Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Toiling Far From Home for Philippine Dreams

Condensed from an article written by Norimitsu Onishi published 19th Sept on the New York Times.

Absence makes the heart grows ponder but in Mabini, Batangas in the Philippines, it is absence that makes the homes grow grander - thanks to money earned overseas by Filipino workers. Mediterranean-inspired, pastel-colored houses now dot the coast and hills of this rural town, dwarfing their traditional counterparts made of unpainted concrete blocks under roofs of corrugated zinc. The larger houses, barely inhabited, many of them empty, belong to overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who plan to return here one day.

Despite their absence, aside from the grand mansions, the workers have contributed money to help build roads, schools, water grids and other infrastructure usually handled by local governments. They pay for annual fiestas that were traditionally financed by municipalities, churches and local businesses. Thanks to their help, Mabini became a “first class” municipality last year in a government ranking of towns nationwide, leaping from “third class.” About 15 percent of the 42,000 residents of Mabini, about 80 miles south of Manila, live overseas — typically working as maids, nurses or service workers.

Remittances, which the government says have been rising sharply — from $7.6 billion in 2003 to $17.3 billion in 2009 — now account for more than 10 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product. The payments are also the main factor driving the country’s recent economic growth, which would have otherwise remained stagnant. But critics, including many overseas workers, say the government has developed an unhealthy dependence on the remittances, turning a blind eye to their social costs, especially divided families and the reliance on them to pay for services while failing to build a sound economy that produces good jobs at home.

The municipality of Mabini has not only sought overseas workers' investment in a feed mill and other projects. It also had become dependent on their earnings in less direct ways. Most overseas workers here, for example, send their children to private elementary schools, which have smaller class sizes and offer richer educational and extracurricular programs. This helps the municipal government because it has to spend less on public schools. The National Government has highlighted the positive effects on the OFW on the economy, even calling them the new nation's "heroes" while undermining the true casualty when somone left the family to work abroad - their children.

OFW families has the natural tendency to become lazy due to heavy dependence on remittances. While the children of overseas workers were better off financially, they lacked discipline and scored poorer grades than the children whose parents were present. The kids of O.F.W.’s have everything in terms of gadgets — the latest cellphones that you can’t even find in Manila — and they have bigger allowances than even the teachers. But they have an attitude. They are arrogant. It's quite ironic to know these OFWs are working as maids abroad and they hire maids to take care of their own children back home. They value their money more than their families.

Filipinos are stuck on status symbols. After the sweat and tears of working abroad for many years, they build a big house to show the fruits of their labor. But it’s kinda weird. How can you enjoy your house if you can only see it in photos? The houses have huge beds, even though they may use them only a few weeks a year. They’re fully furnished with plasma televisions and ovens, but there’s no one to bake a cake.

1 comment:

  1. nice post sir, you might want also to add my Filipino blog

    Thanks a lot God Bless