It was the month of June 449 years ago when the Filipino Diaspora to North America and beyond actually began. It was about this time in the year 1565 when the galleon Don Pedro, having slowly sailed out of Cebu on the first of June, had just entered the San Bernardino strait, passing Samar (then referred to as “the island Felipina” on the pilot’s log) on a northeast trajectory towards the open Pacific and unto history.
Don Pedro was the very first of what came to be known as the Manila Galleon on a maritime trade route, confirmed and established by this particular voyage. That commercial shipping lane remained unrivaled for 250 years. It was the search for a return route to Acapulco mandated by the Spanish Crown. The sea passage out of our islands was guided by “indians serving as sailors that we have onboard this galleon,” as recorded on the pilot’s log, a well-preserved document in the Spanish archives. The Don Pedro reached Acapulco on October 8, 1565, and the very first of our OFWs landed!
Let me now steer this cyber-discourse towards posting a premise I wish to share.
By and large, the expatriate Filipino and OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker), by being so situated in life, possess a distinct advantage that ought to become a revered obligation, a proud apostolate as it were, devoted to the enlightenment, to the betterment of the folks back home. And hopefully, the home country left behind. It is a long shot and it can take a longer stretch. But beyond the prose, it is really not a tall order. It has happened before.
Our boys in Madrid and Barcelona, Jose Rizal’s Indios Bravos and others in the mid-1800s and on, followed by the US-sponsored ‘pensionados” in the early 1900s, having been exposed to new cultures, norms of conduct, advanced civilization and modernities created an indelible impression upon Philippine society back home. In their respective communities, among clansmen and extended families and on to the national consciousness, what they imbibed abroad mattered. These had impact and the expatriate Filipino initiated and helped create change.
By the simple reality of the expatriate Filipino and OFW exposure to and their partaking of more prosperous economies and of more advanced civilizations, and the even-handed governance and societal standards where they are, the Filipino away from home can make a monumental difference back in the old country. I speak of care and concern expressed beyond the usual financial remittances and balikbayan boxes. Care and concern that translate perhaps into added and enhanced civic education and comport, for a desired immediate effect. And in the longer run, towards an enlightened vigilance that upgrades and uplifts those who are less endowed left behind back home. Most especially in the exercise of democracy. It does not cost any more and yet it can be priceless! Useful and effective citizenhood that begins with good manners and right conduct (GMRC).
One can really, very simply, begin with sidewalk pedestrian culture, with motor vehicle driver habits, with the sanitary handling of household trash and waste. Does the OFW, away from home, still pee against the wall? Do they now observe the rudiments of civic order daily? Do they throw trash out of a moving vehicle’s window? The expat Pinoy, being exposed to waste recycling, now do practice it. Etc. etc. There lie elemental changes on a daily basis. These practices are not to be taken for granted. They are to be transferred home!
Nothing revolutionary, really. Call it a transfer of behavior and attitude. In each of our own individual way, passed on to and through kith and kin of which we have plenty. Additionally, it is unlikely that each one of us do not know of a Barangay Tanod or even a Kagawad, and perhaps even the hometown Mayor. Goodness, they may even be relatives! They are the stalwarts that have direct contact and involvement in the lives of the Filipino society’s “D” and “E” classes. Reaching out to them is not so hard to do. But effecting desired changes can be herculean.
There lies the battlefield of the war over the national soul. The OFW can help win it! Democracy requires a properly informed citizenry, otherwise it is democracy by deception, exemplified by the bunch of crooks elected through raw and sheer popularity exclusively stoked by the entertainment medium, mesmerizing the poor and the misinformed by smoke and mirrors as they are relieved of the sources of social expenditures and of their sustenance by the very thieving politicians they elect.
Hinay-hinay (‘slow by slow,’ ‘slowly’ or ‘steady as she goes’--take your pick!) as the Visayans would say, and with heavy doses of patience and perseverance, this is the next level of the OFW’s apostolate.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.