention of using that degree to its fullest potential in any way I can for the country.
Even though my birthplace is Canada and I spent my formative years in the US, the Philippines has somehow found its way to my mind and my heart. And I say "my mind" because I see the Philippines as a challenge, not as a sinking ship. And I believe there is a whole generation of young Pinoys that feel the same way as me.
The Korean essay was right in some ways -- sometimes I meet up with second-generation Filipino-Americans and they simply do not care. They don't identify with the Philippines and perceive it to be a dirty, corrupt society. Although initially annoyed when I speak to these types of people, I eventually realize that it's not their fault -- they have lived in a developed nation all their lives and know no better. I myself used to be like that before moving back.
But you know what the Korean essay didn't mention? It happens with all second- and third-generation immigrant kids living in developed countries. Although I have met many Fil-Ams who don't wish to go back home, I also have met many Korean-Americans, Japanese-Americans, even
Irish-Americans who don't have any connection to home. There is love for the Philippines --
the Korean essay was just looking in the wrong places.
Do you want to know where national pride is? It's in every Pinoy's face on the streets of Manila, Cebu, Davao, or any other place in the Philippines. Life is hard for Filipinos -- I see that everytime I'm home. But there is a mutual love shared between Pinoys. They enjoy the simplest of the simple things of everyday life -- from the fishball vendor dancing outside a nightclub in the wee hours of the morning to the late night security guard that wakes up just to give you a nod and a smile. Although generally the country has come under hard times, the Pinoy has somehow found a way to survive, and do it with a smile.
When I go back to the Philippines, I don't see the jaded looks of misery I see in the streets of North America. I see in every Pinoy's face a glint of hope -- that everything can only get better from here on out. National pride is also in today's college student -- today's young working Filipino. I have been lucky enough to have run into a rather large, very motivated group of young Filipinos outside of the Philippines that harbor an immense love for the country. I've seen these people in college, I've hung out with them in different cities and among these young Filipinos, there is one prevailing theme. They have goals, they have passion, and they are driven to succeed.
Sure, they may spend a few years out of the Philippines after schooling, but they will go back. And when they do, Mom, I promise you a Renaissance. These are the people that will lead our country into better times -- these are the people that will bring back with them the knowledge and the drive to motivate others. These are the people that will bridge the gap between the "masa" and the rich. These are the people that will take that glint of hope in every Pinoy's eye and create a wildfire of productivity and efficiency.
The Philippines is still, by definition, a young country. There have been mistakes made in the past, but we will learn, won't we? It's just human nature. I don't look at the Philippines as a country that "was" one of the richest in South East Asia and now is one of the poorest -- I look at the Philippines as the country that has the largest upside.
Just be patient, and watch as the younger generation moves into place. You will see a more educated, less selfish government take the seat of power. You will see plans put into effect that were formulated and perfected which were fueled by years of anger against the poverty we now see. A new Philippines will emerge soon, and soon we won't have to bear the pity of a Korean student. I can promise you that much mom, because I know I'm one of the many that will be working toward that.
This essay was a letter written by Franco Varona for his mother, Candy Varona. It is in reaction to the above Korean student's essay about the Philippines.