No place like home

It was already late in the evening when I finally got out of the airport in Los Angeles, and I was surprised that some of my old friends, actually my “brods” in the UP Beta Sigma Fraternity, were there to meet me.

They insisted that we go for a late night dinner, even if I was really dead tired from the 12-hour flight from Manila.

“Mangugumusta lang kami tungkol sa bayan natin, brod” remarked Nonoy Bautista, who now lives in downtown LA, after retiring as a finance analyst in New York. He briefly returned home to help an old company where he started to work, but his wife Ivy works for the American Apparel, and he had no choice but to join her in the so-called “city of angels.”

Then there was Edsel Arceo, who was still wearing his business suit, being a manager in the LA Water and Power. It turned out they were glued on television, watching the embarrassing hostage-taking drama in Mnaila, and were eager to get an update.

“Maapektuhan kaya si Noynoy Aquino sa nangyari?” Edsel asked.

Like Nonoy, Edsel  looks forward to retiring in the Philippines. They feel that only Noynoy can finally weed out corruption in the system.

Before the elections, Edsel actually organized a medical mission of US- based Filipino doctors and led a high school basketball team of Fil-Am players for a series of friendly games with local schools for the exposure trip in the Philippines.

“Pero kahit mahirap ang bansa natin, lahat kami dito nag-iisip pa rin mag-retire sa ‘Pinas,” he said.

Nonoy pointed out they even if they have become  “slaves of the dollar” and forced to become naturalized Americans, they have not really lost their love for the country.

In fact, Sonny Pagador, who fled to the US at the height of the martial law years, said he plans to return home with his wife Edith after their two children have completed high school so they can continue with their university education in the Philippines.

The Pagadors are US registered nurses, but  Sonny said he had always longed for the day that he could raise his children in his own country. For starters, he had leased a farm in Mindanao where he has planted bananas. He had also linked up with Sam Strong, whose family has pioneered in the rubber plantations in the south.

“Pero lahat n’yan mga plano lang. Ang final decision pa rin ay nasa mga asawa namin,” chuckled Bernie Bacosa, who once handled Puma products when he was still based in Jakarta. This time, he was keeping himself busy with his art photography in the United States since his wife Nancy was assigned as an accountant in an LA-based multinational firm.

Our dinner at a modest deli ended until the wee hours of the morning simply because they have so many questions to ask. They wanted to hear how  we are coping with the global crisis, considering that the United States was facing a serious recession, and most Filipinos who were displaced have begun thinking of returning home.

Sad to say, they still looked pessimistic about the situation. Some of their questions were “ Kumusta na ang peace and order sa atin?” “Bumubuti na ba buhay sa atin? “‘Di na ba ‘ulol’ ang mga pulitiko natin?”

But I told them that the President is actually visiting the US. He could very well explain the situation and his plans for the country.

“Huwag na ako ang kulitin n’yo. Parang kayo, ganyan din ang mga tanong ko sa bayan natin,” I said.

Yet I realized that although they have become successful in their career in the US, they really miss the country. There is still no place like home. Hoy/Joel Paredes

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