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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Exodus of Filipino People: For Better or For Worse?


In her winning piece “A Borderless World,” Patricia Evangelista quoted “We are the 40, 000 skilled nurses who support the United Kingdom’s National Health Service. We are the quarter-of-a-million seafarers manning most of the world’s commercial ships. We are your software engineers in Ireland, your construction workers in the Middle East, your doctors and caregivers in North America, and your musical artists in London’s West End.”

Filipinos are around the world, placing second if not the highest migrant population worldwide. (Bagasao, 2003) It is not flabbergasting to hear that almost 10% of the Filipinos are out of the country, working abroad. Most of them labor in the Middle East. They have blue-collar jobs like construction worker, carpenter, and driver. Next is Eastern and Southern Asia where more than 90,000 Overseas Filipino Workers, or OFW’s, work as caregivers and domestic helpers, commonly called as DH, in Hong Kong. Europe has at least 770,000, America has more than 840,000, and Africa has not less than 41,000 (Bagasao, 2003). These “new economic heroes” grew by 11.73% from 2004 to 2005 and almost half of them are based in Saudi Arabia, according to POEA. At most 8 million OFW’s work abroad. It is very alarming. It is an ill that badly need a panacea.

However, Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas looks at it not as an illness but rather a contribution. She once said, “It’s not politically correct to say you’re exporting people, but it’s part of globalization, and I like to think that countries like ours, rich in human resources, have that to contribute to the rest of the world.” (Diamond, 1999) This is a mere euphemism of the fact that Philippines is now faced with joblessness. She views Filipino migration as a part of globalization and an involvement to world transition. But does she ever wonder if the migrant workers think the same way?

Orthodox Immigration Theory states that the advent of the Overseas Contract Workers can be explained by push and pull factors. (San Juan Jr., 2002) Apparently, there are several push and pull factors why Filipinos migrate to other countries; however, they are trying to escape not only the problems being suffered by the country but also their homeland in totality.

“Events and conditions that impel an individual to move from a location” are called push factors, on one hand. (Knox and Marston, 1998) In the Philippine setting, unemployment, low wages, poverty, political instability and dwindling economy push away the countrymen abroad.

Every year, many young and brilliant minds graduate from college. They have the potentials, skills, and talents. They bear new ideas. They have the capabilities to solve the problems of the country. The bad thing is the government cannot supply jobs suitable for them. As of 2005, the unemployment rate went up to 11.7%. (CIA World Fact Book, 2005) Thus, their last resort is to immigrate and find job elsewhere. This is the primary reason why nursing schools have sprouted like mushrooms all over the country. The in-demand job abroad is nursing. Now, the US market seeks nurses from foreign countries. The shortage of nurses will worsen as the baby boomers retire. A lack of 1 million nurses is expected by 2012 in the US according to Bureau of Labor Statistics experts. Other reasons why they take up nursing are being practical, many opportunities, great financial rewards and benefits, and not time-consuming. And since the government is not capable of giving job opportunities for the young blood, they would rather choose to take up nursing and, after finishing the course, they would fly abroad and work there for better opportunities.

Today, the minimum wage of an ordinary laborer is Php. 325.00 a day. It is not enough to buy daily necessities, to earn a living, to feed a family, and to provide other basic needs. Another push factor is the low salary the employers offer. Filipinos would opt to have low wages in abroad, specifically in Hong Kong where some OFW’s receive more or less Php10, 000.00 a month, than to stay in the country with nothing. Filipinos who have blue-collar jobs would want to fly abroad and try their luck most especially in the Middle East because they would not earn money here as big as they will in other countries. Furthermore, the number of nursing students, for instance, has skyrocketed because most countries in America and Canada hire a large number of nurses and offer a very high pay. United Kingdom offers 18,698 euros as a starting salary. (Nursing UK, 2005) In United States, a clinical nurse will earn US $39,500-64,000 a year. (Nurses Salary, 2004) Because of the exchange rate of Philippine peso with US Dollar and Euro, the figures aforementioned will be a big money. Compared to the nurses in the country, they only earn an average of Php. 9,000 monthly in urban areas while Php. 3,000 - 4,000.00 in provinces. It is truly a huge difference. This is one of the problems of the Filipinos. They want instant gratification.

Filipinos actually have to work very hard abroad. It is the fault of the government. In 1999, the labor force of the Philippines was composed of 32 million people. By the following year, it elevated geometrically to 48.1 million. However, when 2005 arrived, it diminished to 35.9 million Filipinos. (CIA World Fact Book, 2005) And the reason for that dramatic decline is the migration of the Filipinos who are drowned in poverty belonging to the 40% of the population below poverty line. (CIA World Fact Book, 2005) And the immediate solution for poverty is to emigrate.

