Do Filipino immigrants really contribute to the greatness of the United States and other countries?

Many Filipino-Americans claim that they are part of the great immigrant movement that contributed mightily to building the great nation that the United States is today. The claim is based on the notion that America is “a country of immigrants” — that its motto was once a call to the world to…

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

This is an excerpt from a sonnet written by American poet Emma Lazarus that is engraved on a plaque mounted on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty which has come to symbolise the immigrant plight that built the Land of the Free.


Indeed, the wave of European immigrants that streamed into America’s shores brought the energy that comes from a collective yearning to break away from old traditions and social structures that had long stifled innovation and social mobility in the Old World into a land where a right to engage in a noble “pursuit of happiness” by everyone is enshrined in its charter.

The question that’s always bugged me is how exactly the Filipino immigrant community has contributed to America in a way significant enough to be counted as a part of the national equity of overall immigrant achievement.

America’s wealth is built upon a foundation of collective prowess across virtually all political, cultural, and commercial aspects that make a nation great. It was the first to implement its brand of a democracy in the vast scale we see it working today. It remains the world’s foremost cultural capital with much of the planet’s people’s idea of “coolness” hinged, for the most part, on the brands Americans created and ways of life Americans lead. Its industrial and military might remains unparalleled and is an outcome of Americans’ tradition of scientific and technical excellence and the bold enterprising spirit that applied these to the business of creating tangible wealth.

So let us step back from that and take stock of how much of that Filipino-Americans really account for.

Let’s start with being real about how much of those aspects of national greatness Filipinos, themselves, possess as a people. Are Filipinos a great entrepeneurial society? Are they known for scientific and engineering excellence? Are Filipinos renowned for an egalitarian society composed of citizens who are mutually-supportive of one anothers’ success? Do Filipinos place achievement over and above credentials and family affiliations? Are Filipinos famous for their industry, frugality and focus on creating and accumulating wealth sustainably through productive enterprise to create commercial legacies that transcend generations?

Just a quick browse of today’s Fil-Am news gives us an idea of the smallness of the sorts of events that the community regards as newsworthy enough to make their top headlines.

10-year-old Filipino-American singer bringing good luck to Warriors

The Golden State Warriors’ unleashed their most lethal weapon against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Friday.

And it’s not the MVP Steph Curry, neither the sweet-shooting Klay Thompson nor defensive specialist Andre Iguodala or any of the players.

It’s the charming 10-year-old Filipino-American girl named Nayah Damasen, who sang the national anthem before tipoff.

And this…

June 12 Independence Day anti-China protest rallies set

Those who cannot physically attend the protest rallies are asked to join their selfie campaign. “Please take a cell phone photo of yourself holding a sign saying “China, go away! #Kalayaan is ours!”, “China, alis diyan! Amin ang #Kalayaan!”, or a translation of that in your local language. You may pose in front of the Philippine flag or map. Post the selfie in your timeline, use it as a profile picture, and tag the Martsa para sa Kalayaan Facebook page,” Reyes urged.

Last but not least…

Filipino Canadians campaign for Tagalog language education in B.C. public schools

In 2010, more immigrants came to Canada from the Philippines than from any other country. And in the 2011 census, there were 662,600 Canadians of Philippine ancestry.

[James Infante, a member of the University of British Columbia Filipino Students’ Association] said that Tagalog classes could enhance the connection between second-generation Filipino Canadians and more recent arrivals. Those newer immigrants sometimes include children of people who may arrived through the live-in caregiver or temporary foreign worker programs. (Late last year, the federal government scrapped the live-in requirement for people moving to Canada under the caregiver program.)

“What we’ve seen through the years is a lot of parents make the choice of having their kids learn English first,” Infante said.

Whether it be branding a trivial contribution to a vast enterprise as a “lethal weapon”, or petitioning the inclusion of a no-added-value dialect as a bridge to a culture and tradition that offers little support to one’s personal aspirations, or mounting activist spectacles in vain attempts to move a rapidly awakening regional superpower, Filipinos remain consistent to their famous Heritage of Smallness.

But America is the land of the big. Everything is big — big food servings, big highways, big cars, big celebrities, big army, big adventure, big capital, big money. It is not surprising that Filipinos find a niche in such a society by inserting themselves in the small spaces in between these big achievements — the caregivers, the burger flippers, the quaint Tagalog poets, and the real estate hawkers that we try to avoid (or at least grant some token small talk to) in those cocktail parties.

