Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tamaan Ang Bato-batong May Sala...

Filipino nurses are leaving the country in droves for purely economic reasons. This tragic phenomenon illumines the sad state of the country’s economy and how people are trying their best to survive in a climate where too much politics and corruption have destroyed whatever hopes this country had decades ago when it was second only to Japan in terms of economic prosperity in Asia.
Is there a professional in his right mind who would sell all his possessions or plunge into heavy debt and leave his family for a lonely life abroad if conditions were right in his or her homeland? “Kapit sa patalim” is the mindset that pervades present day psyche of Filipinos. It is better to risk dying in a foreign land while earning much needed dollars, or pounds or dinars or rials or yens than to die in wretchedness in this country plagued by politicos whose filthy hands are always in the nation’s coffers.
The call to nationalism is empty and meaningless in the face of poverty where even professionals like doctors and nurses find it increasingly difficult to feed their families, educate their children, and live decent lives. Existence precedes essence! How can a nurse or a doctor be nationalistic and cling to local jobs when the pay is a pittance and one has to scrape the bottom of the proverbial cookie jar already emptied by thieves and opportunists in the government? Economic statistics, for what they are worth, are just that, inert and non-nutritive figures.
Many years ago it was unthinkable for a doctor to turn his back on what is considered to be the noblest profession and study to become a nurse. I mean no offense to the nursing profession but why must the revered doctor occupy a niche reserved only for nurses when his position is “higher” in the health care setting? Hippocrates must be turning in his grave together with Galen, Osler, and all the gods of medicine! Against his professional instincts the doctor turned nurse has to fight for physical survival. Otherwise he or she must contend with poor pay, too much politics, criminality, corruption, etc.
Nurses do not have the luxury of time in their struggle to improve their economic standing and that of their families. “Isang kahig, isang tuka” is another adjective that, in a nutshell, describes the lives of millions of Filipinos today. This sad situation, I believe, has contributed to the maturity of our young professionals so much so that right after graduation there can only be one central thought – that of escaping the Philippine economic Alcatraz! Against this background what do we have? Again the center stage is brimming with squabbling politicians and dishonest businessmen – two species that have developed a symbiotic relationship through the years. Why are Filipinos helpless against inferior products and substandard services? We have no Ralph Nader to defend us against unscrupulous and scheming businessmen because politicos owe them many favors like campaign contributions for one.
Our nation’s leaders have to learn from Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, Mandela, Thatcher, Mabini, Rizal, and countless shining examples of selflessness and dedication. Instead they are preoccupied with endless preening and jockeying for the next political exercise. Filipino masses are not stupid. They are keenly aware of who is doing God knows what to this unfortunate country. They know that many if not the majority of present leaders can hardly be differentiated from a gallery of you know what. You see them everywhere – in every photo opportunity, handing out miniscule bottles of medicine in useless medical missions, mixing it up with victorious sweaty boxers, crying crocodile tears with grief–stricken families, kissing innocent babies, posing with the latest heartthrob, planting trees that will never grow, the list is endless.
What must the average Filipino do in a situation like this? Are we to follow the steps of Che Guevarra and later die in the process? Are we to retreat to religion and use it to rationalize this hapless condition? Are we to hide our heads in the morass of fiestas, fun, and gaiety to numb our pains?
It is obvious that Filipinos, using innate intelligence and resiliency have opted for the productive choice of seeking greener pastures. Pragmatism is a new Filipino trait in the face of unfavorable conditions in the country. What is the use of becoming a dead hero if you have mouths to feed? Will mantras, chants, and prayers be enough? God helps those who help themselves. Fleeting and superficial thrills will numb our senses, yes, but only for a while. Reality reemerges when the anesthesia is gone.
I vomit each time I hear our leaders pleading for geographic nationalism. They want us to stay and serve our sick and dying fellowmen in putrid hospitals. But our families are sick and dying too! Charity begins with oneself and the nurse and his or her family must survive first before anything else. The hypocrisy of our leaders is just unbelievable. While they luxuriate and fatten their buttocks in airconditioned offices, ride in imported vehicles and waste saliva debating trivia, the great unwashed suffer hunger pangs, disease, lead squalid lives, and continue to hope for a better future. The lot of professionals, the cutting edge of society, is hardly any different. After spending so much money for a medical or nursing career, what is there to find in the local job market? And we are expected by these holier than thou politicians and leaders to waste away in this country?
Is it lack of nationalism to go abroad and practice one’s profession in a country where the pay is better? Is nationalism defined by geographical boundaries? Was it lack of nationalism when Rizal was an exile in Europe?
True nationalism is found in our hearts and we carry it wherever we go. The nursing graduate who goes abroad to seek better job opportunities is a true nationalist because he or she cannot bear to see the country wither away in the global arena and is doing something about the situation. No wasted saliva, no photo ops, no kissing of innocent babies, no handing out miniscule samples, no crocodile tears – just plain and simple being a Filipino at heart - God-fearing, intelligent, resilient, and imbued with a deep love of family and country!
This is the winter of our discontent. Shame on our leaders who are guilty of opportunism, grandstanding, stealing from the nation’s coffers, and stealthily masking selfish motives with false nationalism, false piety, false dedication. The modern day Filipino is highly intelligent. Alert, active, imbued with a sense of mission, love of family and true nationalism, the nurse will go abroad if only to help the family and the country.
For my part I will do the same rather than rot here. I love my country too! I love its mountains and its seas, I love mangoes and bagoong, I eat rice and tuyo. But spare me the patronizing and condescending attitudes. I will serve my country by earning in a foreign land but it is only temporary. I will return to the land of my birth, like a bird coming home to roost.
-Raul and Nadine Ramos, a joint effort
© 2007 Raul E. Ramos

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Silent Beauty, Macatbong

Silent Beauty, Macatbong
The pond is teeming with freshwater fish. The trees in the background are home to brightly colored avians and occasional migratory birds. Ramos Pond is Eden revisited !