Friday, December 21, 2007

Dreams for Sale

I was at Starbucks yesterday as part of my pathetic attempts to get started at studying, and, as part of my procrastination strategy, browsed through yesterday's papers. One header in particular leapt out at me from the middle of the Inquirer's opinion pages. It's a commentary by Juan Morales called, "Wedding Rings for Visas" and it explores another facet of the great Filipino Diaspora - that phenomenon of marrying to migrate.

Much has already been said about the fact that more and more Filipinos are on a steady march out of the country in search of a better life. They leave every day by the thousands, workers and migrants, pitting themselves against daunting odds in order to be able to earn for their families back home. Others, despairing that the system is no longer salvageable, leave their comfortable lives as they know it and take on jobs they are more than qualified for in order to be able to bring their children with them abroad to ensure their future. The rising desperation quotient has caused this tidal wave of emigration to be whipped up to a frenzy. Its battle cry is to get out of the Philippines by whatever means possible. But while I know that the practice of marrying for convenience for the sake of getting a visa has been around for a long while now, seeing the actual numbers is both staggering and depressing.

Forgive me, I am just trying to wrap my closet romantic's head around the concept of marrying for anything other than love. It is just hard for me to grasp the concept of a commitment that entails so much intimacy and trust and risk being undertaken for the most pragmatic of reasons. While I do not deign to question other people's choices, a part of me grieves that life for many here in our country has become so intolerable that they must to resort to this. Each one who has chosen to go by this path have reasons that are, no doubt, valid. And the closet romantic in me continues to hope that many of them, too, have found their happiness this way.

I don't mean to offend or sound patronizing. Believe me, there is no condemnation here. It is part of our being human to want to improve our condition, and I would be a hypocrite if I said thoughts of leaving for good have never entered my mind. (Part of my being in my "middle of nowhere" is the confusion about where to stake my claim and find my niche as a doctor. Commentaries about junior doctors' plight in the Philippines have been written by people with more eloquence than I, and you can read some of them here and here.) I know I am lucky because I have been given opportunities to develop skills I can barter for my ticket to go abroad. That people are actually bartering themselves in order to find their berth abroad is just reflection of the level of desperation we have ascended to. It is that that truly disturbs and makes my heart just a little bit heavier.

In truth, doesn't every overseas Filipino worker who risks his physical and emotional well-being by choosing to place his stake in the country he plans to work in do the same thing? In the end, after all is said and done, we all just do what we can to survive.

It is a sad reality that so few are able to achieve a level of comfort and security to realize that life is not just about survival, but living.

1 comment:

Manggy said...

"Love" for money: tale as old as time! Honestly, couples who meet the old fashioned way aren't much better. It's all sunshine and roses till one of them stalks some heartthrob on Friendster. Haha, I'm kidding. I don't mean to infect your closet romanticism with my overt cynicism: it's just fun and games. Much like the sex lives of mail-order brides (see what I did there?).

Many people tell me it's like I'm not built for here. It doesn't offend me because much as I don't believe in astrology, I'm a "true" Sagittarian: itchy feet. There's a LOT of stimulation out there. It doesn't help that even when I put on the most perfect Filipino accent complete with fake-katarayan (and NO taglish, despite what my friends may hypothesize), patients always sense something weird. I'm an alien in my own country! Not.