Indeed, with Filipinos exhibiting such a sorry track record of making waves (or even ripples, at least) in the global stage, one begins to wonder whether America or any of those great countries that host a sizeable Filipino community would really like Filipinoness rubbing off on their societies in a significant way. Filipinos all over the world, on the other hand, are proud (whether consciously or subconsciously) of how their adopted societies changed their ways — whether it be in the shallow twang it added to their English or the way they became more “self-reliant” thanks to the lack of the armies of servants that were once at their beck-and-call in the old country. Just observe how balikbayans (returning Filipino expats) assert their imagined “superiority” when strutting around Manila’s malls scooping up discounted branded clothes, and behold.

But ask if America, for one, would like their society to acquire a more “Filipino” character in the same way that French, German, Italian, and Spanish traditions now form valuable facets of their society and you’d likely be hardpressed to elicit the slightest serious consideration. It comes down to achievement. What have Filipinos collectively achieved as a community? Until we are able to answer that with a straight face, we should be a bit more circumspect about the place we imagine we hold in the global scheme of things.


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94 Comments on "Do Filipino immigrants really contribute to the greatness of the United States and other countries?"

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You may want to research US Immigrant History with regards to Filipinos, for starters. Especially the agriculture industry in California and Hawaii. Filipinos, like ALL immigrants to the US, contribute greatly to the common good. ALL (repeat ALL) of the Filipinos I have known in the US are hard working professionals. They come from families who immigrated to the US and are also hard working professionals. Once again, I think you should research this topic much more deeply. You may be surprised what you find.

As I never lived in the US, I can’t speak for Filipino-Americans or as a Filipino migrant. I have, however, had my share of working alongside Americans as well as frequent visits there. While our media loves to show all the postive things about us in the US (no matter how small they may be), the truth is that we are barely existent in the eyes of Americans. This is not just in America but pretty much every developed country does not see our people as significant. The average American doesn’t even know where Philippines is or what we are.… Read more »
Ray Langit
Yes, Filipinos contributed a lot to the US economy and have gone a long way. Nurses, doctors, engineers and architects are what USA Filipinos are known for. The laborers of the past are of the past. Caregivers (small percent of Pinoy population in the US) are only those who are TNTs and cannot get past a glass ceiling of those who have legal papers. Filipino Real Estate hawkers compose a very tiny percent of the industry (I think less than a percent) as US Real Estate is dominated by the Jewish and now, by a growing number of Chinese. Take… Read more »
I’m in Manila right now. I’m a 1.5 generation immigrant to the U.S., and it is my first time back after 11 years. I’m basically American in every way, but I understand and speak Tagalog. I haven’t been wearing makeup due to the heat, and my attires have been low-key ie just been wearing dresses to combat the oppressive heat. My point is, I’m not the type of balikbayan who scoops up department store discounts. I’ve been to a couple of stores, and I’m guessing due to my appearance (I hiked Mt. Pulag and I’m quiet DARK), none of the… Read more »

I don’t think it’s fair to lump the immigrants in with the rest of the great unwashed. They are, pretty much by definition, the ones with a bit of brains and initiative.

The problem with the Philippines is the sheer size of the brain drain, exacerbated by government policy. The ones left behind are those who are too illiterate or lazy to fill in the forms required to get the hell out. So they just stay at home and breed, producing a new generation even dumber than they are. The whole country is an experiment in dysgenics.

walter p komarnicki
it was through my future wife’s friend at my workplace in Adelaide that I got to meet her here in CDO, then one thing led to another, and now we’re back here putting our son through school and enjoying the life here. There are about 400,000 Pinoys in Australia, the vast majority professionals who are upwardly mobile. But I must mention 2 things: there are very very few Filipino restaurants in Australia – even a small outdoor eatery in the middle of Wollongong mall folded after a couple of months due to lack of support; and, although you may see… Read more »
In a way they do. Filipino immigrants know the greatness of United States and Filipinos are known to be law-abiding and hardworking when they get there. They take that greatness as an opportunity to unleash their own greatness because in their own country there are no equal and great opportunities like what foreign countries can offer. Discipline produced great characters. And they are quite disciplined out there. By being such and being citizens of US that up to this time is still hailed as one of the strongest country on earth, I think they became part of what makes it… Read more »
Dick S. O'Rosary

Note how the Fil-Canadians refer to the Nat’l Lang as “Tagalog”. How truly resentful and embarrassing.


Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

Every immigrant (legal or illegal), is contributing to the Greatness of America. Most Filipinos residing in the good old U.S.A., feel “at home” in America. Whether you are a: “TNT” caregiver , burger flipper, floor sweaper, or well educated Filipino working in the Research and Development for New Products. As a legal resident of this country; I believe the greatness of this nation is revitalized by the inflow of people that comes from various countries of the world. Where can you find a country; where you can go to the best university; thru student loan or scholarship; and graduate with… Read more »

Dr. Benjamin Carson, should be the name. He graduated with a Medical degree, from University of Michigan; and specialcialized as a brain surgeon at John Hopkins Medical University…these people really inspire me…

Are Filipinos in the U.S. again claiming greatness? That the world cannot do without Filipinos? If so, that is a proclamation mired in misguided egoism and plain arrogance. No, if Filipinos were wiped out from the face of the Earth, the world would not suffer. Filipino are not irreplaceable nor indispensable. You could always find competent replacements all over the world. And, yes, while the law-abiding (and not all) Filipinos are certainly contributing to their host countries, so are those from other immigrant groups. There are Chinese, Singaporeans, Japanese, Russians, even Arabs (and Muslims), and other immigrants making good contributions… Read more »
Jim Booga

Fuck you for undermining our achievements here in the US. I am an accountant for a company who makes sure the drinking water of US and a lot of countries are safe. My wife is a Geometry teacher in a prestigious Private School. There are a LOT of good, succesfu, respectable pinoys in the medical industry. How about you? All you do is write articles that only a few could read. Bakit di ka sumulat sa tagalog or bisaya para makuha mo ang tamang mambabasa ng article mo.

The early Filipino immigrants (1800’s) were those who migrated from Northern Luzon to Hawaii to work as farmers, alongside other Asians, such as the Japanese and Koreans. These migrant workers played a significant role in the agricultural industry, though working conditions were very oppressive e.g. discrimination was prevalent and foremen pitted various Asian groups against each other (Takaki R., Strangers from a Different Shore, 1989). Filipino immigrants who contributed much to the economy and general society of the United States are those who have immigrated under the working VISA. These groups were considered the “cream of the crop” in their… Read more »
Ray Langit
Everyone who DOES something and does something to the best of their abilities contributes. It is not what you CAN do but what you ACTUALLY do that defines your contribution. Why did the Manongs get imported to work the fields in the USA? Because no American wanted to do it. Why did nurses get imported? Because little to no American wanted to do it. Why did IT people get imported? Not enough Americans thought it was “cool”. A car’s most important part is the engine but without one wheel, you won’t get to your destination. The wheel contributed to you… Read more »
As a Filipino who has lived in the United States for years and was able to accomplish a lot, I have to disagree with a lot that’s being said in the comments section. Filipinos don’t move here because they want to contribute to the greatness of the United States. No, they move here because they want to take advantage of what already makes America great so they can live a life they want. Filipinos are not the ones who created the living standards and improved infrastructure of the USA. Filipinos are part of the labor force whether it’s in education,… Read more »

Geez, why am I getting the vibes that the author wanted his readers to say Filipinos are useless wherever they are, is it only me?

Rey Langit, thumbs up to you for having the patience to deal with these haters.

Nakakalito. Hindi ba ang mga Filipino na tumira na sa Amerika at iyong mga doon na isinilang at nanirahan ay mas nabibilang bilang American? Ano man ang kontribusyon nila doon ay hindi na sumasalamin sa kanila bilang Filipino kundi bilang mamamayan ng Amerika. Heto ang madaling example. Si Jessica Sanchez American citizen pero dahil may magulang siyang Filipino, gusto ng mga Pinoy lumabas na nire-represent niya rin ang Pilipinas, pero kung siya ang tatanungin American siya. Si Charice Pempengco at Manny Pacquiao, mga Filipino na lumaki at nahubog sa Pilipinas kaya saan man sila magperform sa ibang bansa, kinikilala pa… Read more »
The fact na hindi nanghihingi ng tulong o walang inaasahang anuman sa mga Filipino ang mga malalaking bansa ay patunay na wala naman silang espesyal na maiko-contribute. Ang pagbibigay trabaho ng mga malalaking bansa sa mga Pilipino ay hiniling ng ating gobyerno sa kanila at kung kontribusyon man ngang masasabi iyon, cheap labor marahil ang kontribusyon. Ang ebidensya na tuwang-tuwa ang mga Pinoy kapag narinig na nag-o-offer ng trabaho ang ibang malalaking bansa sa kanila ang patunay na nagpunta lamang sila roon upang magkaroon ng kabuhayan ng higit sa tinatamasa nila rito. The fact na Amerika ang humaharap para sa… Read more »