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What Labor Day Means to Me

When I was still in elementary, people always talked about brain drain; like it’s cancer, spreading slowly across the country, destined to kill us one day.

I remember the papers saying that the first professionals we’ve lost to other countries were our teachers, the finest and best of them. A couple of patriots back then would always preach to us about serving our country when we join the labor force one day.

But five to seven years later, what happened? We’ve even lost more people to other countries.

The second great wave of people we’ve sent abroad were our nurses. I remember I was already in high school then, about to go to college. People wanted what the white cap and the white uniform could bring, more food to the table, a breather from further debt. What has happened to serving our country?

A couple of years later we would learn and realize that through our GNP, our OFWs are the reason why our economy is still alive, barely competing with our neighboring countries, but still alive. To better the economic situation of the country, the government encouraged remittances. And so everyone wanted someone from their family to work abroad. Imagine what the minimum wage in other countries can bring to one’s table here. More food. Water. Electricity. The basic necessities of life. Again, what has happened to serving our country?

As of today, the Philippines is known for being one of the biggest sources of BPOs in the world. Call centers have mushroomed overnight in key city areas of our country. Graduates of big universities tend to work in multinational companies instead of setting up their own and offering employment to others.Yes, we get to stay in our own country today, but where is our heart? Isn’t it not at home?

As we celebrate Labor Day on May 1, issues on increase in wages, living expenditures in Metro Manila and the number of discontented and unhappy employees arise. These issues reflect the problems we have to face as a nation.

According to my Economics professor, a lot of people are underemployed today. We cannot erase the fact that people are not free enough to choose what they really want to do in life because of financial problems and other priorities that must be dealt with first before they could actually do something about their own dreams.

I guess that is what we lack, as a people, as a nation. We lack the dream that fuels our lives, that propels us to be something far greater than ourselves. In contrast, we are taught to do what is needed, what is practical. And so the things we do tend to be mechanical, lacking of personal meaning and fulfillment.

Unions fighting for an increase in minimum wage reflect another problem, however. This shows that people are not well taken cared of, are not protected from financial abuse and discomfort. But then again, in order for one to be able to take care of others, one must know how to take care of himself first. We may know how to care for ourselves and survive, but properly caring for our country is something we weren’t taught to do. Maybe we were, but we lack the encouragement or inspiration to do so. Perhaps we are even disheartened to even begin to care, knowing it wouldn’t get us that much further.

But, let us take a look at our future. Take a glimpse of where we are by then. Would you want your children to suffer inasmuch as we are having a hard time right now? Would you like your grandchildren to finish college and remain unemployed?

Readers of mine, the answer to the questions is not to flee the country nor to work for a foreign company as well. It is to stay here, to learn to love our country just as much as we love those who are important to us.

The answer to our problems is not to run away from them but to face them with courage and determination. To dream a dream, not only for ourselves but for our country too. To fuel that dream with hope, passion and life. That it may be the reason you wake up every morning, get out of bed and head to work.