May 27, 2013 marked my first ever class in DLSU. I remember it so clearly: Room 805, Bro. Andrew Gonzales hall, POLISCI. Professor? Mr. Rene Pilapil, Jr. Traffic was heavy and I remember taking the stairs to the 8th floor thinking I was severely late for my first class. Good news, I wasn’t. My professor arrived much later than I did.
The first thing that struck me when I barged inside the room was the plaque resting on the center of the wall, right above the whiteboard. It read, “Lasallian Achievers for God and Country.” I’ve never put too much thought about what’s written on the plaque, but the fact that it’s present in every classroom in DLSU makes it so hard to ignore. And now, I’m not sure I can ignore it any longer.
When I was younger and a little bit shorter, I dreamed of living in a foreign country, having blue eyes, white skin, maybe even an unusual accent. How lovely would it be to live in Europe or in the United States where I could revel in the city lights of New York, savor my morning walks in 16th Arrondissement in Paris, or spend my hours away in the Louvre? Yet, here I am still stuck in the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila.
The reckless jeepney drivers, the naked children begging for coins, the long LRT and MRT lines, the vast dichotomy between the rich and the poor, the whorehouses in Malate and Angeles City, corruption, rape, and murder—this is what I’m most familiar with. This is what I see everyday.
I see my country decaying right in front of me and I still have the gall to question why we’re so degenerate. Where are we heading? What are we doing? Why aren’t we doing anything? We hear talks about the President’s tuwid na daan, but is it really straight or is it crooked as ever?
F . Sionil Jose, one of the greatest Filipino writers to have ever lived (and my favorite), mentions in one of his essays how the youth will leave the Philippines upon graduation—if the opportunity comes. He says we cannot blame them.
I can’t help but think back to the people I know who graduated last October and the people who graduated before them. How many have left the country? How many are still planning to leave?
I think about my own graduation day. Where do I go from there? I used to dream of studying in the US, of earning green bills, of working abroad and living there permanently. I ask myself once again, where do I go from graduation? I cannot answer anymore.
I hear so many people talking about their dreams, of living and working abroad, of marrying foreign men—I’d like to think this is the typical Filipino mentality. To flee the Philippines, live in a foreign land, and bring with them their dreams that cannot be achieved in their own native land. Some people call this selling out, but then again, we cannot blame them for fleeing the country. Everybody else seems to want to leave the Philippines. If it means better living and higher pay, who wouldn’t jump at the chance?
On another note, here’s something to think about: Who else is going to sustain the Philippines when everyone else has fled? Who else will nurture our country when the rest of the Filipinos have turned their backs on it? How else will we be able to pull ourselves out from this quicksand turmoil, when, at the back of our heads, we always have the presumption that life outside the Philippines is better?
I used to have that kind of mentality before; I was so dazzled by what the other side had to offer. Now, I ask myself from time to time; if I had the opportunity to leave and study or work in a different country, would I take the chance? I would, absolutely, but not permanently. I know for a fact that once I’ve educated myself outside my own chains, I’d be coming back to the Philippines. I would always come back because I know I can never leave it for good.
If we take into account the generations before us, we know that they fought well for this country. They fought hard, but they didn’t prevail. What about our generation? Do we not dream of a better country? Why be cowards and flee? As Filipinos, we should be the ones to remedy the malignant problems in the Philippines because no one else will do so.
Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, our generation will be running this country and only then can we say whether we’ve prevailed over the hypocrisies and corruption or not.
Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino once said, “The Filipino is worth dying for.” Jose Rizal himself called us a heroic people. Are we not anymore?
And as Lasallians, isn’t it our responsibility to continue the works of St. John Baptist de La Salle? Are we not expected to commit a life that will lead and serve others, especially the less privileged? Are we not called to use our Lasallian education to improve society? If not, then what else is a Lasallian education good for?
To my fellow Lasallians, let us ask ourselves this: Are we really Lasallian achievers for God and country? Or are we Lasallians, deceivers of the motherland? Figure that one out.