Just this past year, I got to have some discussions and dialogues with several people who made me think. Ever since I was 12 my mind has been set on how ready I was to leave these all behind for something greater, something that i can only find in other countries. I'm usually neutral about a lot of things but when it comes to opportunities and living abroad, you expect that i will have a lot of things to say about it: how awesome it would be, how life can be so much better if my parents actually pushed through with migrating to another country when i was in the second grade, how our lives would be helluva lot easier if only we were given more opportunities than what we are currently experiencing here; but after several weeks and months of thinking things through and reflecting on some of the things i thought were right and true, i realized just how sad and insulting my beliefs were. To some degree, my reasons about leaving the country as soon as possible were relatively valid and they make sense, but at the same time, it's basically just me trying to flee from my reality and being ungrateful and close minded about all the efforts of the people around me. I thought sure, my thoughts were greatly influenced by the events and people that surrounded me on a daily basis for a long time but when I tried to open my eyes a little more, things started to make sense. The Philippines, my hometown, has so much to offer and more.
Despite the large array of shows and commercials in the media showing how much everything sucks here, how everything is so much better outside, how great it would be if we looked a certain way, and how cool we will be if we support certain products, once you've caught a glimpse of the unique little gems the country has to offer, everything will start to look different.
I'm sad that I let the opinion of others about some things, like the Philippine music scene, influence me while growing up. I grew up surrounded by this unspoken agreement that listening to OPM is not cool and it's something you shouldn't even consider. I honestly don't know where that came from but it seems like every time a Filipino song is brought up, it wasn't really taken seriously and sometimes it's just considered as a joke. This is fucking shame if you ask me now because once I got out of that place, and I actually tried listening to some chosen OPM songs, I immediately got hooked. The songs were catchy and some were just a masterpiece that i couldn't get enough of. I also started to notice how you won't really get to see and hear these songs because it's not as shown as other more profitable songs that don't even hold a candle next to some OPM masterpieces.
It seems like the wanderlust bug has bitten a lot of people lately and I'm pretty sure a lot of people have been looking through lists of all the places they can go to, the world is your oyster after all. When you go online, left and right, you'll see millions of photos and posts about how cheap some countries actually are if you want to visit and how amazing the world is and the chances of you getting out there have increased since you can literally do everything with the help of all the travelling guides and apps out there. The world is definitely massive and with the hundreds of places and countries anyone can visit, you can easily get overwhelmed with all the opportunities. If that is your problem right now, try narrowing your options down to your continent, heck narrow it down to your country. While doing my own research, I found out that even if the Philippines is smaller than most countries out there, our undeniably beautiful and fascinating tourist destinations don't just stop at Boracay, Palawan, and the Banaue Rice Terraces. Have you seen the beaches of Camiguin? The Bangui Wind Farm in Ilocos? The Palo Alto falls in Rizal? There's so many more hidden gems around the country, try to include those in your travel-the-world plan.
I didn't particularly like the things I see on my TV screen. I hate how everyone was being portrayed on TV and how people react to certain "shallow" things (like those celebrity marriages that the news can't seem to get enough of that they just have to put it on every news outlet). After I got over some of my teenage angst and tried to analyze what made me dislike most of things I see, I realized that it's all business; everything is literally all about that cash. I thought maybe if we all just try to take a step back and see how the things we're seeing on our screens are mostly just ploys to get us to willingly hand our money to other people, we will be able to clearly see that everything they show are just things controlled by other people, people just like us, people we interact with. This made me question a lot of things and prompted me to do more research about the things I see around me. Don't be fooled by what you see around you, don't be fooled into believing that everything you see on the screen is true; I would strongly suggest that you do your own research. Don't let some money making machine make you think that the people around you suck so much that you will reach a point where you resent everyone around you and you will just try to do your best to get away from them.
These are just some of the points that made me rethink about everything I felt before; but after this will I still leave the country? Yes, I probably will. I would still want to go out there and experience the world and see all the amazing sights and meet new people; but this does not mean that while I'm out there I will continuously hate on what I left behind and I won't come back and give back whenever I possibly can. We're all still young and the world is so big and there are so many opportunities available for everyone now but this should not stop us from sharing more about how awesome our country is to everyone else. Going out and exploring the world while finding yourself in all those places you want to go to should not stop us from appreciating the things we can see in our country too. All the bad press and exposures the country gets shouldn't stop us from seeing what is really happening around us and it also shouldn't discourage us from trying to make things better, because no matter how many times your parents have told you this, "everything starts with you." Once you've seen how awesome the Philippines is, try to do your best so that everyone around you can also see how awesome you think your country is. Don't let petty opinions and headlines tell you otherwise.
Loving your country does not necessarily mean you have to go all patriotic and sacrifice your life in the name of the people; sometimes by simply appreciating the people that surrounds you and taking care of the places around you is a good start.
illustration by Frances Seno