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Philippines, My Philippines (The Frontlines of my Life)

“The Philippines is a beggar sitting in gold.” I grew up hearing this line over and over again. I was born and bred in Mindanao, the second biggest of 7,106 islands composing the Philippine archipelago. Located down south, Mindanao is closer to the countries across the equator below, than the northernmost part of my country. In fact, Zamboanga peninsula, where my hometown, Pagadian City, is located, is considered the Philippines “backdoor economy,” since business and trade with China, Malaysia, Borneo and Indonesia has been going on long before the Spanish colonization in the 16th century.

As a child, I never imagined leaving my hometown – a small place where everybody knows everybody, and everything I needed and wanted was practically within my reach. It was my only home, the axis of my being and becoming. Or so I thought until civil war broke out when I was twelve and military rule took its toll. It was then that I dreamed for a better life, a better world. This dream drove me to pursue university education through a state scholarship grant far away from home. Struggling through a culture and civilization far removed from mine in the Islamic City of Marawi, I knew then what “conflict” was all about – as I saw the many differences between Christians and Muslims. Yet I realized at the same time that the Philippines is amazingly endowed with a richly diversified beautiful culture. More remarkable is that my people, despite varied interests and myriad cultural identities, have managed to co-exist in harmonious and symbiotic relationship, even through foreign influence brought about by centuries of colonization. The colonial period of 370 years of Spanish regime, 40 years of American era, and 4 years of Japanese occupation left indelible marks in the way of life of the Filipinos, but has not changed the uniqueness of its beauty and essence.

The early years of my career took me to the rice lands as I worked with the National Irrigation Administration in the Visayan Islands - my father’s homeland. There I roamed around country-sides and mingled with farmers who bring staple food, rice, to our plates. It was such a great privilege – to be able to share in this noble duty.

I was in my mid-twenties when my father became ill and I had to return to Mindanao. At that time three of my younger siblings were pursuing college degrees in the same state university I pursued mine, and needed my support. I got a job in the country’s steel monopoly, the National Steel Corporation, in a nearby city. That was in the mid-eighties when the Philippines was in its “construction boom”. Wow, what an enormous role in nation-building! And then I moved to the country’s power industry. We were then engaged in the rural electrification project through hydro-electricity powered by Maria Cristina waterfalls, constructing 138 KV steel towers and installing transmission lines and power substations island-wide. I traveled around Mindanao, through plains and mountains, rivers and lakes as we pursued our mission. I felt so important, knowing we supply the power that runs my country’s economy.

At the turn of the century I left the power industry and pursued a master’s degree as I resolved to settle in the academe for good. But that was not to be so. In a mysterious twist of fate I found myself working in the government’s peace process with the Muslim separatist rebels in Mindanao. And this was where I got the greatest disillusionment in my life. As I look back I could not help but wonder in misery where and how things went wrong.

Starting out my career with the National Irrigation Administration I was so proud, convinced I was feeding my people. My stint with the National Steel Corporation made me believe I was building my country. And I felt great working with my country’s power industry, corporate giant National Power Corporation, thinking I was empowering my nation. Yet in the last decade of my career, with the government’s peace process, I confronted hunger, destitution, homelessness, helplessness and powerlessness beyond my grasp. And it pains me so bad that despite my being a beneficiary of my own people’s sweat and blood, as product of government schools and grantee of state scholarships afforded by my people’s taxes, I couldn’t even utter a word of hope to a million internally displaced persons in my beloved homeland – my own people struggling through the armed conflict that has haunted us through half a century. Through it all, for lack of choices durability has become our way of life; for lack of chances spontaneity has sustained us into a culture; for lack of stability resiliency has become our strongest anchor; and for lack of security we find refuge and redemption in each other’s embrace.

The Philippines is a beggar sitting in gold. Now I know what this means exactly - as multi-national companies keep investing in my country’s rich resources, with foreign business ventures like mining industries, dairy, farm and sea food processing and wet and dry goods manufacturing. Tourism industry is a big deal, too, with such beautiful and pristine tropical beaches, amazing flora and fauna, panoramic landscapes and natural endowments matched with my people’s warmth and hospitality. And most of all, as Filipinos increasingly prove to be the nation’s greatest economic assets, not only in the Philippines, but in the global arena as well. A beggar sitting in gold, yes, because despite all the wealth my country is abundantly blessed with, the Philippines is still a thriving economy in the third world.

