governance

[OPINION] Love of country is not love of government

Michelle Lado
[OPINION] Love of country is not love of government

Illustration by Alejandro Edoria

'Why is the country difficult to love? It is time we focus on the why.'

Ang hirap mong mahalin, Pilipinas,” is a rant many of us make. And why not? Despite doing our part, the government keeps on dragging the country through the mud. Whatever progress we make as a country is quickly negated by the incompetence of our officials. They ruin our optimism that change for the better is still possible. 

But we need to realize that the government is not the Philippines, and that the Philippines is not the government. The Philippines is The People. It is our collective struggle to achieve a just society that defines us as a nation. The Philippines is made up of people with a common dream to see and work for the common good. The Philippines is not the few blundering government officials who are responsible for our misery. 

In our work in the migrant sector, we learn that almost all Filipino migrant workers are victims of forced migration, meaning they are forced to leave the Philippines against their will. Poverty is the common reason behind this. Leaving is a necessity and not a luxury for them. The concept of indolence is alien to them. “Ang hirap mong mahalin, Pilipinas” was not their reason for leaving. If they only had the choice, they would not have left the Philippines. They love their motherland, benighted as it is, and would have stayed if it was up to them. It is the absence of economic opportunities, which is rooted in government negligence, that drove them to seek a better life abroad. Such conditions remain to be the driving force behind the ongoing Filipino exodus.

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OFWs and the Filipino diaspora in general are critical in their analysis and understand that the quagmire the Philippines is in is the making of the powers that be. And it is not only the current government they want to hold accountable. It is all the governments that have come to pass that they want to hold accountable. It is the rotten system that all these governments helped create that they want to destroy. Because Filipinos around the globe recognize that even if they do their part by making a beeline for the Philippine embassy every election day, real change is only going to be possible if old distorted traditions are overhauled.

It’s easy for the privileged to threaten that they’re leaving the country when their personal comfort is met with inconvenience. The destitution and underdevelopment of the city, the ignorant and uneducated selling their souls to vote-buying politicos, the skwater copulating mindlessly and producing street urchins who become crooks, the hard-headed poor defying quarantine protocols for their survival — they just blame the poor for their laziness and lack of discipline.

On the other hand, we barely hear these privileged few condemn their corrupt government – beyond murmurs of exasperation. They feel ashamed by the throng of Filipino domestic helpers abroad putting our country on the map, all while keeping mum on the system that sent these OFWs away. Perched from their ivory towers, they spit on those who protest for everyone’s right to have a fighting chance at life; they refuse to listen to the masses and learn from history. They hate noise for change; they love their own ignorance. They hate the Philippines for being a developing country, while they lie content on their beds of roses.

They refuse to grasp the problem at the root because it is easier to blame the poor.

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If the government is murderous, does that mean the Philippines is also a murderous country? Of course not. It only means we have to get out of our self-centered worlds and come together to oust this murderous government. It only means that we need to join campaigns that put forward the power of the people. It only means that we need to strengthen our resistance and unity, because our collective action is our most powerful weapon. It only means we offer our best self to whatever field we are in for the advancement of all. Because it will be not the other way around; the country will not please you and give you the good life you want for yourself. That is displaced entitlement. The Philippines, the people, are floating on hope, and it will not adjust to your sinking pessimism.

Ang hirap mong mahalin, Pilipinas” is a mantra of the myopic and selfish. True, the enemy is not you; the enemy is the system. But those who put up the facade of empathy but are in fact partisans of the status quo are termites in the pillars of the people’s liberation. It is said that the enemy of the state are those who take up arms and fight the government in the boondocks. But the enemy of the country are those who remain uncritical and unmoved in the midst of government oppression. 

Why is the country difficult to love? It is time we focus on the why. It is time we go to the root of the persisting pestilence that plunders our motherland and kills our people. Our poverty and oppression are not our fate, as the has system conditioned us to believe, and it is certainly not due to the people’s laziness and lack of discipline. Our suffering is deliberate, brought about by systemic exploitation by the few who are on the top of the proverbial triangle – the tatsulok – that we must topple.

Love of country should not be a mere sentiment. It should be an action to overturn the grim order of our society. It is difficult, but what revolution isn’t? – Rappler.com

Michelle Lado is a writer and an activist based in the Philippines.