Our umbilical core
Recently, I came across an article about Kayla Sanchez, a 21-year-old Olympic swimmer of Filipino descent who decided to uproot herself from Canada to become part of Team Pilipinas. My one immediate thought was how fortunate she is to have parents who must have instilled the importance of “love of country.” She got me thinking that a large part of who we are is a reflection of how we were raised, and how we turn out to be is a personal choice.
Growing up, I never could fully understand why my late father would ensure that on June 12 of each year, without fail, the Philippine flag finds a home in our garden and our car’s antenna, or how he would make it a point to purchase local goods on out-of-town family trips even when these were more than slightly overpriced. Vivid memories of him waving the flag while cheering Eric Buhain on from the Rizal Grandstand, of him paying a surprise visit to my niece in high school just to wish her class a Happy Independence Day, and of him encouraging us to start our medical careers by serving in our home province, these were just some of the lessons that Tatay taught. As an adult, I know now what he was trying to tell me.
Love of country, how much of it do we have in us? Being an optimist, despite the alarming exodus, I know that for every Filipino, the umbilical cord will never be severed.
Two good friends shared why they decided to stay despite the numerous opportunities to further themselves. One said that she always had the intention of coming back because she knew that her choice of specialty back then was unexplored and essential to patient care. My other friend, a beloved mentor, decided to quit his US post to pursue pediatrics in the Philippines because he also felt that this was the place where he was most needed. Both are highly respected, certified “rock stars “in their own fields, and both have been constant inspirations to many. In living out their duties, they have remained humble, and there was never a time that they made us feel that we were less than them.
To choose to stay or leave is not to stand in judgment. The continuous challenge is how we can best define our true love for country in our daily actions no matter where we are.
So where to start or how to continue? Before we look outward, let us try and examine how well we have been doing within. Taking a road trip to self-knowledge is priceless.
Let us begin by trying our best to reflect on or answer some questions. Have we used our God-given talents for the good of our own people? Have we chosen to highlight the sterling qualities rather than the flaws that make us Filipinos incomparable? Have we chosen to defend rather than succumb to opinions that say we are less of a race? I will presume with hope in my heart that yes, you have done all these in your own fashion, and in one way or the other was your love language.
We have been blessed and fortunate to be born Filipinos, more than privileged to have a country we can truly call our own. One person said that you should always be mindful to carry yourself well, as you may be the only Filipino they may meet in their lifetime. Strive to make those first and good impressions last.
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