There is not much I would like to change in my country, with my people. I know somehow we will go on in unending breakthroughs as a nation. We will give our all and do our best, through strife and triumph, through pain and gain, through shame and fame, as we hold on together with steadfast and unrelenting solidarity.

All my life I will never cease seeing the beauty of my country and feeling the goodness of my people. I am a Filipino. The Philippines is my homeland, my very own, my only one. I love to live here … and I hope to die here.

Comments

HARMONY's picture

Wow! What a pariotic heart

Wow! What a pariotic heart you have! i like the line "We will give our all and do our best, through strife and triumph, through pain and gain, through shame and fame, as we hold on together with steadfast and unrelenting solidarity. "
Your country is proud of you for your honesty and love and care.

You are a wonderful writter, I can say I know philippines trhough your writing.

thanks for sharing !

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks a lot, Sister!

There are things in life we cannot and we never wish to change ... one of them is our homeland. Love of country is most basic in every human creation. I would love to know more about your beautiful country, too, Harmony! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

HARMONY's picture

You're right

You can never and wish not to change your homeland. I was concentrated on the assignment so will now write the optional assignment if i can finish in time!

Trust your HOPES, not your fears... Harmony

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Go for it, girl!

Harmony, you've done an enormous job with your frontline journal and it's a great piece.... go ahead and do the same with your optional assignment.... all the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Paulina Lawsin's picture

Philippines, My Philippines

So sad. I was touched. You are a good writer!

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks a lot, Paulina!

Yes sister, I do believe we all have a share in the world's burden. And this is what humanity is all about ... sharing and caring. That's why I am here .... at World Pulse. Thanks for being there, sister Paulina! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks, Paulina!

Yes, I do believe we all have a share in the world's burden. And this is what humanity is all about ... sharing and caring. That's why I am here .... at World Pulse. Thanks for being there, sister Paulina! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Ruth Beedle's picture

I loved your voice shining

I loved your voice shining through in this piece so much Emie! My favorite line is:
"Through it all, for lack of choices durability has become our way of life; for lack of chances spontaneity has sustained us into a culture; for lack of stability resiliency has become our strongest anchor; and for lack of security we find refuge and redemption in each other’s embrace."

I love your story-telling voice that rolls from you so true and naturally. I would like to hear more about the heartbreak you experienced in this last decade compared to the pride of empowering your country.

I would also love to know the changes you have witnessed as a result of your work. And I would love to know what you would like to change and what you dream of for your country.

Your pride and patriotism ring so clearly. Thank you for you voice.

R

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks to you, Ruth!

Ruth, I have all of you here in this great World Pulse community to thank for. I found my voice here ... right here where I echo all other voices throughout the globe. It's real amazing to see myself this way ... as I never ever dared to look at my life the way it is before... Thank you, thank you, thank you...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

vivian's picture

powerful voice

Compliment of the season my friend.

It has been a busy month for me. This is why I spend less time on world pulse recently. I am still battling to develop my frontline story and the optional one. Hope to meet up soon.

Am happy to read your post again. I asked 'why' when I read the first line that says The Philippines is a beggar sitting in gold.”. I took a second read to get it wrong then I continued and I find the answer. Am happy to learn about philippines and your desire to change so many things. Your voice is the change you seek for and you will certainly be heard someday so that change can take place.

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Hi Vivian!

Thanks for taking the time to read my piece, sister! Yes, I think the whole world was a big hustle-bustle during the Holidays - year-end and Christmas rush all at once! I managed to go about my frontline journal bit by bit, starting with an outline. And, you know, I overlooked the optional assignment because I consumed myself on the frontline journal. I was wondering when I opened Voices Rising and I saw Amei's piece about her country, and similar pieces from other correspondents, so I braved it out to ask Rachael what the pieces are all about. What a shame ... it was clearly discussed on Section 2.2 in the online classroom!

