Taking stock in the here and now
Instead of attending the usual family gathering, I chose to stay in my boarding house on New Year’s Eve to contemplate what has transpired in my life so far. I needed enough space so as not to crowd my thoughts, and being alone in the here and now did the trick for me.
Like many others posting in their social media accounts, I have so many things to be grateful for, and I have hurdled so many challenges. Being an independent and socially contributing adult is never an easy task for me and for all my fellow millennials. But then, beyond the usual greetings to friends and loved ones and the unintended humble-brag of accomplishments and blessings, I spent some time reflecting on what has been going on around me.
What have I done to assist the war-torn people of Marawi City? What have I done to help the victims of extrajudicial killings and their loved ones? What have I done to reach out to a community of the poorest, or an indigenous family? What have I done to alleviate the plight of Filipinos experiencing poverty, injustice, repression, and suffering?
I have spent more than three years working for the government. Yet, like many of the eight-to-five office-working people, I have no time for self-improvement, let alone for touching the lives of others in great need.
The office fatigue I feel each passing day is more than enough to prevent me from making change outside my own bubble. This exhaustion has extended to my ideals — with the news showing the collective amnesia on history and with many people still not convinced about how democracy actually works.
Maybe Filipinos are not really worth fighting for, after all. I will surely anger my patriotic friends who will live and die for this country.
But I was once nationalistic: I told my friends that we should stay in the country and put our talents to good use here — serve the people, as they say. That was why I had been so eager to be part of the civil service. That was why I was so excited to share my knowledge with everyone when I became part of the work force. But that was my younger naive self.
Earlier, while eating in a fast-food restaurant with my sister, I said that when our mother pushed through with her migration to the United States, I would follow her there soon.
I expressed my frustration about how many Filipinos are “selfish” — they cared only for themselves and for their families.
Giving back to the country? “Let the idealistic ones do it.” Politics? “As long as it’s not me or my loved ones, I don’t care.” Voting the wrong persons in public office? “I wash my hands off it. Let it be.”
I have observed this kind of thinking among my older colleagues, starting from my first job up to my current one. Heck, they cannot even extend their office time so as to finish the tasks at hand, reasoning that their family comes before their sworn duties and responsibilities. The pending papers are then passed on to juniors like me for completion. So who gets so exhausted and frustrated?
With my exit plans looming large, I may be found guilty of selfishness, too. Yes, for this time, I am. Nowadays, loving the Philippines breaks my heart. With all the killings, the corruption of truth and morals, and the selfishness of many Filipinos, I am not enough of a martyr to sacrifice my sanity. More than a lover who leaves a romantic relationship with an abusive partner, I should recuperate outside the country. When I am strong enough to love this country again, I shall return.
But I do not encourage everyone to follow suit. I am merely stating all of this for myself. I still admire my contemporaries who never get tired of serving our motherland. I pray their fuel will never run out as they continue to strive for a better society, unlike the way my machine all too suddenly broke down.
For this New Year, my wish is that many Filipinos would include in their resolutions lines such as these: I want to make a little difference for the improvement of my country. I will start with verifying online content first so as to avoid sharing fake news on my Facebook account. I will express my opinion only if I have thorough knowledge of the issue, since anything uninformed would serve to create further division, panic, and chaos. My loyalty is to my country first, ahead of any person.
Moving forward means not just moving on but actually not regressing, by applying what we have learned from our past. This principle should apply at both the personal and national levels. Maybe then, every good thing will flow from there.
I may be jaded, but I am still hopeful, am I not? Silly me. For the meantime, I shall face 2018 with all my might, just like all of us who are envisioning the best future possible.
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Roldan P. Pineda, 27, works at the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
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