Political instability is an additional push factor. Now, the political arena is always in the limelight. Debates are very inevitable in the Senate and Congress. Different issues regarding the government have sprung up and these have instigated confusion and uncertainty in each and every Filipino people. The advent of the Garci tapes which say that there was an election fraud, the coup d’etat plot against the administration of Arroyo, the repression of the media are some of the political problems of the Philippines. The country turns out to be chaotic and murky. Due to that, economy’s “take-off” seems so unattainable. Entrepreneurs and foreign investors would choose to leave the country and to look for other country that is economically and politically secure wherein they are assured and confident of their capital and profit as well. Therefore, there would be less investors and employees yielding to less job opportunities. This will result to emigration of Filipinos. As a matter of fact, the figures from POEA say there was a growth of 11.73% in the number of OFW’s.

On the other hand, pull factors are the “forces of attraction that influence migrants to move to a particular location.” (Knox and Marston, 1998) A pull factor can be highly personal or even structural. Personal desires, security, economic stability, and of course, well-paid job opportunities are enveloped in it.

Filipinos seek for “greener pastures” and they are able to see such in other countries. They want to go abroad because they like the culture, lifestyle, sceneries, and atmosphere there. For example, some Filipinos think that if they reach America, they are already in 7th heaven. They look up to America because they believe that people there are liberated, free, and principled. Perhaps, their way of living triggers Filipinos to immigrate in the United States. Perhaps, because of the American Invasion way back then, Filipinos acquired colonial mentality and crab mentality; that’s why they are really eager to go there. Also, they want to go there because they have relatives or friends living there. All these and more personal reasons are considered as pull factors.

Another highly personal factor is to experience the pleasure of adventure. “Migration is seen as freedom to seek one’s fortune.” (San Juan Jr., 2002) Going abroad is challenging, thrilling, and exciting. There are people who really love adventures. And to quench their thirst for that, they would go to other country which they think that it would be a lot of fun and excitement and that they could search their fortune there. In addition to that, 54 out of 78 respondents of a survey said they would have a chance to work in a different environment and to acquire new knowledge. (Labor Migration, 2005)

Pull factors can also be structural. One of which is economic stability. They are eager to immigrate to another country because its economy is stable. It implies that there are many employers and investors there. Job opportunities are found everywhere. And they do not offer meager salaries. Jobs are very well-paid and sufficient to sustain basic need. Working here as a crew in a fast food chain offers inadequate pay but working as such in United States, for instance, gives a salary higher than that of a fast food manager here. And these jobs invite Filipino to transfer to another country.

In addition to that, the security of the place is another factor to be considered. Lesser crimes, lesser political squabbles, lesser divisiveness, lesser economic problems, and lesser graft and corruption define security. Though very idealistic, many people see these in other countries. And all of these pull them to migrate elsewhere considering the fact that Philippines experiences crisis.

Filipino Diaspora brings about impacts to the migrants and to their homeland as well. It may be positive like remittances and sufficient income or it may also be negative like migrant worker exploitation, broken families, racial discrimination, identity crisis, and brain drain.

Based from the report of Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), a total of US $ 9,727,138 was remitted by the OFW’s last year with a growth rate of 26.63% from 2004 to 2005. The dollar remittances add to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to come up with the Gross National Product (GDP). In 2004, the GDP of the country reached US $430.6 billion. (CIA World Fact Book, 2005) And if the OFW remittances would be added, the GNP would be very large. Indeed, the OFW dollar remittances contribute a lot to keep the economy afloat. Nonetheless, two years ago, US $ 55.6 billion of the GNP was allotted for the external debt. And this trend would not stop because the external debt is a very big amount. The country cannot pay the whole thing so the remaining balance would still continue to grow due to its annual interest which makes it bigger.

Another advantage of the exodus of the Filipino people in the economic aspect is it meets the needs of the migrant’s family. The income, most likely, is enough to send their children to school, to purchase appliance and furniture, to put up a small business, or to have personal savings. Additionally, 32% and 36% of the income go to household expenses and payment of debts, respectively. But still, working abroad alleviates their living condition. This, perhaps, caused the 1% decrease on the Filipinos below poverty line from 1997 to 2001. (CIA World Fact Book, 2005)

On the other side, brutal treatment to the migrant workers tops the list of the negative impacts. Exploited Filipino workers are a never-ending story. Every year, there are always cases of abused OFW’s. Who can forget Flor Contemplacion who died and suffered from injustice in Singapore? Another famous OFW who experienced harassment is Sarah Balabagan who defended herself against her boss who tried to sexually abuse her. Other tormenting experiences also happened to Maria Reyes, a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia, who was maltreated physically by her atrocious employer, to Glenda Giron Lorio, a DH in Hong Kong, who was found lifeless after a certain Michael Emeka left her corpse in a manhole, and to Sarah Jane Demetera, a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia, who was framed because her employer was murdered four days after she went there. (Briola, 2000) More of these unjust and cruel acts are experienced by some OFW’s all over the globe.

