Cross-Country For Solidarity

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

By God’s grace, Dr. Eustaquio “Boy” Abay and I have begun a 12-day journey from San Diego to Boston via Texas, Florida and New York. This cross-country idea was originally meant to be with more friends who share a common vision, but only two of us were able to force our schedule to accommodate this trip. It is shorter by a week, though, due to the demands of our respective responsibilities.
As senior citizens by the criteria of both egroups MBASA and ADMU616569, Boy Abay or Boy A, and Boy Montelibano or Boy M, we do not feel our age, or we refuse to. As a compromise to our attachment to comfort, we originally attempted to schedule our travel for three weeks although it could have been done in half the time. When finally it was decided that we would leave San Diego on May 31, Sunday (today), and arrive at Boston on June 11, to join 600 others in the June 12 – 15 GK Global Summit there, we still thought we had more than enough time to avoid any rush at any day.

Well, we were wrong. Once we had detailed our schedule, which included, of course, pit stops in three states which would allow us to meet with other Filipinos and Filipino-Americans along the way, the schedule simply got tighter, so tight that we have had to skip two stops and make do with six. And there will be days when Boy A and I will drive 12 hours so we can make it to the next gathering prepared for us. So, two Boys have better have what it needs to get to the finish line as winners, not stragglers.

Why the journey?

To our minds and hearts, it is clear. We see our people and feel their pain, our people in the Philippines, our people in the United States, and our people spread all over the world. The collective pain comes from shame, most from the pain of poverty, many from the pain of the reputation of a corrupt country, others even from the pain of hunger. The shame is attached to us as a people, whether rich or poor, whether accomplished or not. We have individual lives which differ in many ways, and make us feel differently in many ways. But we also have a collective existence as a people, a race, a bloodline whose DNA was formed and evolved from thousands of islands in the tropics now known as the Philippines. It is in that collective identity that we suffer a collective shame.

As though poverty, corruption and hunger are not enough, Filipinos also kill each other. A history of colonization did not bind us against a common enemy; instead, it tore us apart, prey to Europe’s traditional expertise of dividing conquered peoples so that master nations can rule and exploit. Our divisiveness now stands as the most debilitating weakness that perverts us, eager to think ill of one another while more forgiving to those who raped and looted us – plus anyone who can pay us well. From the gentle native who sculpted mountains in the north to become irrigated rice terraces to seafarers from the south daring seas and oceans thousands of years ago, we finally knelt at the altar of compromise and survival, fearing death and a life of deprivation more than the loss of integrity and honor.

Many of our college classmates have passed away, an inordinate number in my view. Illness and death are now twin realities for seniors, and the most fortunate or healthy still understand that autumn is in full bloom in our lives. But how valuable are our deaths compared to the death of our honor, the death of our pride, the death of our  integrity? What would have been the value of our lives if we had lived in relative convenience while our whole race was being dragged to the mud and our collective face stepped on by the boot of greed and exploitation? How much more ugly has it turned when a few from our own blood graduated from being traitors used by the enemy to traitors who betray from their own greed?

Like men from La Mancha setting forth to fight windmills, Boy A and I refuse to give up on all that is good and noble in Filipinos and take the path which will bring us to meet others who have not given up either. As we drive thousands of miles, our exhaustion is soothed by the love of a homeland that many share with us along the way. In America, we seek those who have grown tired of in-fighting between one another and want to give solidarity a chance, seeking only a good cause to follow. We seek, too, Filipinos born and bred here, and offer ourselves as bridges to a past they may not know but ought to.

We are desperate, not because the challenge is insurmountable, but because we are eager to see victory before our own final rite of passage comes. We have experienced the few, the very few, who know the pain of our people and will give their lives to save them from their horrible fate. We also have seen many whose spirits are already touched and need only to see in the flesh the cause they will fight for. Because we have seen all these, we will bring the good news, we will share the glad tidings, that our sons and daughters are awakening and will rescue the motherland.

It will take much more than two men, both with nicknames “Boy,” to drive across America in order to change the course of history. We are convinced, though, that we can make it turn a little because many have done it before us and many more will push the turn we are helping to strengthen. And at the end of the journey, we know we will be rewarded by the jubilant and nurturing presence of fellow travelers, of ordinary people in an extraordinary journey. We will be in Boston, all believers of Gawad Kalinga, all advocates for Solidarity among Filipinos.

We are One People, and together, we can build nation of our dreams and a future full of hope.

“In bayanihan, we will be our brother’s keeper and forever shut the door to hunger among ourselves.”

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