Anyway, I'm sure you will post your optional assignment very soon. It's really nice to write about something you love - your country, your people . ... and there are three themes to choose from. I'm looking forward to know more about you and your world, Vivian .... all the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

One of Many's picture

Your heart leads us along with you

Hello, Emie:

I completely agree with Ruth -- that wonderful paragraph with the hopes and realities compared totally engages our readers' hearts -- because you are opening yours. I love the way the World Pulse Voice supports you telling your story in a "heart-felt" way. And the contrast in the second paragraph -- "or so I thought until..." builds the story line strongly. Throughout this piece you take us through such a range of experiences and feelings, all the while anchoring us in the reality of the national and political development of your Philippines.

I remember your story about the river that used to be such a pure clear source, which has been used through development and modernization in a destructive and disrespectful manner. That certainly showed your deep bonds with the land itself.

I especially appreciate your conclusion, affirming the people of the land as a major part of the gold of the Philippines -- "hold(ing) on together with steadfast and unrelenting solidarity." Wow!

It certainly is a privilege to witness the strength and beauty of your developing World Pulse correspondent voice, Emie!

Always,

Anna

Speaking my Peace

Emie Zozobrado's picture

I have you, Anna!

I'm growing into a bigger and stronger me because I have all of you here, Anna. The bonding in this community is so powerful it draws out the best of each other. I never realized it's so easy to wear my heart on my sleeve until I found others doing the same with amazing candor and courage. If they can, why can't I ... so I did, and it's been great! My gratitude and joy are boundless!

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

NI NI AYE's picture

Strong people gather at World Pulse

Hi my lovely sister

I am very proud of you for your commitments to your beloved people. Yes I also passed the hardship yo become a graduate. We have in common getting university scholarship and Sarvina also wrote about it.. When I read about power supply in your article , I was thinking about electricity in our country .Our cities and town have meter box for power but the power is not available quite often in the summer. But our neighboring country Thailand get it from our gas supply pipes and we all see their town which is our neighboring with full of light at nights. I heard our border town has to buy it from them. How sad it is! Anyway . I really like your article and see you online.

Love

NI NI

Congratulations on Very Happy Teachers Day through ten years journey!

Emie Zozobrado's picture

It's really sad, Ni Ni!

Ni Ni Aye, there was a time in our history when we export logs and import its by-products - toothpicks and matches, because we can't afford the technology!!!!! You see, this is the great paradoxical misery of poor countries like ours. But we will change this as we evolve as a people. The struggle is hard but we are unstoppable. As the song goes ... "if everyone light just one little candle, what a bright world this would be..." We each light a candle and go all the way ...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

NI NI AYE's picture

A candle from me

Hi sister

I agree with you and I am sure of my candle from Myanmar .

Cheers!

NI NI

Congratulations on Very Happy Teachers Day through ten years journey!

culaslaw's picture

What an inspiring piece !

Thank you so much for your incredible story,and inspiring piece. I, too, was born in the Philippines, but in the central part of the Island of Luzon, specifically, Baclaran, Paranaque. A city within Metro Manila. For many years I have been looking for reasons why my birth country, despite rich in resources, still lag in economic race. I have my own answer why, but my answer may differ from you. I love my birth country, its People, and its rich culture. But I often wonder why our leaders fail to recognize what their priority. Unemployment is rampant, and the disparity between rich and poor is huge. Infrastructure is almost unheard of. Traffic in Manila is unbearable, and roads are narrow and almost impossible to move commerce. I believe that with the kind of resources Philippines possesses, these problems should be easily resolved. I wish I had the same opportunity you had. Growing up as a young boy in Baclaran was almost impossible for me to excel since going to a good school was not an option. Just like a lot of Filipinos, my family left for America where I learned the grammar, math and science. But, still I have a passion to make contributions to my birth country. And, I commend you for your brilliant piece.