Racial discrimination is also an issue linked to migration. “Each square mile anywhere in the world is made up of people of different ethnicities, with national identities and individual personalities. Because of this, each square mile is already a microcosm of the world,” Evangelista stressed out in her speech. (“A Borderless World,” 2005) But the fact that there is a sense of foreignness cannot be evaded. People in receiving countries may treat Filipinos in a brutal way, may make them feel alienated, or may discriminate them because of race. They may suffer from ethnic exclusion and inferiorization from the inhabitants there. In the Middle East, Filipino domestic helpers are treated as slaves. This has yielded maltreatment and death of Filipinos there. In US and Canada are racially dubbed as “absconders” and “political terrorists” along with the Arabs, Palestines, and other migrants from developing countries in the ongoing war of terror being led by US government. (Migrante, 2004) Exceptions from these are the Filipino communities in United States and Canada to name a few. In contrary, alienation in the host country unites Filipinos because they have a “shared history of colonial and racial subordination and marginalization.” They also struggle for cultural survival through “hybrid forms of resistance and political rebellion.” (San Juan Jr., 2002)

Additionally, this may yield to identity crisis to Filipinos. When OFW’s experience the life abroad and realize that life there is much better than life in the Philippines, they may decide to alter their citizenship and to live there for lifetime. Migration brings about identity crisis in this case because it gives the migrant workers second thought in staying in their homeland or leaving for better. Then, the patriotism in their hearts will eventually fade away leaving the country hopeless and helpless. This just suggests that Filipinos will not come back to the “site of misery and oppression – to poverty, exploitation, humiliated status, unemployment, hunger, and lack of dignity.” (San Juan Jr., 2002) Hence, they will either be ethnocentric, believing that their own race is the most important and superior to those of other groups, or xenocentric, believing that other nations is more important than the well-being of one’s own compatriots. (Wikipedia, 2005) Those xenocentric workers are those who will leave the country.rfor better. Then, the patriotism in their hearts will eventually fade away leaving the country hopeless and helpless. Th

Another disadvantage of Filipino diaspora is working abroad breaks up families. Migrant workers are forced to leave the country and as well as their families. Children grow up without love and values parents should give because they are apart. No one will give proper guidance to the children unless their guardians are as good as their parents. Children’s longing for their parents is also a problem but they are just forced to work abroad because of money matters.
ill leave the country. other groups, or xenocentric, believing that other nations is mor
To sending countries like the Philippines, most people who compose the society may be encouraged to also leave their motherland for the betterment of their lives. Thus, the country will be left by people who have potentials to solve the crisis experienced by the country. This is the so-called “Brain Drain.” 10.82% of the Filipino migrants are the Professional, Technical and Related workers. They are roughly 740,000. The major reason for this is unemployment. They, most especially the professionals who earned masteral and doctoral degree, grab the opportunities abroad because they can earn more and learn more as well compared here in the country. Instead of contributing to the progress of the country in the field of science, particularly, they let the foreigners enslave them and use the products of their intelligence. For example, lack of skilled doctors and nurses has downgraded the services of hospitals. They leave instead of improving medical services and update the facilities and procedures. According to the National Institute of Health, 3,000 doctors and more than 50,000 nurses have left the country since 2002. The doctors take up nursing course, which de-skill them, so they could go to US for immediate employment. (Zenarosa, 2005) hildren en The by-product of this is a deserted and dilapidated country with a bleak future.

In conclusion, most Filipinos, if not all, make use of migration to escape not only the economy, poverty, and the employment, but the Philippines and everything that comes with it. First, the Diaspora melts down the patriotism in the hearts of the Filipinos because if they really love their country, they will stay and try to be possible problem-solvers. They would rather abandon the country and seek “heaven” somewhere else. Second, it turns migrants to be apathetic of anything that may happen in the country. They would rather concentrate in their jobs to earn more money and do anything for their own sake, thus being selfish. Lastly, Philippines will be sooner or later drained and left with unpreserved cultural heritage.

Now, will Filipinos who have migrated to create new nations essentially remain who they are as Evangelista claimed? And are the Filipino migrants know that this so-called “part of globalization” will eventually wreck their sense of nationalism and soon their motherland? ■

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