I HAVE RETURNED… with new knowledge and expertise and with a renewed commitment
I HAVE RETURNED… a three-word phrase that the late American general, Douglas McArthur uttered when he arrived in Leyte in October 1944 during the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. McArthur’s statement became a signature quote of hope that every Filipino was keeping during those times of helplessness to defend the country during the war. The general did not break his promise and he came back to fight against Japanese regimen towards Philippine democracy; consequently he instilled in the minds of the Filipinos the importance of freedom and independence. As we always say – the rest is history!
People of the Philippines: I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil — soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy control over your daily lives, and of restoring upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people – General Douglas McArthur, Leyte (1944)
You might be wondering the relevance of McArthur’s three-words to my present situation and what I’m personally driving at in relation to my decision to settle back in the Philippines after spending productive years abroad.
I left the country in several occasions. I did it for the first time in May 1991 (twenty years ago to be exact) when I was accepted as a postgraduate student at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Bangkok (Thailand). That was my first international travel and the first time to be completely away from home! Expectedly, I did not promise to my family and friends that “I shall return” as like McArthur pledged to our countrymen/women, but in spite of having a challenging work with a lucrative salary at AIT, without a second thought I left and faced my luck back in the Philippines. And maybe because of the spirit of patriotism, it pushed me to go home and served the country as a “volunteer” inside the former military base in Olongapo City. I don’t know, maybe my family was surprised why I did not continue my residency overseas considering that most of the engineering graduates were eager to work abroad during those years. Luckily nobody asked me…until in my recent homecoming!
Sometimes we have to take alot of risks in every decision in life and I did that with head’s up high in all my homecomings. No regrets at all when things did not go as planned, AND it did not hinder me to become more competitive and experienced in my field of profession since I left Thailand – favouring to be an instrument for change especially in protecting, conserving and preserving our fragile Mother Earth.
Through the years, to become an “expat” (expatriate) or an “ofw” (overseas Filipino worker) is still lingering in my mind. More close relatives and friends were leaving the country for better job opportunities abroad which also another reason for me to try my luck and meet the expectations of my parents to become financially stable. When another study grant came along in 2001, without second thought, I applied for it even I gave up my ownership/partnership in a small business in water and wastewater services in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
For the second time around, I lived abroad (in Australia) for two years and did some interesting jobs that my postgraduate educational attainment was not a prerequisite to be employed. With a lucrative living allowance to support my lifestyle, my parttime works as a leaflet/flyer deliveryman (covering almost 200-300 houses, 2X a week), and a janitor in a big shopping mall (2X a week), provided me extra financial resources to send some money for my family back to the Philippines and also financed by travelling around Australia, including my trips to New Zealand, UK, Sweden and Finland. Again, I returned back to Manila because of my agreement with the donor agency that I was not allowed to extend my residency in Brisbane. So, going back to the Philippines with new knowledge and experience as a “balikbayan” professional brought a new level of expectation and hope from family and friends, including myself. Honestly, I did not really push myself to look for job opportunities elsewhere, so I anticipated that “I shall return” to Manila to bring change and influence people both in the private and public sector in protecting our environment and its resources. This is the main reason why I did a research on toxic waste disposal site development framework for the country that will improve the existing mechanism in land surface disposal site selection process.
With my qualifications, working abroad is only an option but to get further studies is a priority. Fortunately, I am lucky to get good-paying consulting jobs with additional income from part-time teaching both in undergrad and graduate programs. I don’t know BUT God is always generous to provide me the opportunity to get another study grant for my doctorate degree in the UK. This opportunity came in 2005 and without any doubt, I decided to accept it and again my motivation is – I shall return to the Philippines with a best qualification to contribute in the improvement of urban land redevelopment (urban regeneration) and property management in the country. I did try to find a stable job after my schooling; unfortunately I was not lucky enough to get one due to unexpected amendments on migration and international hiring policy brought by the worldwide economic recession which started in 2008. On the other hand, I had the chance to work for 20 hours a week to support myself during my study extension as well as the opportunity to visit some of the British and European cities.
AFTER MORE THAN 5 YEARS LIVING ABROAD, I RETURNED BACK to Manila not only an OFW or balikbayan, but a local jobseeker. Sadly to say, for this third homecoming, I am considered as one of the unemployed Filipinos seeking for a better life in the new government under the administration of President Noynoy Aquino. I am certain that in few weeks time I will be hired – doing what I love to do – serving my beloved country, the Philippines and my countrymen/women!
I did return for the third time, not the same reason that General McArthur promised. I did not return this time to bring investments or financial resources here in the Philippines, BUT I only have the sense of enthusiasm and optimism to practice and share what I have learned from abroad, SO HELP ME GOD!
UPDATES (02 July 2011): On the 27th of June, I accepted a full-time professional work in an American environmental consulting firm located at Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila. The job entails management of various environmental projects, including mining exploration, watershed management, air quality monitoring, and business development and marketing. I will also be teaching in one of the prestigious private universities in Manila handling Urban Planning and Property for postgraduate program.
Note: This journal is in response to this year’s PEBA Annual Blog Competition. For additional information, please click HERE.