I have been deflecting for a few months now. I have been keeping myself busy, reading books, focusing on my classes, writing papers just to not confront the fact that I’m leaving soon. I’m joining my dream program, of course, I am beyond excited! But the weight of being away for 5+ years still hasn’t sunk in. I told my parents that I’ll be away for 5 years but it will take longer than that. First, the average graduation rate in my program is 6.5 years and second I’m planning to do my postdoc which will take 2-3+ years. Inevitably, relationships will change. I will eventually lose touch with some of my friends. My perception and attitude will change. Life will eventually happen, so they say.

But my greatest fear is becoming the person I despise. My biggest fear is towards losing hope for the country. I’m leaving during this time that it’s difficult to love the country. I wake up every day and this government never fail to disappoint. We laugh about it, but you know what they say, comedy is the worst tragedy. I came to realize that our problem is bigger than a strongman. We have bigger demons that we need to confront. Duterte is just a manifestation of a greedy elite, complacent middle class, and the poor sector, though no fault of their own, who are unable to think of others because they are preoccupied on surviving.

I received mixed reactions when I tell people that I’ll be studying abroad. My professors are thrilled. Though they always end with the question, “Babalik ka diba?” In which I will reply, “Of course ma’am! I will.” Others are congratulating me, as if I have escaped a rotten home. Settling in a foreign land, it never crossed my mind. To be honest, I detest those who never came back. Later in my academic life when I met some of the Filipino scientists abroad that I began to acknowledge that I cannot blame them. I cannot tell someone how to live their lives. More importantly, they will not be as productive as a scientist when they do their work here. Humanity will benefit more if they continue doing science in a country that puts no ceiling on what they can do. Let’s be honest, there’s only so much we can do here. Infrastructure, incentives, government support, and public appreciation of science are lacking.

By experiencing a conducive and comfortable life abroad, will I be one of those cynics? “Wala ng pagasa ang Pilipinas.” Will I say those words and actually mean it? Will I condemn my country because I cannot do my science here? Will I hate the Philippines because I cannot be as productive as if I were in a developed country? Will I hate my fellow Filipinos for voting bad leaders? Will I hate our seemingly hopeless leaders for not valuing scientist more? I’ve seen my professors changing research track because they are forced to compromise given the resources. To be fair there are a few PH-based scientists that offers hope. Lourdes Cruz and Caesar Saloma are few of the PH based scientists that I can think of. They have done elegant and world-class research despite the unfavorable conditions here.

To further complicate things, globalization is redefining the notion of nationalism. Randy David wrote “In a world in which more and more people no longer feel bound to live and die in the country of their birth, in which cultures have become mobile and one’s identity is no longer rooted in geography, there will be no room for nationalist fundamentalism… The nation-state is, of course, far from fading away. The world still transacts its business through nation-states. But this is not the same as saying that identities are still singularly determined by accidents of birth, race, ethnicity or nationality. The true revolution of our time is that persons are now freer to choose who they should be.” Either this justifies living in a foreign land and still claim allegiance to our country or just to combat against “exclusionary politics based on race, nationality and ethnicity” is still a puzzle to me. In Winnie Monsod’s words, “You need to be in the Philippines, in order to help the Philippines.” I think that’s also true in every sense. The peril of being away is that one will become detach and shortsighted of the real challenges of the country.

Sabi ko sa sarili ko, babalik ako and I will be part of the solution. If not, puntahan nyo ako then pakisakal ako. In case I would not see some changes in my lifetime, I will still try. I will be contented in trying. I’m not exceptional, in fact I have not proven anything yet. But the plan is to earn a PhD in Science and an MA Economics. Kabahan na ang suppliers, SPMO, COA and GPPB. Chiz. Joke lang. I will work alongside them to improve procurement and the working environment for scientists. What I need are mentors and comrades. The future is challenging but the upside is it will never be boring. #fight

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