Pilipinas, ang hirap mo mahalin.
I have never wanted to migrate. I know for many people, that’s a goal: work abroad, live abroad, join their family or significant other in this or that country. But me, I always thought, I want to stay here. My family is here, my friends are here. The people and places I love are here.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in the Middle East, and I saw the struggles of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Maybe it’s because I always felt things would be all right. Maybe I was naive.
I have always wanted to travel, for sure. I have always wanted to study abroad, maybe work and live in another country for a few years. But always, those were wishes, not set-in-stone plans or goals. Moving permanently was never part of any plan.
But now, I’m not so sure.
Perhaps it’s motherhood, and the perennial fear that we will not be able to provide a good enough life for our son. Most definitely it’s to do with this accursed government, its fuck-ups far too many to count and far too painful to contemplate. Most definitely it’s also this godforsaken pandemic, and this accursed government’s response to it, and how the world seems to still hope to return to things as they were–however broken those systems of consumerism and patriarchy and oppression.
But it’s also fatigue.
I am so tired. Life in this country is full of far too many stressors. Crossing the street is dangerous. Our economy is shit. Our healthcare system is even worse. We’re battered by twenty typhoons a year. I can’t even count how many active volcanoes we have. And let’s not get started on the fault lines.
I know every country has its merits and flaws. I know every country has its hazards, natural or otherwise. I know every government has its failures. But for God’s sake, it is beyond exhausting to think of how accustomed we are to how this government fails us, day in and day out. We pay taxes and we work. I always look for some way my work will benefit others. Is it terrible to hope for something, anything, from this country?
It’s fatigue, most definitely, but it was an acceptable cost when it was just me, when it was just me and my husband. But now that we have a son, I worry, as I’m sure many do. What kind of life can we give him? What kind of life can this country give him? What kind of person can he be, here?
It’s fatigue, it’s despair, it’s anger. I understand now, I think, the families who left this country decades ago, because they felt the country had failed them. I think I feel a little bit now as they did, wondering what kind of life they and their children can have here.
Today I listened to my friend Faye, talking about the struggles of moving to Canada, how difficult it was to manage without help, without her support system, without family. But also she told us about how they didn’t have to worry about tuition or healthcare, about how even their business teetered during the pandemic, but they did not despair because they had support. She could enroll her kids in swimming or whatever classes. If they had lost their jobs, they could still survive.
Here, if we don’t work, we have nothing. And that is not what I want for my son. I do not want despair and anger and fatigue. I do not want this accursed government and this wretched pandemic to scar him as it does me. Like many other parents, I want better for my son. And it seems painfully clear that “better” is nowhere near attainable here.