Dear cousins,By Philip Dominguez Mercurio
I recovered all the e-mails you sent me and pasted it onto Notepad and printed it out at work. 33 pages. It reads like a literary novel – a diary of correspondence.
Very interesting -- humbling even -- the stories. Some of them troubling, but you were able to pull through and that indeed is amazing. I don’t think I would have been able to pull through if I were in your position. Your issues make our problems trivial, even stupid. Basic needs are issues in your lives and though we don’t have such issues, it’s sad we still have problems in our lives. I’m happy that with all that you guys have gone through and are still going through you’ve never lost hope and were led in the right direction.
Now, in relation to the balikbayan boxes, I am happy that you enjoyed the contents. Personally, I didn’t think it was impressive and that’s why, hiya ako when hauling it off to the Philippines. The fact that you were happy with them though made me pleasantly surprised.
Of course, seeing your reaction to the box makes me wonder what your impression about the United States of America is. Based on the box, it really does seem like some magical place where angels bring boxes of goodies to the lowland like Santa does every 25th of December. You guys consider the Philippines as an abysmal, desolate place of political carnage, a train filled with desperate and unfortunate people on a break-less path straight into the rock-hard fist of an enormous mountain. And knowing your position, as of now, you’re right to believe that’s so.
Here in America, though the basic needs of most people are met. There are no brownouts on a regular basis - the water system is fantastic - highways lead you to all parts of the country - and jobs are relatively plentiful all around. For basic sustenance - America is fine.
However, not everything that glitters in America is gold. Beautiful postcards of San Francisco show a picturesque scene of cable cars but a block away from the cable car turnabout people beg in the street, folks line up along soup kitchens and those in raggedy clothes push shopping carts filled with plastic bags. In Tennessee, where your Auntie lives, Wal-Mart may have low, low prices but just down a couple of streets, trailer parks exist where clothes hang outside to dry, trash is strewn on neglected lawns and the road not only has potholes but isn’t even paved. And in the city of Brotherly Love, known for the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, places just north of there look like Afghanistan. Vacant lots piled with trash and abandoned cars abound while the row houses that are still up are either boarded up or have only half or a third of their original structures remaining.
Britney Spears and Jennifer Simpson are those who we export to the world but believe it or not, most of the people living in their hometowns do not look anything like them. Two-thirds of the country is overweight and even worst one-third of them are considered obese. Sometimes whole families from the grandparents to the grandchildren could be seen overweight in your local store. If it’s not hunger that’s killing Americans, it’s all the other aliments caused by obesity like diabetes to heart diseases. However advanced the United States is in freeway infrastructure from Los Angeles’ multiple highways to Atlanta’s multilane freeways, it hasn’t cured us from hours of disabling traffic. And understanding your impression of America, maybe you think malls in America would be 10 times more impressive than yours. I wish. We’d all be lying if we told you that much of the stuff filling those balikbayan boxes came not from warehouse-like complexes but from impressive glittering mega-malls better than those in the Philippines. If they are, let me tell you - they’re lying.
This is the America that those on in the outside world may not see. Of course, there are some parts of the United States that are indeed wealthy and even a few which are healthy but the fact that parts of Detroit and Washington D.C. resemble Third World countries and one-eight of the people in New York City have diabetes may surprise you. These are usually hidden secrets only exposed when mortifying catastrophes occurs like in New Orleans when even development starts showing signs of the undeveloped.
Now, I’m not trying to discourage you from coming here. Even with all that, relatively speaking, America is in much better shape than the Philippines or a good chuck of the rest of the world. But at least we haven’t given you false hopes about America. - PDM
See this article,"Dear Cousins," in Philippine News. Click here.