Inheritance

Back in 2002, I was at my aunt’s house in Chicago, complaining to my grandmother about having to go back to get another college degree after my art degree and general lack of artistic skill failed to get me a job, or a worker’s visa for that matter.

“Our family used to own lands,” said my grandmother.

I blinked. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“You are the eldest son of my eldest son,” she replied. “Those lands would have been your inheritance.”

My father would later explain to me that the government of the Philippines had distributed those lands to the tenants that worked on them, as part of a land reform program. A good thing for those tenants, and they deserved it anyway, for all their hard work. I didn’t know what I would do if I owned those lands, except collect rent maybe, and getting rich off of something I didn’t work for seems weird to me.

“And?”

My grandmother adjusted her thick glasses as her voice became quiet and serious. “This is your inheritance,” she said, sweeping her hand in the direction of the window. “The privilege to study here, in the United States – this is your inheritance now.”

My grandmother is a highly intelligent lady who had been a principal of a school in the Philippines, and to her, education was one of the most important things in the world. Her words silenced any objections I may have had.

“I understand,” I said. “No more complaints.”

(Edit: My parents know, however, that I have complained a lot in the years since.)

As a nurse, my father is well aware of the problems of the USA’s health care system. As a teacher, my mother knows that the educational system also leaves much to be desired. America has problems, for sure. But that does not change what they told me, long ago:

“America is the land of opportunity,” they said. “You have a better chance of making your dream come true here, than anywhere else in the world.”

And they believed it, or they wouldn’t have made the effort to migrate here.

Yesterday, Monday the 30th of August 2010, my parents took the oath that made them citizens of the United States of America.

I myself won’t become a citizen until 2017, at the earliest. But I have continued to persevere, going back to school for my third degree after the new immigration restrictions rendered me underqualified for a green card. And while going to school while having a job is difficult on the schedule, I’m glad that all I have to do is spend $1000+ a month and work 60 hours a week. There are many prospective immigrants who would love to be in my place.

There is a cloud of guilt that hangs over the head of any Filipino who chooses to migrate to America. “Don’t abandon your country,” it says. “You have been given wealth and education so you can use it to help others. Return home and help make life better for your true people.” I do donate to Children International to sponsor a child in the Philippines, and my parents and I send money back to my brother and our other relatives there – money we would not have if we weren’t working in the USA. And part of the Philippine economy is driven by money sent home by overseas workers. That doesn’t change the fact that “fleeing” the Philippines is selfish, even if it is to have a better life for yourself and your descendants.

But you know what? I’m fine with that.

The many years of working and waiting have finally paid off for my parents, and they have given me hope that one day, I too will be able to call myself an American. There are Americans who take their citizenship for granted. There are even a small number of Americans who hate their own country. But my parents and I will not be counted among them.

Instead of giving me lands for “mana” (the Filipino word for “inherit”), my grandmother and my parents have given me the opportunity to study and work in the United States, and to eventually become a citizen of this great country.

And I know that’s a worthy inheritance.

14 Responses to “Inheritance”

  1. falkonus says:

    cool story bro

  2. Sixten says:

    @above: I can’t tell if people are being sarcastic, so I will assume not.

    I tried writing “I hope to someday take advantage of being a member of a powerful nation that got that way only by exploiting weaker nations through military and economic force”, and decided I didn’t like the sound of that at all.

    While I was an anti-war protester back when the government was thinking of invading Iraq, and disagree with many actions of government both then and now, I do realize that the USA has more values than just power, and those other values – diligence, diversity, and freedom – help just as much to make the country strong.

    I guessed I might open a can of worms by talking about this (and I have deleted previous “serious mode” posts like this in the past for fear of stepping on people’s toes) but I just felt it needed to be said.

  3. Zeroblade says:

    Hmm, where do I start…

    First off, props to talking about this – I avoid making serious mode posts like this because I’m not really fond of talking serious in general.

    My whole life, I’ve attended Catholic private schools (actually just 2 LOL), and they constantly drill into us the ideas of social responsibility, using ones gifts to help better the Philippines, etc. I’m cool with it, but I also understand that not everyone holds the same high ideals – I doubt I do.

    Doubtless, some people will be offended of your so-called betrayal, but the way I see it, self and family are at least just as important as your country, and I respect you and your family’s decision to support one over the other. If anything, you’re still doing something to help someone, rather than just sitting there any whining about how people are fleeing the Philippines. Heck, the country owes a lot to OFWs who continue to send Dollars in, Filipino citizen or otherwise.

    On a side note, you should totally come over and visit sometime~

  4. I’ve never understood the significance of being born in or to a people who live in a stretch of land that a particular government circled and said “mine” while giving it a name. So as a result I never understood the reasons to consider myself a traitor (granted, I’m sure being a traitor to Hong Kong is quite different, since it’s a ridiculously globalized area).

    Anyways, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with going to the country where its education (in the university level) is by far the most universally respected. I don’t see why what the country should matter at all; you’re just going to the school that would benefit you most.

  5. linger says:

    Nice post. Serious things need to be talked about. Men can’t just distract ourselves with fairies and games all day.

    The US education system can only be saved by one thing: the people being educated actually taking it seriously. So inspirational stuff like this is just what’s needed.

  6. GoldenSunfreak says:

    This is some really deep stuff. I’m glad you’re able to post this entry, cause it makes me think about all the stuff I have and that I’ve taken it all for granted.

  7. Anon says:

    Not sure what to say, but congrates on the parents getting citizenship.

  8. rrjm says:

    One thing I am sure though is that your grandchildren won’t feel your guilt.

    as for you, I guess to each his own. 🙂

  9. Frein says:

    You don’t have to feel too much guilt for long; the US economy is closing in on the cliff edge. The government will go bankrupt and there will be rioting on the streets.

  10. aFilipino says:

    You’re not betraying anyone, the country you turned your back on is dead. There’s nothing to turn your back to, the Philippines in my book has long ceased to be a country, sure it has people, defined territory but it doesn’t have a government anymore and lets face it, it relies on foreign powers so much that it can’t survive without external aid.

    Just enjoy the life you have now.

    P.S. Don’t go home, ever. Your ‘true people’ will kill you at the first opportunity, they will take everything you know and love if they can gain anything from it.

    Yours Truly,
    A Filipino

  11. riptide_director says:

    P.S. Don’t go home, ever. Your ‘true people’ will kill you at the first opportunity, they will take everything you know and love if they can gain anything from it.

    Yours Truly,
    A Filipino

    How sad coming from a Filipino, its no issue if your former country is no longer in your book, not all Filipinos are the same if you had some unfortunate experience do not include each citizen of that country.

  12. aFilipino says:

    Former country? Sir, I still live in this miserable hell-hole. I have no love for it, I tried, I did my part to contribute to the country but the only thing I gained from it was the realization that this country is rotten to the core. You’re probably one of the few good souls left in this country, but I stand by what I say and I can prove all my claims if I have to.

    Yours Truly,
    A Filipino

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