Always, the journey to home is an eagerly anticipated one. This one is no exception. Home is where the heart is, they say. True, but to me, home is first family and motherland, and I am finally on my way.
The long plane ride from New York to Tokyo, the usual and only stopover of Delta en route to Manila, gives me quiet time to reflect on the highlights experienced and insights gathered. Arriving in time for the US elections gave me a feel of the dynamics on the ground – both operational and emotional. I was fortunate to have been given access to witness and monitor the effort of a small group of Filipino-Americans to get more of their community to register, vote, support underdog, outspent candidates in their areas – and then bring them to victory. I witnessed the last day hustle, the intense suspense of monitoring the results of the presidential contest, and the counting of votes for the cities and counties.
I was lucky to be in the winning side again, reminding me of our own 2010 national elections. Being with winners is definitely preferable, the cheers better than the tears, the high fives over the drooped shoulders. I have been with losing sides, too, and felt their pain. When we moved from the winning headquarters to the final venue of the celebration, we passed by the hotel where the other side had prepared for their own victory party. It was dark, almost deserted, and I saw the last partisans walk to their cars in silence and palpable gloom.
It was back to work for me the day after the November 6 elections up to yesterday, my last full day in America for 2012. I can now look back to the excitement of friends over the elections in San Diego, the surprise of meeting old friends in the Bay Area who brought new ones to join the cause of people and motherland, of eradicating poverty by rising above apathy towards a rising collective spirit, the awesome affirmation in LA that the fresh spirit of “Filipinism” is spreading powerfully in the hearts of the younger generations in search of their roots, history, maybe even guidance on how to build their unique pathway to a shared future.
Every gathering, every discussion, I thought I was riding wave after wave of nostalgic emotion from the once young, of curious questioning from Filipinos born and raised in the US, of the grim determination of modern day immigrants to make it no matter the odds, and not to forget those they left behind. I moved from the West towards the East, visiting Washington DC and Houston to find and give strength to fellow patriots and workers who have crossed the line of comfort to take on more sacrifice, this time not for themselves and their families but for the millions among their race still enslaved by their inherited poverty. They have joined their motherland now pulling herself out of a historical quagmire.
It was a great honor for believers like us that the Philippine ambassador hosted a gathering in the Embassy to welcome a Filipino who has been receiving for his iconic leadership and the collective work of Gawad Kalinga one international award after another, for innovation and nobility in social enterprise. Tony Meloto has not been just inspiring tens of thousands of volunteers from the Philippines and other countries but also takes every opportunity to promote the Filipino and the motherland as a people and nation of great promise, today performing beyond expectations and deserving to be a major gateway to Asia.
New York and New Jersey were my last stops, to give comfort to many who suffered from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy as they had always given comfort to us with every calamity, especially Ondoy, Sendong and the rain-with-no-name that made a swimming pool of Metro Manila. I listened to story after story of cold days and black nights, of the shock experiencing a calamity they thought they had left in the Philippines. They inspired me with how many helped one another the bayanihan way and the courageous speed of their recovery.
There were times when I would hear the usual criticism and skepticism about our people but country, but they were surprisingly few. The mood is so much different. I wonder if I had been unconsciously selective, if I instinctively sidestepped the critical and the haters. Maybe. But I met hundreds in events in every city, stayed in so many homes which gathered even more friends to meet me. How could I pre-arrange a collective upbeat mood among them? I can only say that Filipino-Americans, especially the new generations, will merge their heart, creativity and passion in the coming Filipino renaissance.
And as I was making my stopover in Tokyo, I read an email from an excited wife with the news that the country hit an unprecedented 3rd quarter growth! I could not but feel a surge of wonderment, and pride, at a man who is stepping into his own shoes and creating a legacy like his noble parents. I also could not help but indulge in a private chuckle at how a president so ridiculed by his extremely minority enemies as incapable and non-performing is leading his people and nation towards a greatness that predecessors could only sloganeer about.
I would rather take it that change is nipping the air, poking the spirit and nudging the Filipino soul here, there and everywhere. Problems and challenges are still aplenty but they don’t faze us like before. We have leadership in the State, and now in the Church, who can be trusted, and who are brave enough to defy the destructive patterns of history. We are challenging the impossible and we are not afraid anymore.