By Henrylito D. Tacio
I received a lot of reactions for my article on, “So, you want to live in the United States?” Most of the feedbacks came from former Filipinos now living in the land of milk and honey. Honestly, I understand their comments, which are valid and legitimate, too.
“Yes, for the majority of Filipinos who immigrate to the US and are able to take jobs that pay only near the minimum of around $7 per hour, America indeed is not a ‘bed of roses,'” wrote one rejoinder. “Life for these people can be, to borrow the words of Thomas Hobbes, ‘short, nasty, and brutish.’
However, for those who are working with white collar jobs, it’s a different story. The rejoinder explained, “For thousands of Filipino doctors and nurses who are here now, life in America can be a real ‘bed of roses.’ These are the kind of immigrants who routinely are able to achieve the ‘American Dream.’
Another sender told me: “One thing you missed mentioning in your article on is that AMERICA is not really a place but a STATE of mind. But I am certain you know that in your heart and I really do not hold that against you! The grass seems to be always greener at the other side of the fence. All we truly need is to learn to appreciate what we have.”
Here’s another comment: “I worked for five years as mechanical engineer in the Philippines but could not even purchase a refrigerator. Living and working in the USA is 1000-percent much better living and working in the Philippines. There is no comparison.”
Please, don’t get me wrong. I have been to the United States several times. But I am not sure if I will live there forever. To see the country and its people is a wonderful thing, but living in the US is another story.
If staying in the Philippines is good, living in the US is better. In an e-mail, a Filipino now living in the US pointed this out: “The relative law and order and peace of mind you get (not to say the economic opportunity) in the physical AMERICA (and that of our mind) are not something to be missed.
“In the United States, people travel with ease, have many (some say too many!) choices, are treated relatively equally (as long as you stay within your community and do not make a splash!), can and do succeed through diligence and hard work, do not have to worry about ‘lagays’ and ‘grease money’ to get some idiotic paperwork done, do not have to sweat through customs and immigration (if you are not a TNT) leaving or entering the country, can drive pretty safely without seeing some idiots driving into your lane from the oncoming traffic (most of the time anyway), and earn a relatively decent wage so that you can at least live through another day without having to worry about the next meal (right away anyway).”
But what takes the cake was the rebuttal of a Filipino working in California of that other person who complained about his condition in the US (which cajoled me to write the first piece).
On credits, the Californian guy rebuffs: “The key here is to be wise with money. I use my credit card to pay for everything but I pay everything every time my bill comes in. That way, I have a good credit score and now I can get good rates for loans and other stuff. It makes sense that those with good credit score get the better deals because it also shows that you are a responsible person. In the Philippines, it is very difficult to buy a car because assessors need to do some background check and even go to your house and assess your capacity to pay based on what he sees. Here in the US, they just look at your credit score and that’s enough to know if you can be trusted.”
On paying those different bills, the guy explained: “My question is: Are water and electricity in the Philippines free? Are houses free or if you are renting an apartment? You also have to work hard but the bad thing is even if you want to work there are no works available or if you work hard your salary is not enough to pay all those bills.”
On visiting those tourist attractions, the guy advised: “It’s a matter of choice. If you don’t have the money, don’t go. Anywhere in the world you go, you need to shell out a good amount from your pocket if you want to go to quality places. If you don’t have money, there are parks that are very clean and safe to hang out. It’s definitely worse in the Philippines. Even with a whole day’s salary, you cannot take you and your family to Enchanted Kingdom. I know some of our kababayans earn within the low income bracket and it’s true that they might have to work 10 hours for the Disneyland ticket but many Pinoys are also good earners.”
On renting houses, the man opined: “If you live in the countryside here in the US, rents are very cheap. Well, it’s a matter of choice again if you want to live close to the city, then you have to pay more. Just like in the Philippines, if you want to rent cheap, there are places where you can rent cheap houses or apartments. If you want to rent in Makati or Valle Verde, then you have to pay more. That’s just fair.”
The guy’ final words: “You have to work hard if you want to get the things you want. At this point in my life, I still would like to go back to the Philippines when I retire. Nothing can be as good as living in the Philippines. But it’s just wrong to complain about living in the US. Our family has the good fortune to make it here in the United States and we never regretted coming here and love all the things that US has to offer to those who work hard. No complaints at all.
“With that in mind, I might as well ask why he should waste his time here in the US if he keeps on complaining. Nobody’s stopping him from taking a one way trip back to the Philippines. I’m not saying that life here is a bed of roses but its just plain wrong to make it appear that life here is no better as compared in the Philippines. I still prefer living in a country that gives you a lot of opportunities for personal growth. Here, what matters is what you know than who you know. I still prefer the country where most citizens respect traffic rules, where people don’t just slam the door behind them, where people are more polite and civil, and most importantly where people still trust that they will find justice when they are wronged.”
Now, can I start dreaming my American dream?
For comments, write me at email@example.com