by Henrylito D. Tacio
“Come home this Christmas,” urges Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano.
This is the time of the year when Filipinos working or living abroad are going home. After all, there’s no place like home. As Marco Torres, a marketing manager working in China, told a news weekly magazine: “The Philippines is and will always be my home.”
I have been to almost all parts of the world and I have encountered a lot of cultures. But Filipinos are indeed distinct people. Even if they have already spent most of their lives in another country, they still consider themselves Filipinos.
“But you are already an American citizen,” I told a friend when I visited him in New Jersey. “Yes, I am, but only in papers. Wherever you will put me, I will always be a Filipino. My skin and my thinking is still the same – that of a Filipino.”
Whether you work or live abroad, there are three things you will definitely miss: family, friends and food (not necessarily in that order). If you are a husband, you will miss your wife and your children. And if you are still single, you will longer for your parents, brothers and sisters.
PJ Pascual, assistant accessories editor for O, the Oprah Magazine, who calls New York his home now, bares: “I especially miss my mother, who has been supportive of all my endeavors and nurtured my interest in art, fashion, and architecture. Then there are my sisters, my muses who inspire me to do well in my craft.”
A friend is your alter ego and if you are in a foreign land, you will surely miss the person whom you can talk and share your thoughts and ideas without inhibitions. After all, as one sage puts it, “A friend is one to whom one may pour out all the contents of one’s heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that the gentlest of hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
Man can’t live by bread alone, so goes a popular saying. But Filipinos are people who can’t live without their rice. That’s one of the first things you will miss eating. Then, there’s the adobo and tinolang manok (yes, you can cook them abroad but the taste is very different), pinakbet, sisig, sinigang, bibingka, suman, and binignit. Don’t forget the fruits: mango, durian, jackfruit, and papaya.
But why do Filipinos work or live abroad? Well, there are also three reasons: financial gains, fun, and food. Well, most people go abroad to work. “I have to support my growing family and I can do that only if I work in another country,” said a doctor, whom I met while attending a conference in Melbourne, Australia. You can have all the fun when you are abroad.
“I love the Philippines, but I didn’t want to die without experiencing life beyond the islands,” said Marco Torres. The same is true with me. It was while in the United States that I experienced my first White Christmas. When I visited Durban, South Africa, I had my first taste of safari.
And yes, there are foods – plenty. In fact, you have varied choices. For instance, when I worked at the United Nations Population Fund in New York, I tried to order a soft drink and I was surprised when the cashier asked me several questions: diet or classic, in can or in bottle, with ice or without ice?
This Christmas, I am sure a lot of Filipinos are coming back home. If you have balikbayans visiting your place and who have been away from home for several years, don’t bring them to McDonalds or any fast food eateries. Take a cue from this letter coming from aunt to her niece: “Don’t take me to a fancy restaurant. What I want are the flavors of my younger years that I have not tasted since I left the Philippines.”
There are also those who are coming to attend reunions. Once such thing is the Grand Reunion of the Association of Bansaleños Worldwide. The theme is: “Homeward Bound to Keep the Bond Alive.” “This affair is open to all Bansaleños regardless of geographical location, age, school affiliations, and status, among others,” said Leila Rispens-Noel, the association’s president who is now based in the Netherlands.
Bansaleños are those who grew up or live in Bansalan, Davao del Sur. Among the famous personalities who have considered Bansalan their home include broadcaster Jay Sonza (recipient of several journalism awards), Serapion Metilla (the father of bonsai in the Philippines), Jojo Adlawan (who once sang in the London production of “Miss Saigon”), Salinta Monon (a Manlilikha awardee and touted to be the “last Bagobo weaver”).
Aside from Ms. Rispens-Noel, the other ABW officers are: Imelda Mabandos-Schneider (Vice President for External Affairs, Germany), Edwin Bibera (Vice President for Internal Affairs, United States), Erlinda Metilla-Hertel (Secretary, Germany), Jane Nique-Velez (Treasurer, United States), and Tune Sonza-Inumerables (Auditor, United States).
The Board of Directors are composed of: Florence Dacanay (East Coast, US), Eden Ramos-Schulties (West Coast, US), Dr. Lino Tatad (Midwest, US), Engr. Jet Galvadores (Southwest, US), Tom Pacatang (Asia, Indonesia), Karen Rosete (Canada), Zenita Acaba (Australia), and Jean Metilla-Walter (Europe).
ABW came into existence a couple of years ago, whose mission is to advance the quality of life of the people in their hometown. “We have mapped-out our mission and vision, formulated our strategies and activities, and set our vision, hopes, and dreams for a better Bansalan,” ABW said in a statement.
“Distance, diverse time zones, and even hectic personal schedules prove to be no hindrance in achieving our common goals. The dream is there: to share our blessings and to give back to the town of our youth. Wherever we are in the world, we still look back to that little town which is the cradle of our birth, a place of our youth and a part of our lives,” ABW further stated. — ###