Saturday, 23 January 2010

Filipino diaspora

ONE of the tragic things about Filipinos is that wherever tragedy strikes in the world, one of us is bound to be involved.

When ocean liners sink at sea, we usually hear news of a number of Filipinos suffering in the tragedy. When a bomb blows up in Iraq, there is bound to be a Filipino onsite. And when a convoy of workers is attacked in Afghanistan, one of our countrymen may just be among the victims.

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Sure, you may say, but so are Americans and Europeans.

They are usually the passengers in those cruise liners that sink at sea. They will be the soldiers targeted by those roadside bombs in Iraq. And they are usually the contractors who may be attacked by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But with one big difference.

Americans and Europeans are in those places because they choose to be there. Our countrymen are there because they have to be.

Despite Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo’s claims to the country, the sad fact is that we are a destitute nation. So bad is the state of our economy that our greater Filipino family has to send its sons and daughters abroad so that we will have food on our table.

In a way, this is something to be proud about.

The world entrusts us with its infirm and its elderly.

We provide comfort and relaxation to weary Westerners, as they escape from the rat race and get away to their destinations of choice.

And we provide order in the homes of so many families around the world, as without us chaos will reign over their households.

But it cannot be denied that most of our countrymen have to resort to lives away from their beloved country, because there is nothing for them to do back here that would enable them to have some semblance of a decent livelihood.

If they chose to remain here, they would probably be unemployed, or, at the very least, working in jobs that would not be able to support their family’s needs.

And that’s why they leave.

Not in the hundreds.

Not even in the thousands.

They leave in the tens and hundreds of thousands.

Every day, to every conceivable destination on earth.

Just this week, the impoverished island nation of Haiti was rocked by a powerful earthquake.
And guess what?

Some of our countrymen too perished underneath the rubble.
All right, some of them were there working as United Nations diplomats, while others were on duty as UN peacekeepers.

But among their number were ordinary workers who left to work in a very poor country like Haiti, because at least there, they earned more than they could possibly hope for in their own land.
Yet again, something for our next President to think about.

Not that he has to prevent our countrymen from leaving the country. Mobility and freedom to travel is after all a right that everyone ought to enjoy.

But there is one important thing he must note.

The situation cannot be as it is today, when almost everyone who queues up for a passport needs to do so in order to get a better paying job abroad.

When almost everyone who leaves does so unwillingly and with much sadness, if only to provide his or her family a better life.

Our countrymen must be no different than the Americans and the Europeans.

They should be able to leave their country anytime, to be sure.

But they must only do so because they choose to, and not because they have to.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 23, 2010.

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