Sat at home in our home countries, it is doubtful many of us give much thought as to why Filipinos work abroad so much instead of in their own country. We most likely believe it’s a simple matter of poverty alleviation. Well, in a nutshell that would be a correct assumption, but I doubt very much if many of us really do not think about the impact that has on those left behind, nor do we think of why they left in the first place other than for more money. Breaking up families because of poverty is a sad fact of life for many here. Of course, not everyone who leaves is immersed into poverty either. Everyone has his own story.
In our relatively comfortable world, we possibly even frown at how easily they can leave kids behind all for the want of money. Well, the truth is that it’s not always about just wanting money as in just to be wealthier. It’s often about keeping a family fed back home. The real story is often very different to what too many of us assume it is. It’s too much of a simplification to say it’s just about money. In essence it’s often true, but sometimes it’s more about having the chance to earn some. When people are leaving kids behind, it’s usually because of need, and of course, some are fortunate enough after long petition processes to take their offspring with them.
Most do not leave for high salaries by the standards we know. The majority of overseas Filipino workers are low wage earners depending on where they are headed. But that low wage is simply a lot more than the nothing wage some earn in the Philippines. Those in jobs in the Philippines are often massively short of the national minimum wage. There is a minimum wage but more often than not many are not on it, they are well short of that figure.
Some go to advance their careers and were previously doing okay in the Philippines but want the chance to further their skills and prospects, but for many it’s more about need and not want.
We probably seldom think of the hurt and pain of being separated from your family and the difficulties this creates. I doubt if many ask themselves, were they heartbroken when they left? We most likely think that when they get a job in another country, everyone is happy and it’s a great thing for that person and they are lucky. Again, loosely speaking, this is true in some respects as regular income means a fed family back home and the ability to actually make some plans for the future.
When you arrive and see the Philippines for yourself, you very quickly start to realize why so many want out. This country lacks opportunities for professionals let alone the non skilled sector. It’s engrained into the culture that your best prospects are to get out. It’s sad but that really is the thinking of many here; it’s a mentality that is not without some justification. They have had quite a few decades of no hope.
The Myths of Revolution
Much of the impressions I had of the political culture here were based on an event which the world labeled a people power revolution where a baddy was forced out of office and went into exile and the nation was saved by the mother of the nation who selflessly took up the mantle to lead a people out of dictatorship. Well, I’m not going to stir up any nests, but I will say that a dictator was toppled and forced into exile true enough. But I also soon learned that the EDSA revolution was reported terribly outside of the Philippines and even within, and a fairytale was fed to the world by journalists, and to this day, it remains a badly misreported event.
As much as I’m tempted out of anger to give an extremely opinionated account of the possible reasons as to why things are so hopeless for so many here, I shall resist. But what I am saying is to possibly question some of the ideas you have about this country. You will soon learn that much of what you thought is simply wrong.
Of course I have an opinion but I’m consciously trying to minimize it. The real objective of this piece is to have outsiders questioning things about what they believe. In short, I’m suggesting you rethink everything that you thought and take another look. I will resist links that only serve to back up my opinion but let’s say a revolution that was organized by the elite for the elite has only benefitted the elite. Some of the alleged heroes of the peaceful EDSA revolution could possibly be better described as not truly heroic. This is not a defense of Marcos; he left the country branded as the second most corrupt leader in the modern age and with a lot of justification to earn that label. But I’m also saying that events after his exile are not quite what some believe. The revolution was widely covered in the world media at the time; the follow-up stories were neglected.
There are many unsavoury aspects to the Philippines. If you plan to settle here, you will need to understand much of what you are observing. It really does help though if you at least have some idea of the reasons some things can be a little bit difficult here. The circus of politics has played a large part in that. I hope you find out a little for yourself without me preaching opinion. Keep an open mind when you read the modern-day history and don’t always believe in fairy tales. Corruption continued unabated and is still as rampant despite noble speeches.
This place is obviously malfunctioning on many levels for a million different reasons. At the same time there are hopeful signs, many in fact and it’s not all about gloom and poverty, but it’s there and never far away in some form or another.
When you go out to eat, most likely you are going to get served by someone well under minimum wage, on a temporary contract designed to keep them far below minimum wage and they are doing better than most. That’s what you will be seeing from the sidelines.
Empty your head of everything you thought you knew before you got here. Many tend to think of Filipinos as simply economic migrants seeking nothing other than citizenship in another country. What they forget is that they are individuals with unique stories and circumstances, and it’s not always so joyous to get out.
Stereotyping all overseas Filipino workers as people who just want to earn more money means you’re unable to recognize them as individuals. Consider that they possibly left kids behind and missing them like crazy. They are not just economic migrants; they are people often undergoing their own heartbreak at being separated.
Next time you see a Filipino in your country doing a low paid job somewhere, just try to imagine that they just may be experiencing the heartbreak at having to abandon their families to be able to feed them. If you can be bothered to learn a little about the politics of the Philippines, try to find out why this happens. If you learn that, the EDSA revolution has another darker story not talked of in the world media, or the media here. I won’t say more as that’s how you get yourself in trouble with the authorities sometimes, especially if you’re a foreigner. And that is something else for you to think about.