So: I lacked connections to succeed in PH ‘culture’
Super Grandmaster Wesley So tried to sugarcoat it, but his statement following his officially becoming a United States citizen was a punch to the gut for Philippine sports, and for the “godfather” culture prevalent in Filipino society.
Saying he still “loved the Philippines,” So expressed elation over receiving his citizenship papers last Feb. 26, about seven years after first defecting to the US Chess Federation (USCF).
“I love that anyone can strive to succeed [here],” So told the USCF. “You are not held back by your color, lack of connections or the amount of money you have. If you work hard, you have a better chance of making it here than anywhere else in the world. I came here ready to work hard, and it turned out just as I dreamed.”
So bolted the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) and joined USCF in 2014, saying he saw no path to his goal as a Philippine national athlete.
‘Not a city boy’
“I did not have the connections needed to succeed in that culture,” said the 27-year-old So, who hails from Bacoor, Cavite, lamenting the prevalence of the “godfather” culture in Filipino society, where those with connections can easily make their way to the top.
“I was from the province, not a city boy. Had no money etc. I wanted to go further, and there was only one country a nobody can make it. The USA!” added So.
So, who now resides in Excelsior, Minnesota, has been representing the United States since 2014 and he has risen to as high as No. 2 in the world ranking and is currently ranked ninth in the world by the International Chess Federation (Fide). As a Filipino, he rose to as high as 12th in the Fide rankings.
“That does not mean I don’t love the Philippines,” So said. “I have good memories from there.”
So first emigrated to the United States in 2012 to join Webster University’s chess team.
“I want to give back to a country that has been so good to me. From the moment I landed here I was encouraged and enabled to become better than I was. I like this attitude and the tremendous generosity of American culture,” So said.
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