Nationalism is more than loving the country, singing the Lupang Hinirang, and reciting the Panunumpa sa Watawat and Panatang Makabayan. It is about pursuing the struggle for national liberation and national sovereignty.
But the youth needs to be constantly reminded of our solemn duty to continue the struggle for a national identity. Everyday, we read about fresh college graduates and young professionals migrating abroad to seek beneficial employment.
There is no fault in finding work in other countries, since the wave of globalization makes it necessary and expedient for peoples of the world to make use of their skills. But the problem with migrant labor is that it is almost always permanent: in their minds, Filipino migrant workers endeavor to have permanent residency status in their host country, then petitioning family members to reside in that country.
We can also be great like them
The essence of brain drain is synonymous with the absence of a Filipino national identity. A Filipino who is conscious of his or her national identity will endeavor to help the Philippines wherever he or she maybe working. A nationally conscious Filipino will leave the country to find employment elsewhere, but he or she will forever have the country’s welfare on top of his or her mind.
Japan and South Korea did not start as rich countries. When they were founded, both were feudal, backward, and primitive. They had fishing and farming as primary industries, with a few export industries.
But their citizens, conscious of their national identities, made sure that wherever they may be, they will continue supporting their countries. Japanese and Korean students would return to their home countries after years of studying abroad in order to put the knowledge they learned into practice, adapting foreign knowledge to local use.
Migrant workers sent money to their respective countries, invested in national industries and companies, and bought their countries’ products.
Their sacrifices finally paid off, and their predecessors are reaping the fruits of these sacrifices. At present, Japan and South Korea are the leading industrial countries in the world.
The search for Filipino citizenship
The Philippines could also be like that, if only we are conscious of our national identity. And the Filipino youth should take the lead in deciphering and living that identity, that quintessential Filipino citizenship.
But most of us are comfortable with the mere singing of the National Anthem, or the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. We call ourselves nationalists when we vote during elections. We call ourselves patriots when we pay our taxes and brag about it to those around us.
But citizenship is not confined in these actions; citizenship is about actively participating in the affairs of the State, getting involved in the way our country is being ran by the government, and calling on the attention of our representatives if they err in discharging the duties we have imposed upon them.
Citizenship is the willingness to sacrifice in the short-run, in order to achieve long-term benefits both for the country and for individuals. But more than that, citizenship is about believing in the Filipino spirit – that whatever we are and wherever the country is right now, we will help it to stand up and put it on the right track.
I was once listening to Cheche Lazaro’s speech during a conference about three years ago. She reminded the young people in attendance that however scruffy this country is, it is the only country that we have, the only place where we can trace our roots.
Years before, I found it appalling that different peoples in West Asia continue to kill each other because of arid desert – miles and miles of it. But after reading Thomas Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree, I now understand why so much blood and lives should be lost in exchange for a patch of desert.
West Asia is torn in conflict because its peoples are struggling to preserve national identities. Most of them do not care how much life is expended, as long as their national identities – their culture, their way of life, their homes – are protected and preserved.
I am sometimes ashamed that while Israelites, Muslims, and Palestinians kill of each other just to ensure that their national identities are preserved, most Filipinos will kill just to make sure that any trace of Filipino identity is erased from their persons.
It is time to buck this trend.
(Author’s note: This write-up is also printed in Filipino Youth United)