I met a lady in her 50’s who sat next to me in the plane whilst on my way to Cebu, Philippines a few years back. She restored my sanity while few kilometres above the ground (I was honestly crowded with anxiety then). She was a very intelligent woman, I should say, who shared her thoughts concerning her disappointments about the exodus of many Filipino intellectuals, leaving the Philippines scarce of proficient, skilled, and capable professionals. I forgot to ask her name, so I’ll just call her Ms Clever.
At present, there are more than 10 percent of the Filipino population working in different parts of the world. Every year more and more are leaving the country, looking for the greener pasture in different lands. Sadly, few hundreds are exploited and abused. What is very depressing is that many of these skilled professionals are doing non-skilled works just to get a far better pay than the more venerable works they left aside in the country. The greatest number of the OFW population found their niche in the different country states of the Americas. A good number found their second home in the countries of Europe particularly in the UK. This throng are mostly of health related profession such as nurses, doctors, medical technologists, pharmacists, and etc; IT experts; and even teachers. The irony, some of our specialist doctors, consultants, and medical experts, study nursing just to get qualifications and possibly work in hospitals and nursing homes in New York, Chicago, Florida, London, Manchester wherever possible and even risking life and soul to the impossible ones like Iraq, Libya, Bahrain, and Afghanistan.
Few years ago, many of our nurses and caregivers have flocked to the United Kingdom digging day and night for the sterling pounds. In the name of better living, what else one can do to stick in a country where the ordinary people is never given a chance to prosper, while the rich and famous continue to take advantage on the vulnerability of the many.
Ms Clever did not aggressively show her disgust over the government’s disregard of the long term effect of migration, but you can feel how angry she is about how irresponsible most of the supposed agencies that should take care of the welfare of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). Many workers abroad especially the one’s in the Middles East are victims of exploitation not only from their employers, but also from many unscrupulous recruitment agencies. Some stories of nightmares in the hands of their employers are so intricate to figure out. Maltreatment and discrimination in other countries are also reported. Many went home with unaccomplished dreams and shattered lives. The once brighter hope to a better living condition for their families back home is further crushed into gloomy pieces of brokenness and helplessness. Extremely to say, some wives leave their husbands and husbands having extra marital affairs while away. Whilst Ms Clever continued her litany about the disheartening plights of many migrant workers, I shared to her about a neighbour, who tried her luck working in the oil-rich desert, but went home mentally disturbed. Her family said, she was raped and did not even receive her salary for four months. Although the case was heard in court, they are no longer interested to follow it up for the simple reason of poverty.
OUT OF DESPAIRWhat made Filipinos so desperate to leave the country and find a better job abroad is perhaps a question with so many different answers. To different individuals are equally diverse responses as to what triggered or perhaps inspired them to leave home and try abroad. But certainly one common answer is to make life better and prosperous. On the other hand, the economy benefits from the millions of remittances every year. However, the inability of the government to make use of these funds productively, disables the possibility of economic ascent, thus OFW’s sacrifices are awfully overlooked. This political neglect does create a vacuum that further separates OFW’s to returning in the country for good. Desperately, migrant workers continue to work even harder not only for their families but also for the economy of a country whose government does not even care to pay them back in return.
IMPACT TO HUMAN RESOURCE
Considering the number of OFW’s leaving every year, legitimate, documented, or illegal, that is the equal number of human resource the country is losing at the same time. Engineers, IT experts, teachers, doctors, nurses, caregivers, accountants, lawyers, and others, name it and it is undoubtedly one amongst those profiles of OFW’s who hope to go empty handed and return with dollars in the bag. Expectedly, most of these ‘migrantes’ do not have works waiting there like the works they used to do in their homeland. Doctors turning into nurses or caregivers, from engineers to factory workers, teachers becoming domestic helpers, accountants selling brands in shopping malls, and many other ironic endings are biting realities of the country’s highly cerebral professionals who swallowed their pride to earn better and live not only a financially stable life but also an emotionally decent existence. Whilst the dollar remittances climbed to more than 15 billion dollars in 2008 and 1.2 billion dollars already in January of 2009 alone, the mere fact that the country is losing so much of its capable human resource, the economy will suffer eventually because of ‘brain drain’. Meaning, the exodus of the intellectuals will cause collapse in management skills, standard of quality, need of experts, and proficient trainers of the new generation. The eventuality of brain drain is a very mediocre economic prospects and planning.
POVERTY REMAINS AN ISSUE
Ironically, more people are leaving the country year after year and sending home with much money yet, the number of Filipinos who are below the poverty line keep on increasing too. I think there’s bad mathematics along the line. Perhaps, the law on social justice has been turned upside down. Or maybe, the product of brain drain is starting to commence itself in the platform. The Malacanang may sing their own praises of its invisible achievements, but the fact remained laid bare and bold, poverty is evident everywhere in the country.
PNOY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
With the new leadership of President Benigno Aquino III, it is very uplifting to know that the new administration has put back the trust of many citizens and believe that the economy gets so much better. Early this year, the new government provided another milestone when for the first time, it reported a budget surplus which is an extreme opposite from the previous' administrations never ending moan of deficits. At least, Filipinos become hopeful of a transparent government, believable, and honest president. It's not yet a dream come for many of us who left our families behind, but the start of a faithful and honest governance will surely make a difference, though not very soon, yet again it is so inspiring to know that there is optmism and promise of change for a better country.