I recall having this one conversation with a high school friend where we talked about plans during and after college. “I’m going to get my master’s degree and leave the country, seek out the masters and the pioneers. Learn from them. You know, master the craft. How about you?” I casually asked him . “I’ll probably open a restaurant sometime in the future. Tara, let’s open a Noli and El Fili inspired restaurant,” he said with a slight grin. “Let’s open it here in the country. I don’t really have plans on leaving anyways,” he told me as he touched on the idea.

At first I was surprised when he told me he didn’t want to leave the country when there are so many reasons to do so, work opportunities and peace of mind being some of them. As if on cue, he looked at me and said, “Hey, promise me something, Blaise. When you leave the country, you’re going to have to come back.” I asked him why, “This country ain’t gonna fix itself,” he said, smiling.

For someone like me, there are so many motivations for leaving the country. Perhaps most important is opportunity. As a computer science major, there is only so much you can gain by staying in the Philippines. Entry level software engineers in the Philippines earn a median of P220,000 per year according to job analytics website Payscale. In contrast, a software engineer of the same experience level in the United States will earn a median of around P3.9 million per year, almost 18 times as much as the salary here in the country!

As a computer science major who aims to be part of the academe, my opportunities look as slim as my counterparts in the industry. Government support for local scientists and researchers in the Philippines is hard to come by. In addition, being a computer science academician means most of the pioneers and the mentors of the field are natives of the west. You need to get to the foundations of your theories? Tough luck because the founding fathers are halfway across the globe. Mentorship isn’t the only resource that Philippines lack for members of the academe—we lack research labs, equipment, funding, supporting organizations, and a lot of things among others. This is the very same reason a lot of our local talent jump ship and leave the country. As much as I love this University, there is only so much it can offer compared to the likes of Carnegie Mellon or Stanford when it comes to my key research interests. If I want to pursue my research, there’s no question about leaving the Philippines.

I’ve also got a lot of other motivations, family and political reasons being some. I once woke up to an outrage on social media over some very controversial headlines—SEC orders Rappler to shut down, Licuanan resigns as CHEd chair, and China gains access to Benham Rise. Never did I imagine having to learn about all three in one day as I have very strong opinions over every one of them. There was a point in time where a combination of opportunity-shortage and political instability made me consider giving up on the Philippines and leaving for good, but then, I digress.

Is it selfish of me to leave the country for personal growth and pursuit of my passion? I don’t think so. Is it selfish to leave the country and settle elsewhere for financial stability and related reasons? Maybe. Is it selfish to leave the country because you’ve given up on it? Yes.

It’s perfectly understandable to leave something in search of something better. You leave your job because there’s no more growth for you left in the company. You switch organizations because the other offers you more to learn in the long run. You leave the country because there are more opportunities elsewhere. It’s all perfectly understandable, and more so when we talk about leaving the country. Are you going to leave the Philippines, a place where public service is virtually non-existent and wages are too low to support a comfortable life, for another country that offers more if not better? Of course you will, there’s no math there. But we have to learn that the country will stay this way if we constantly give up on it.

We can’t expect all the pioneers and the founding fathers to be in the Philippines if we, the pioneers of the next generation, all leave. We can’t expect the Philippines to have the next Silicon Valley if we, the catalysts of innovation, all leave. We can’t expect jobs in the Philippines that pay more if we, the local talent and enterprise founders, all leave. We can’t expect our government to straighten up if we, the people responsible to keep it in check, all just give up on it and leave. Perhaps the key takeaway here is that if you’re going to leave, leave with the intention of coming back. Right now, I won’t find all the answers to my research interests here. I’d move out and learn, and ultimately fly back. After all, who’s going to answer the future generation’s questions if we don’t return?

“You’re going to be a prof someday, right Blaise?” He asked. “Yeah,” I smiled at him and replied. He slouched a little and asked if I’m coming back to teach here. “Yup, I will. Gotta give back and pass on the knowledge, right? And besides, we still have to open our restaurant, whatever we’re calling it,” I said while laughing a little. “How about we call it Sa Kubyerta and decorate it like Bapor Tabo?” He said, smiling.

Originally published at The LaSallian.