We often hear our fellow Pinoys say things like “Uy, alam mo ba ang balita? Ang kumare nati’ng si Shirley ay American citizen na” (Hey, did you hear about our friend, Shirley? She’s already an American citizen!)” Most often, this news is either squealed in delight or excitement as if it’s that huge a deal or disclosed in hushed tones as if there’s intrigue attached to it. Sometimes, depending on the tone of voice of the news source, you could tell whether she’s genuinely happy for the person or jealous of her new status. I say sometimes, because people are not really transparent all of the time. They could say one thing but mean another. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s their opinion. What would not escape my scrutiny though is the usual end-phrase “Buti pa siya” (Oh, she’s better off!) as if being a citizen of another country (in this case, let’s say, the United States of America) is an upgrade for a Filipino citizen. I find it heartbreaking how some of our kababayans can take more pride in carrying the name of another country than our own Motherland. Sure, there are so many ways that we can complain about Pilipinas, but is that reason enough for one to actually write “American, Canadian, British, etc.” in the space provided for Nationality in their information sheets? A Filipino can acquire citizenship from various countries (and hell he can write whatever he wants in the citizenship section) but can never change his nationality. Is it then a sheer ignorance in identifying the difference between Nationality and Citizenship? Well, one can Wiki everything these days!
Maybe I am being too emotional. Maybe my patriotism is frivolous and getting in the way of logical reasoning. Maybe I have to be more forgiving to people who have less than excellent vocabulary. I can’t help it. It has been deeply ingrained in me since I was a developing fetus. I floated in my mother’s womb to the tune of 70’s and 80’s socio-political tracks from Asin, Noel Cabangon and Freddie Aguilar. The first full-length song I learned at the age of three (3) is Ako ay Pilipino by Kuh Ledesma.
Ako ay Pilipino
Ang dugo’y maharlika
Likas sa aking puso
Adhikaing kay ganda
Sa Pilipinas na aking bayan
Lantay na Perlas ng Silanganan
Wari’y natipon ang kayamanan ng Maykapal
Bigay sa ‘king talino
Sa mabuti lang laan
Sa aki’y katutubo
Ang maging mapagmahal
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Isang bansa isang diwa
Ang minimithi ko
Sa Bayan ko’t Bandila
Laan Buhay ko’t Diwa
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino,
Ako ay Pilipino
Taas noo kahit kanino
Ang Pilipino ay Ako!
The first stanza alone is enough to stir waves of emotions in me. So yes, maybe I don’t have an unbiased perspective on this. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against other countries. I’m not even saying that I don’t want to go and live outside of the Philippines. I love travelling and I certainly dream of a European vacation one day. Besides, right now I am working abroad. I will continue living abroad if and when I have to. Six months ago, I had to leave the Philippines. I had my heart broken, and instead of bringing it with me and attempting to mend it, I left it there. No use in carrying extra baggage. What would I need it for anyway? I was determined to set aside matters of the heart. I would focus on myself and get my ducks in a row: Job, career, graduate school. True, the recent events have caused some setbacks in my timeline but I promised I would get it back in order very soon.
A few days before my flight, my friend Myrell told me over lunch: “Don’t worry. There are so many fishes in the sea. And in a very lively city like Bangkok, who knows? You might even meet a foreign guy and marry him some day!” I remember laughing it off with her but at the back of my mind I really just dismissed it: “I will not go looking for love in Thailand. But if love finds me there, I will welcome it with open arms”, I replied with conviction. Back then, I honestly paid her no mind. With hindsight, wow, was she prophetic!
I met my now fiancé Ian exactly one month after I arrived in Thailand. Six months later, Ian petitioned his government so that he can marry me and be with me forever. Six months from now, I would hopefully be on my way to my future new home-The Land of Milk and Honey, The Land of the Free-The United States of America!
Wow! Younger Cecille would definitely be kicking me in the butt now. A heated confrontation would ensue:
13C (13-year old Cecille): Whoa dude, hold up! What about the things you said in your 9/11 editorial? What about your conspiracy theory?
AC (Adult Cecille): Sure! I still believe that.
18C (Placard-donning, sun-baked, street protesting 18-year old Cecille): “Itigil ang pagtataksil sa sambayanang Pilipino at pagkapapet sa imperyalistang Amerikano! (End the betrayal of the Filipino people and the country’s puppet days from the American imperialist!)
AC: Hmmm…maybe we should leave the politics out of this?!
3C (3-year old tiny songstress Cecille): Ako ay Pilipino, Ako ay Pilipino, Ako Ay Pilipino, Taas-noo kahit kanino, Ang Pilipino ay Ako! (I am a Filipino, I am a Filipino, I am a Filipino. Head held up high for everyone to see. The Filipino is me)
AC: Of course, I’m a Filipino through and through!
I am tormented by my nationalist conscience. My British colleague Joanna’s voice is ringing loudly in my ears. “How can you say you’re patriotic when you are marrying an American—he who hails from the land of your colonizer!”
And in what could have been my speechless, most shameful moment, I found my voice and managed a reply: “That’s exactly what Ian and I talked about. We don’t see each other as foreigners. I don’t see him as American and he doesn’t see me mainly as Filipina. Those are just names, labels to promulgate division among the human race. We both wish that there weren’t any countries. Right now, this BS bureaucracy is what’s stopping me and Ian from being together. Without it, we would all be free to love whoever we want to love”.
I’m sure I did not say it as eloquently as that. But you see my point and I just want to stress it again: Leaving for the US doesn’t mean I am betraying my country. I promised myself that wherever I may be, I will never lose my identity and strive hard to raise my country’s banner.
Besides, at this point, it doesn’t seem like I have a choice. As I said earlier, when I left for Thailand, I left my heart in the Philippines. Then, Ian came to Thailand to give his heart to me. Now we share one heart. So, I have to be where he is and he has to be where I am. For just as Siamese twins live with one heart, neither of us can survive without the other.
Let me tell you now: This blog is really a chronicle of love. But, it also tells the story of the Filipina woman—her passion, her hunger, her strengths, her weaknesses, her dreams and her heart. Each entry will be filled with her adventures and adversities, her travels and trials, her journey to conquer the world. We will watch her stand up after every fall, and recover from each little stumble: for she is of the noble blood of her ancestors. Dugong Maharlika. She is the Global Filipina. And she is You and Me.