BAGUIO CITY—Saying that the Philippines needs them to help make it “a new Asian tiger,” United States Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. on Friday urged Filipino youth to stay in the country, instead of pursuing their dream of working in the United States.
Speaking at the 67th commencement exercises of the University of the Cordilleras here, Thomas said the country “can be an Asian tiger, but with your help.”
“When you’re out making your millions…when you are out becoming a Manny Pangilinan or even a Sarah Geronimo, volunteer! Give back! Give thanks. Be Jose Rizal. Be Cory Aquino. You have to do this, your nation needs you,” he said.
No need to go to US
Addressing 800 graduates, Thomas said: “How many of you are going to the US? So would I. That was just a joke. You don’t need to go to the US. You need to stay here. If you go to the US, you need to be Jose Rizal. He went abroad, got an education, and came home and sacrificed and rebuilt for his nation. He is the ‘bayani (hero)’ because he did that.”
He added: “Now we very much welcome Filipinos in the US. We have 4.5 million Filipinos plus a few TNTs (‘Tago nang Tago’ or undocumented immigrants), and we are very happy to have them.”
Filipino teachers are finding lucrative jobs in the United States, he said, describing them as “reverse Thomasites,” a reference to the Americans who sailed to the Philippines onboard the ship, USAT Thomas, to serve as the country’s first public school teachers.
Country needs you
“But Baguio needs Filipinos, Manila needs Filipinos, your country needs you,” Thomas said.
He said the US Peace Corps is his country’s expression of volunteerism, from which the graduates could derive lessons, including the aspirations of murdered Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell.
Campbell became a topic because of a UC resolution handed to Thomas by UC Chair Geronimo Salvosa, which expressed “deep sadness” that the American was killed in Ifugao in April 2007 by an Ifugao woodcarver, who claimed to have mistaken her for a tourist with which he had issues.
The UC resolution also said the Philippines “appreciates the commitment of the people of America to render direct community services to people across the globe as represented by Peace Corps volunteers.”
Acknowledging the resolution, Thomas said: “You are going to the polls on Monday and in the US we say, ‘You get the government you deserve. We can never complain because we elected them.” Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon