Who wants to be a Filipino?

By Henrylito D. Tacio


After digging to a depth of 100 meters last year, Japanese scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 1,000 years, and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network one hundred decades ago.


In the weeks that followed, American scientists dug 200 meters and headlines in the American papers read:  “US scientists have found traces of 2000 year old optical fibers, and have concluded that their ancestors already had advanced high-tech digital telephone 1000 years earlier than the Japanese.”


One week later, a Filipino newspaper reported the following: “After digging as deep as 500 meters, Filipino scientists have found absolutely nothing.  They have concluded that 5,000 years ago, their ancestors were already using wireless technology.”


Ah, Filipinos, a different kind of breed, indeed.  “Filipinos are worth dying for!” declared the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino.  And they are scattered all over the globe.  Wherever I go – whether Australia, Canada, South Africa, United Kingdom, or United States – I usually meet them.  Their usual greeting when I see them is “Kabayan, kumusta ka?


“Are you happy to be here?” a Filipino reporter asked some Filipinos working in Italy.  The reply was a sounding “Yes.”  As follow-up question, the interviewer inquired, “Would you like to go back to the Philippines?”  The answer was a big “No.”  When asked for the reason, they chorused: “We are treated fairly and people really admire us, our way of doing things.”


“In Florence,” reports Alan C. Robles, a Filipino journalist who travels in and out of Europe, every now and then, “the McDonald’s concessionaire wants only Filipinos to staff all the outlets.”  No wonder, then, why Oscar winner Roberto Benigni said that Italy without Filipinos would be like Italy without spaghetti.


Even in Saudi Arabia, Filipinos are well appreciated.  In an e-mail, I got this information:  “Muhammad Al-Maghrabi became handicapped and shut down his flower and gifts shop business in Jeddah after his Filipino workers insisted on leaving and returning home.”


This was what the owner said, “When they left, I felt as if I had lost my arms. I was so sad that I lost my appetite.”  So, he decided to fly to Manila to look for two other Filipino workers to replace the ones who had left.  When asked why he didn’t hire any other nationalities, he replied, “There is no comparison between Filipinos and others.”


Saudi Arabia has the largest number of Filipino workers — 1,019,577 — outside the Philippines.  In 2006 alone, the Kingdom recruited more than 223,000 workers from the Philippines and their numbers are still increasing.


Even health professionals are joining the bandwagon.  Every year, about 2,000 doctors leave the country for good.  “The figures came as a shock to me,” said Dr. Willie T. Ong, who urged newly graduate doctors to stay and serve the country.  He is so concerned that the exodus of doctors — and nurses, too! — would leave the country’s millions of poor with no one to turn to for medical treatment.


Filipinos, particularly those who are professionals and skilled, who left the country and find job elsewhere is a big “brain drain,” to quote the words of experts.  The British Royal Society minted the “brain drain” tag in the early 1950s. That described the cascade of highly skilled workers into the United States and Canada.


“Our first overseas Filipino workers left in the early 1970s,” reports veteran journalist Juan Mercado.  “That torrent continues today. This has whittled down our stock of seamen and health care personnel, from pediatricians to obstetricians and oncologists.”  And in a recent Baguio meeting, it was noted that the country is now shortage of geologists, pilots, computer specialists, accountants, and air controllers, among others.


All told, 3,000 or so Filipinos migrate to other counties every day.  “Educated Filipinos tend to leave the country to serve foreigners at their country’s expense,” deplored 2004 Chemistry Nobel laureate Aaron Ciechanover.


We cannot blame them for leaving the country.  The standard of living here is very low.  There are no jobs available.  The political situation is unstable.  The economy is not doing well.  “Until 1972, peso had kept its value of P7 to the one dollar until I finished college,” someone observed.


Most Filipinos are poor.  “Without land, they cannot build homes or produce food,” pointed out Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Antonio Meloto.  “Without decent homes, they have no dreams. Without dreams, they have no desire to study or work. It is terribly un-Christian for Filipinos to be squatters in a country where there is so much land in the possession of a few.”


So, don’t wonder if today the Philippines is famous as the “housemaid” capital of the world.  It ranks very high as the “cheapest labor” capital of the world, too. In an e-mail, the letter sender wrote, “We have maids in Hong Kong, laborers in Saudi Arabia, dancers in Japan, migrants and TNTs (for tago ng tago) in Australia and the United States, and all sorts of other ‘tricky’ jobs in other parts of the globe.”


Quo Vadis, Pinoy?”


For comments, write me at henrytacio@gmail.com


One response to “Who wants to be a Filipino?

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