Friday, March 07, 2008

The OFW Wake

ADB doubts RP can sustain economic growth -

Some reading just heading into the last remaining hours of our rest days and the weekend for the rest of you out there.

While it has been quoted as to make it as trite as the tritest of cliches can be, the relationship between the size of remittances from outside the Philippines and its economic health cannot be underestimated.

Let's be fair and honest with ourselves. I don't want to go into that oft-quoted survey sometime ago that at least one-fifth of the Filipino population would prefer to leave the country. It's not necessary for me to quote that, when our collective gestalt has been brainwashed that succeeding outside our shores, against foreign standards, is several times better than succeeding on our own.

It's the success of Filipino A performing in award-winning foreign musical that gets our kudos. Never mind if Filipino A's talents pales in comparison with the plethora of talent we have back home. Just no breaks, really.

It's Filipino B graduating with a degree from Harvard University who is being awarded intellectual wattage - an opportunity, I'm sure, made possible by the fact that his parents were able to afford to send him there. I'm not blaming the parents, nor the student, or blaming anyone, but it doesn't mean Filipino B is any better than the graduate from our own homegrown educational institution.

It's the mestiza/mestizo phenotype occupying our notions of physical beauty.

It's the literati ooh-ing and aah-ing over the latest foreign bestseller and not being troubled by the fact that little impact has been made by any major Filipino author either in our local scene or worldwide in the last twenty (or I daresay forty) years. Or that where excellence is recognized, few Filipinos get to appreciate this excellence (that is, if they ever hear the news) - either they can't afford the books, or much worse (and most probably true), they don't have the inclination to read.

It's molding and shaping our physical environment, where we can, to a First World ideal when we haven't built enough classrooms, irrigated enough fields, saved enough forests.

It's promoting a culture of communication through SMS but not developing and nurturing the skills (and the responsibility) that are really needed.

Filipinos want to leave the country to experience foreign sights, earn foreign money, spend dollars and showing off how fun it is to touch snow. That is not an ignoble aspiration. But we needn't build our futures on that belief. Before I left for the Middle East, I looked down at the people who scrambled queueing to become OFWs. Now that I am here, I empathize with those like me who are separated from the land and people we love.

The Philippines is breeding mediocrity, and left in the OFW wake is that we have failed to build our country in the image of what we want it to be.

In the beginning, I was sorry for leaving the Philippines and was ashamed of "selling out." Now, I am just sorry. On the one hand, there are those who have succeeded in making a life for themselves, have helped their families, and are providing opportunties for their children to be potentially better than they are. On the other, there are those who are just relieved to be away from the wreck they see the Philippines to be, and would find every opportunity to disassociate themselves from being Filipinos.

There are those in varying degrees in between.

What is presented before is a quandary - OFWs represent the greatest potential for social and economic change for the country --- both human and financial. But our absentee voting system doesn't work, we don't have any major political figure advancing our agenda, and for all their good intentions, our primary organizations that receive national attention have been hijacked by the radicals, both from the Right and the Left for their own agenda. Try naming any moderate OFW organization and you will be hard-pressed to find one.

What we have essentially, in the Philippines is a factory where workers are created, off to contribute to the success of other countries, while the oligarchs in our country suck out the dollars we indirectly send to them through the local spending of our families. But one day, in their greed, these people will invariably kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

And where will we be then?

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