Robert G. Culas

Wow, now I have another one here who shares my very heartbeat! Yes, I have relatives and friends who left the Philippines ages ago, in search of greener pastures. Right now we are exchanging notes on how life has been and is going on in our respective nooks from halfway across the globe through this amazing online technology. I've been living in Manila (Quezon City) for the past ten years, and I've been to Baclaran many times. Last Christmas, I cruised the famous Baclaran bargain centers and flea market to save on Christmas presents sent to my hometown. I couldn't afford the travel expenses so I pretended to be Santa Claus!

Like many Filipinos, I am not comfortable with the way this great and beautiful country is being run. But, like most of us who have no option but to stay, we can only do the best we can with what we have. Thank you for standing by. Your toils out there in the Land of Milk and Honey are not in vain ... Filipinos living and working abroad keep the Philippine economy afloat. My salute, beloved countryman! All the best ...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

malayapinas's picture

Hi Emmie! Thank you for

Hi Emmie! Thank you for posting this. It's always an inspiration having fellow Filipina who take so much care for our country. We need to work together to create positive changes for our children and for the future generation.

Keep up the good work and wish you all the best in our struggle for peace and justice in our land.

love,
Malaya

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Malaya!!!!

Sister, I think it will take me a long time to enjoy the joy, gratitude and pride that you, a fellow Filipino, have managed to raise our voice much much higher ... into the global arena! Really, yes, it's a tall order and a fierce battle for us yet ahead... but we are on our way. Slowly but surely, we will find ourselves right at the peak of our noble pursuits. Keep the torch burning, Malaya! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Malaya!!!!

Sister, I think it will take me a long time to enjoy the joy, gratitude and pride that you, a fellow Filipino, have managed to raise our voice much much higher ... into the global arena! Really, yes, it's a tall order and a fierce battle for us yet ahead... but we are on our way. Slowly but surely, we will find ourselves right at the peak of our noble pursuits. Keep the torch burning, Malaya! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Tina's picture

Beautiful Honesty

Dear Emie,
You bring such an honest and positive outlook in your descriptions of your country to the world stage here on Pulsewire and I continue to love the way you write. Your passion for your homeland shines so strong and is a true inspiration.

I, also especially like the line: "We will give our all and do our best, through strife and triumph, through pain and gain, through shame and fame, as we hold on together with steadfast and unrelenting solidarity," because in this great line you recognize the shadow parts of ourselves and our feelings towards our nations as part of the same journey forward as those we more frequently dare to share with the world: the gain, the fame, the triumph, the best.

Thanks for showing us all how to gracefully and humbly shine lights on the dark moments in our nations' histories and make it beautiful.
Blessings,
Tina

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thanks a lot, Tina!

Tina, my deep appreciation for your candid and profound reflections on this piece. Indeed, despite the pains, the fears and the challenges that beset us, individually as a citizen and collectively as a nation, I believe there always resides in every human heart a sense of belonging, a special bonding with his country, that allows him to hold on and hold fast no matter what, knowing that our survival and breakthroughs as we journey as a people will get us through our darkest moments. In the great Mahatma Gandhi's words ... "We don't get rid of pain, we absorb it in order to grow ... for growth always happens in our most critical moments." A homeland is all we have - it's our bigger self. If our forefathers and heroes died for it, it is worth loving and living for. Thanks so much, Tina! All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Sarvina's picture

Wow....you have a beautiful

Wow....you have a beautiful writing style - great writer. I do love reading your article, I am so move with it. Of course through your writing, I also got the meaning of "The Philippines is a beggar sitting in gold" - really powerful meaning that many foreign countries have invested the beggar country like yours. Wow really excited with this beautiful country!

Love,
Sarvina

Regards,

Sarvina from Cambodia
VOF 2011 Correspondent

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Thank you, sister!

Sarvina, it's true to many poor countries. Somalia is wallowing in poverty while multi-national companies increasingly enjoy its enormous wealth - gold and diamonds! And who profits most in Nigeria's abundant oil? It's the foreign investors, while Nigerians are hungry! That's why we poor nations need to know what we have and what we want to do with what we have and go for it, or we will forever be begging from those who take unfair advantage of our own resources at our expense... All the best...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

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