Force of Life: The Filipino Odyssey

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The Filipino Odyssey

Acts 17:26-28

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; AND HE MARKED OUT THEIR APPOINTED TIMES IN HISTORY AND THE BOUNDARIES OF THEIR LANDS. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.

 

diaspora noun. \dī-ˈas-p(ə-)rə\

  1. The movement or migration of a group of people, such as those sharing a national and/or ethnic identity, away from an established or ancestral homeland.

In his novel, “El Filibusterismo,” Jose Rizal appealed to the next generation of Filipinos:

“Where are the youth who will consecrate their golden hours, their illusions, and their enthusiasm to the welfare of their land? …Where are you, youth, who will embody in yourselves the vigor of life that has felt our veins, the purity of ideas that has been contaminated in our brains, the fire of enthusiasm that has been quenched in our hearts! We await you, O youth! Come, for we await you!”

Fast forward to the 21st centuryWith Filipinos scattered throughout 214 countries, the Filipino diaspora has truly become global. A new generation of Filipinos emerges – a generation born and raised in a culture and land foreign to that of their parents and grandparents. In the words of F. Sionil Jose, the Filipino is everywhere – “in the pitiless deserts of the Middle East, the icy wastes of the Artic, and the booming cities of the West.” [1]

The concept of “diaspora” challenges ideas often associated with nationhood such as culture, identity, and social affinity. As people migrate from one country to another, they take with them their customs, culture, and ethnic identity.

With more than a million Filipinos every year leaving to work and reside abroad, the social space of the diaspora expands, thereby extending the potential of Filipinos to impact the communities around them.

Filipinos have encountered and continue to encounter unprecedented challenges and realities of living outside their homeland. Nevertheless, the call to know one’s roots, to consecrate one’s life to a noble cause, and to live for the sake of others – as echoed by Rizal – continues to challenge the next generation of Filipinos, whether they be in the Philippines or overseas. “We await you, O youth” – to work hard, excel, and rise up to embody the vision of a nation aspiring to break the chains of mediocrityand respond to the call of uniting a truly fragmented people.     

Unfortunately, it is not often the case that the Filipino abroad perceives his or her life as an opportunity to carry the dream of a people. Instead, perspective becomes myopic and the “American Dream,” a pursuit centered on me, myself, and I, becomes life’s ultimate goal.

However, is living for one’s self, meeting one’s own personal needs, and ensuring survival on a day-to-day basis satisfactory in defining a truly fulfilling and significant life?

odyssey  nou.n \ˈä-də-sē\

  1. A Greek hexameter epic poem traditional ascribed to Homer, describing the travels of Odysseus during his ten years of wandering after the sack of Troy. He eventually returned home to Ithaca and killed the suitors who had plagued his wife Penelope during his absence
  2. A long and eventful or adventurous journey or experience. [2]

“Filipino Odyssey” is but a fitting phrase to encapsulate experience of the Global Filipino for it connotes a journey traveled by a people seeking to serve, uplift, and shine. Wherever we may be called or placed to live in this world, will we be able to leave a legacy that will outlast even our own lives?

Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II once said,

“One of the signs of a great society is the diligence with which it passes culture from one generation to the next. This culture is the embodiment of everything the people of that society hold dear …

When one generation no longer esteems its own heritage and fails to pass the torch to its children, it is saying in essence that the very foundational principles and experiences that make the society what it is are no longer valid. This leaves that generation without any sense of definition or direction, making them the fulfillment of Karl Marx’s dictum, ‘A people without a heritage are easily persuaded.”

In an era that deeply values identity, Filipinos abroad represent a generation faced constantly with the question, “Who am I?” For it is when we know who we are and where we stand as a people can we truly understand the uniqueness of our contributions and our service to the world. It is then can we truly be a blessing and shine our light wherever we may be.

In searching for himself and his place in this world, the sojourner never arrives and presses on – never content, always learning, and ensures that every step he takes he leaves an imprint on the hearts of the people around him.

There is a race marked out for each and everyone one of us. To echo the words of Mordecai in the book of Esther – WE WERE MADE FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS.

Will YOU travel the journey of the Filipino Odyssey?  

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE, the RACE MARKED OUT for us…


References:

[1] http://www.philstar.com/sunday-life/2014/11/16/1392096/letter-san-francisco-diaspora-be-filipino-burden

[2] http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Odyssey

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