On giving back

By Joel P. Longares

THERE IS a Tagalog saying “Ang hindi lumingon sa pinaggalingan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.” Roughly translated, it means “He who does not look back to his beginnings will never reach his destination.”

There have been many interpretations to this favorite Filipino proverb, but the most accepted is that one has to remember who helped him to fully achieve success in life.

“Utang na loob” is a very important phrase for Filipinos. So is giving back. Giving back is the reason overseas Filipinos send hundreds of thousands of balikbayan boxes and billions of dollars every year to the family and friends they left behind. But giving back does not only mean repaying one’s “utang na loob.” It means, more than anything else, sharing what you have earned in life to the people and the community that nurtured you as you journeyed through life.

Arthur Ashe, the first black Wimbledon champion and a civil rights activist, once said: “From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” We can attain all the riches and successes in life, but in the end, the thing that matters most is what you give back that improves the life of others.

One doesn’t have to be rich to give back. If he does not have the wealth to share, he can give back in other ways, such as by rendering community service, donating the clothes and the items you no longer use, soliciting toys or books for the underprivileged children back home, and so many other ways.

An Arab proverb says: “If you have much, give of your wealth; if you have little give of your heart.”

Filipinos in America and other parts of the world have been giving back to the homeland in so many ways, both individually and as groups. Many Filipinos not only regularly send balikbayan boxes of gifts and goodies, and money remittances to their loved ones in the Philippines, but give back in other ways, such as helping send nephews and nieces to school, or sending money for home repairs or for capital for a family business.

Some Filipinos use part of their savings to fund scholars in their alma mater, or buy computers, or books or microscopes for their former high school.

Filipino organizations, on the other hand, establish scholarship programs, donate books, computers and other educational supplies to their provincial schools, some even donate used firetrucks or ambulance, send medical missions to faraway barangays, donate medicine and medical supplies to their province’s health centers, etc.

The bottom line is that sometime in their lives, Filipinos realize the need to give back to the family, friends, schools and communities that helped them become what they are now. Filipinos never forget those they left behind, and they do their own share to help them improve their own lives.

I have long found the beauty of giving back. I grew up a poor boy in the farming town of Mambusao in Capiz, and I promised to myself when I left the province to seek better opportunities in Manila and abroad that I would someday come back and give back to this town and province that provided me the challenges and motivation to get to where I am now.

I always try to find time to be with my fellow Capizenos whenever I am in the Philippines to help them in my own small way. Although Capiz could not give me then the opportunities that I needed to improve my life and achieve my goals, it offered me the challenges that I needed to establish the foundations of my life. For this I am forever thankful, and I am now ready to share both of my wealth and of my heart.

(joelplongares@yahoo.com)

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