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Youngblood: A Simple Man January 24, 2012

Posted by pilibustero in Personal.
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I am sharing/reposting below an article written by a friend, Roge Gonzales which appeared at the Youngblood section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Roge, 23 is a development journalism major at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He was a former regional chairperson of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines:

Youngblood, PDI — My dad died several months ago. A heart attack triggered by complications from his diabetes ended his life at 62 years.

It was most painful to see my father lying inside a casket especially because I had not yet fulfilled the dreams I wanted to accomplish for him. But his passing also gave some kind of strength to every one of us in the family.

He did not have political power because he was not a public official. Neither did he have fame since he was not an actor or celebrity. But his funeral rites drew almost a thousand people. He was a simple man but a great man nonetheless.

My father spent most of his life as an overseas worker, someone whom the government gives the flattering title of “bagong bayani.” As one of the topnotchers in the civil engineering board exam, it was easy for him to join the first exodus of professionals to the Middle East during the Marcos era. He was there even before he married my mother. They kept their romance alive through love letters.

I practically grew up without a father by my side. However, he never failed to attend every commencement exercise in my elementary and high school years. One time, he arrived as the awards were being handed out after a nine-hour bus ride from Manila and, before that, a long flight from Doha, Qatar.

Shortly after he decided to stop working abroad, he suffered a mild stroke. He was partially paralyzed and almost lost his speech. Thankfully, he recovered—but only after several months of hospitalization and therapy. His medical bills, including professional fees for his doctors and multicolored tablets and capsules, wiped out everything he had saved over several decades as an OFW.

To save money, dad had one of his operations done in a public hospital. I can still picture how the wards at the Philippine General Hospital looked like, with around a hundred patients lying in one room, each one requiring urgent medical attention, much like an infirmary in a war zone.

My father once told me that the governments of countries in the Middle East provided people like him with additional medical benefits (he was given a free supply of insulin, for example). From that point on, I always wondered why in our country hardworking people do not get the services they deserve.

Entering the University of the Philippines and getting involved in the school publication eventually provided me with the answers. I learned that protecting workers’ rights was never a priority of lawmakers. I learned that sending workers abroad was not just a matter of “personal choice” but part of the government’s labor export policy. I was awakened to the fact that allocations for social services, such as health and education, were drastically reduced during Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term.

In one of our conversations, I asked my dad why he chose to work abroad. He told me that he couldn’t bear to be part of a corrupt system that was devouring the motherland. He used to work at the Department of Public Works and Highways, but in just a few months he was seeing contractors making payoffs and politicians getting kickbacks from government projects. He said he didn’t want to feed us, his children, with food that came from stolen money. Because of my father’s example of making a living through honest labor, I find it hard to comprehend how powerful individuals can live from day to day with their conscience even as they pick the pockets of the people who pay taxes.

These days at home, I sometimes miss my dad’s frank commentaries as he read the newspapers or watched television. He had the ability to make concise analyses of burning issues. I wonder what he would have said now that the peoples of various Arab countries, where he once worked, are protesting against their fascist regimes. What would his take be on the Occupy Movement’s protest against corporate greed around the world?

I have come to realize that my political views were forged neither inside the walls of the university nor in street protests but by a whole lifetime of dad’s experiences. He was able to point out to me the conditions that need to be transformed into something much better.

These days I can’t shake off the feeling that what I believe to be the purpose of my life isn’t any different from what a mother of a desaparecido, such as Erlinda Cadapan, or a daughter of a slain journalist, such as Mika Ortega, yearn for. All of us want to attain social justice and to do away with a system that tolerates neglect by those who should be held responsible for making our society better.

During dad’s burial, I sent a text message to close friends which dad inspired during our family’s darkest hours. It read:

“We need to change this kind of society wherein parents are forced to sacrifice their love for their families and leave their homes in order to overcome the harsh realities of our society. We need to continue building our dream of a better future so that the next generations will no longer have to act this way.”

Ref: http://opinion.inquirer.net/21661/a-simple-man

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