By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City
A few months ago, I wrote to describe the balikbayan (literally meaning returning home) box as the receptacle of thoughtfulness and nostalgia of Filipinos who are living away from home. Filling this box with goodies, from coffee, chocolates, kitchen utensils, towels, shoes, to signature clothes and bags has become quite a habit for most Filipinos who would naturally remember their families as they live in America, the most materially abundant country in the world.
Sending out balikbayan boxes with these goodies are, for the most part, a way to cope with homesickness and the wish-you-were-here feeling of nostalgic Filipinos.
But I believe that our thoughtfulness, contained in the balikbayan box, has to transcend the immediate relief of nostalgia and necessity.
My wish is for Filipinos to think outside the balikbayan box, focusing on concerns for education with emphasis on agriculture and science, and investments on land development and entrepreneurial progress. These endeavors mean a lasting impact in making our families and communities more independent and self-sustaining.
Regardless of the futility and uselessness of the national government in ensuring the quality of life for Filipinos, the paradigm of development based on agriculture-based education and entrepreneurial development has silently proven itself to be reliable in stabilizing family economies.
“Small and beautiful” and “bottoms up” development is the route of how Filipinos alleviate themselves in a concerted manner (while I suppose fighting corruption beginnning at upper echelons of government). The truth is, the ordinary Filipinos could not and never really depended on the national government for their lives.
What has it ensured for the Filipinos? Roads and bridges? Police protection and safety? A few kilograms of rice and cans of sardines after a typhoon? Quality health care? Nothing much! The ordinary Filipinos actually just survived through the thoughtfulness of family and friends. Government institutions have largely been shamefully useless.
So now, more than ever, we need to think of long-term doable efforts to rely on ourselves, in honesty and hardwork, through education and making land productive and healthy. My friends, this is sustainable development in its element.
I could not help but mention the foresight and faith of Vicky Wallace, a widow, nurse and mother of two teenage children, who set up what is now one of the most popular sites of healthy restaurants in the province of Bohol, the Bohol Bee Farm and Restaurant. She serves delicious, healthy food grown right from her own land, with the faith that it is a kick start of making land more productive and providing healthy food for a happy people, by educating farmers to use environment-friendly technologies.
That simple, that doable, and it is happening right now, with the likes of Vicky Wallace at the helm. So I would like to stir the imagination of well-meaning entrepreneurs and those who have the capital and foresight to do it. All we need is to think outside the balikbayan box, and invest on land and education for a healthier and happier us.
Click here to connect http://www.fraserbasin.bc.ca/about_fbc_history.html