Monday, May 26, 2008

Divided by opportunities

Isabel Segal (not her real name), a young mother of three who works as a nursing assistant for a home care company in Long Beach, California, says she petitioned her parents way back many years ago, but failed.

Despite her repeated explanations on the great advantages of living in America, her parents refused to bite her offer. According to her, all they could say is that they are contended and happy to live in the Philippines. Sison's parents decision to stick in their homeland contradicts to what other Filipinos are hankering as manifested by the long queue at the American Embassy in Manila.

The same experience happened to Sonia Sabarre, a retired nurse in Chicago, who successfully petitioned her late mother to come to America in the 70s. Her mother did come and stayed for a few months. But the biting winter and windy breeze, not to mention the alienation that she experienced while alone at home, had all contributed to her mother's longing for home. Eventually, she did and never came back.

While many Filipinos are ambitious enough to migrate to other countries like the United States as manifested by the long queue at the American Embassy in Manila, others simply stick it around in their homeland despite the economic problems that affect most people nowadays.

Besides, the above scenarios are just a few of the sad tales that could be depicted of Asian immigrants whose immediate relatives hate the idea of coming to America. But surely there are more out there, knowing how expansive the Filipino-American population across the North American soil. While some people do stick it out rather than leave the Philippines, many others simply hanker for a taste for things American--its food, culture and social benefits. This is true to some people who have stayed and retired working in America so that going back to where they came from may not have been a big priority at this time but for some short visits once in a while.

What makes it ironical is that even after retirement, most of them could still linger on to stay despite ill-health. For instance, a couple who recently retired from the U.S. Postal Service managed to retort back by saying that there's nobody to return to in the Philippines. "All our children and our grandchildren are already here in America," the couple said. "If we will go home, that is only for a short vacation."

It's not surprising why some Filipinos behave this way. On the positive note, there are valid reasons why it would be hard to change their behavioral patterns at this time. Knowing how economic difficulties aggravate the lives of the Filipinos at home, staying for good in a foreign land is an option they could rightfully cling to for as long as they live. Add to these problems the skyrocketing prices of commodity goods, rampant criminalities, pollution, too much politics, and lack of basic services, are all factors that hold back many of our kababayans to retire in the Philippines.

Time and again, news reports of sickly and ailing Filipino-Americans, particularly the Filipino war veterans in some parts of America, are creating so much worries among the relatives in the Philippines. Immediate children of some of these Filipino-Americans now staying in the United States are extremely cautious as to what their old folks are undergoing just to avail of the medical benefits that they get for free from the state and federally-funded clinics and hospitals across America.

Couple Ildefonso and Rosita Quibin, now in their 80s, is more than happy now than it was when they first arrived in Carson, California, more than ten years ago. He narrated that he couldn't forget the days when they would always queue up for food rations given by humanitarian and religious organizations in California because their monthly income wasn't enough for their survival. 'Instead of spending our little pension for food, we'd rather line up early on weekends to get free food and other stuffs at various outlets," the husband said.

But the couple's misery did not end there. On weekdays, he had to pedal his way for almost three hours to report for work and vice versa. "At that time, I was living with my married eldest son, who petitioned us to come. I didn't want to bother them anymore because they were busy people, too. I had to do what I could do to earn for ourselves to survive in America," he lamented.

It didn't take long when the old couple finally decided to look for a place where they can live independently. Now, the couple shares a room with a other senior citizens in a bungalow in the South Bay area. "At least, we are contented and free to move around here on our own. We can do whatever we want to do, without anybody telling us what to do," he mused. It's also the amenities and conveniences, not to mention food and medicines that are immediately available if you need them most.

In the Philippines, unless you have the money or the land resources planted to coconut, rice, vegetables and root crops, wouldn't be so much a problem to the families concerned. And if you're a Filipino veteran, you can always have the option to go to the Sons and Daughter of World War II Veterans Office in Taguig to avail of free medicines. All you have to do is register your names so that proper identification cards can be issued to the requesting parties.

It's good to know that there is such an agency such as this because the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, where survivors and living veterans avail their medicines and medical check ups. But most veterans and survivors who request medicines prescribed to them by their doctors are oftentimes frustrated because no medicines are available for the taking. It has been a big problem that has not been addressed for a long time now. With the veteran's property up for sale lately, the more that the suriving Filipino veterans and their dependents would be hard-pressed on where to turn to for medical assistance.

It is no wonder why the weak and ailing Filipino veterans opted to stay longer in the United States because they can easily buy food and medicines with their meager monthly pensions. This is the reason, too, why some of my close relatives don't want to leave America. If they do, availing these kind of quality medical services in the Philippines would be impossible to attain. Under the current economic conditions in the Philippines, there is no way that ordinary pensioners will ever make both ends meet because everything is going upwards.

This means that economic difficulties tend to control the emotions and the psyche of most US pensioners not to go back yet to the Philippines, while they still have the strength to get around. If one is disabled, a motorized wheelchair is always available for free and the public buses are always ready to get you to your destinations safely. And without any hitches. This kind of public service is yet to take roots in the Philippines, where the disabled people would surely find it extremely difficult to move around without a companion.

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