Filipinos see a better future in foreign war zones than in the Philippines

You know a country has really sunk to an unprecedented depth of wretchedness when its own citizens would prefer to remain in a war zone over taking their chances on a return to the “safety” of their homeland.

Such is what describes the rather embarrassing situation in the Philippine government’s efforts to repatriate up to 13,000 Filipino nationals living and working in Libya which has been wracked in recent weeks by internal strife between various armed groups.

Despite the danger, many Filipinos in Libya have ignored the government’s order for mandatory evacuation, DFA spokesman Charles Jose told reporters on Monday.

“The usual reason we hear from them is that they would rather take the chance. They think they have greater chances of surviving the war [there] than of surviving uncertainty [without jobs] here,” Jose said.

Libya: More fun than the Philippines

Libya: More fun than the Philippines

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The violence in Libya has been escalating since fighting erupted between armed factions within the sprawling desert nation. Civilians — including Filipinos working there — have not been spared. A Filipino construction worker was reportedly beheaded by militants in Benghazi in mid-July. In Tripoli, a Filipino nurse was reportedly abducted and gang-raped.

To most, it is quite difficult to imagine how one’s chances of survival in a war zone could be regarded as much “greater” than that in a relatively peaceful and stable country like the Philippines. But time and again, it’s been proven that Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFWs) who find themselves in the middle of war are likely to think twice about returning to the Philippines.

Many of the Filipino workers deployed to middle Eastern countries like Libya are highly-trained professionals in the health care and engineering fields. Whilst their work is highly-valued in their host countries (as evident in the high wages they earn there), many of these workers face poverty-level wages in the Philippines. Nurses in the Philippines even get paid negative wages thanks to a crushing supply that utterly dwarfs demand there.

Recently, prized meteorologists employed by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) too had voted with their feet and headed for the greener pasteurs of the weather services in foreign countries where their expertise is better-appreciated. This is remarkable considering the Philippines is completely vulnerable to the hundreds of tropical storms that ravage its islands every year. Much of the death and destruction wreaked by these storms could have been prevented by improved (or, at least, sustained) weather monitoring and forecasting capability — a critical service PAGASA struggles to provide.

But even for relatively-affluent Filipinos, life in the former US colony is no bed of roses. Even in Metro Manila, where most of the country’s movers and shakers live, the lifestyle is, to put it mildly, an acquired taste. The country’s premier city the development of which, one would think, would be prioritised by its wealthy and influential elite inhabitants remains one of the world’s least livable cities. The teeming megalopolis was referred to as the “Gates of Hell” by novelist Dan Brown in his recent book Inferno. Metro Manila’s notorious traffic gridlock dooms most of its residents to spending from three to four hours of their lives stuck in traffic everyday. And because of this, real estate prices in the inner city, specially within the areas of its central business districts, are far beyond the reach of even upper-middleclass Filipinos.

As such, many Filipinos who rely on a daily commute through Manila’s choked steaming streets endure appalling living conditions in hovels and dormitories just to be within a 2-3 hour commute of their places of work. Considering that agriculture in the Philippines no longer provides a decent enough income to millions of Filipinos, cities have come to represent the hope for decent employment for Filipinos.

This is the so-called “alternative” the Philippines presents to the average OFW eking out a living in hostile desert kingdoms half a planet away. For all the lip service paid to “inclusive growth” (made even more tragic by the supposed ‘positive’ macro-economic numbers the Philippines had attained over the last couple years), there is very little confidence among ordinary Filipinos that their homeland will be a better one anytime soon.

[Photo courtesy Women Under Siege Project.]

19 Replies to “Filipinos see a better future in foreign war zones than in the Philippines”

  1. Your caption is so perfect. I saw the news on this late last night and our thoughts mesh. It really is more fun in the Philippines because fun is usually in inverse proportion to work. That stupid myth Noynoy is on record saying that people abroad choose to go because they work here is just that. Then again who said it?

  2. Your country’s indeed in deep crap when its people prefer to dodge bullets some place else than to live in a cesspool of a different sort. Yokel, anti-intellectual mentality, systemic corruption and oligarchism, and general complacency among the masses preferring to discuss the finer points of fashion at the recent SONA than what actually matters can and will lead to the Philippines sinking into an even deeper low.

    1. When the average citizen looks up and see’s the curb, and it looks like a skyscraper: How much worse can it get?
      However there is still hope. But, A thorough cleansing/purging (the Virtual Vigilante would insert the word ‘Genocide’,and might notbe in-correct!) of the current government is necessary before anything meaningful as far as a positive change can occur.

      it is possible though.

  3. Empty campaign promises wrapped with yellow ribbon, without a doubt, would not create the needed jobs in our country.

    For many brave OFW‘s, the choicea are limited. Take the risks of working abroad just to provide for their families, or stay here without a chance to earn a decent salary.

    If not for the dollar remittances of the OFW‘s, then our economy will not have a positive growth at all. Sad, but true.

    1. What’s ‘brave’ about relocating abroad to earn more money? That’s just a good career move. It seems that terms like ‘brave’ and ‘hero’ are over-used in the Philippines.

      1. Working abroad is no joke. You have to overcome homesickness and adjust to new set of culture. Paying a little adjective like “brave“ to OFW‘s is just fine. I dont see any problem with that.

        1. That just proves the insularity of the average Flip who choosing to be uninformed about the destination country remains in a persistent culture shock always putting it in comparison to his own. OFW’s should do more research through travel guides and the internet rather than insubstantial and trivial matters.

  4. On a positive note, this is a good way of decreasing the Philippines’ population. If I recall, Noynoy wanted to decrease this country’s population, right? Well, this OFW exodus also does the trick for him (I have no idea idea, though, whether or not he knows it). Well, that’s fewer mouths for that “magnanimous” president to feed, right? Hahaha. 😛


  5. It is a choice of being beheaded and murdered; or ganged-raped; and STARVATION in the Philippines. Brains are continued to be drained in the Philippines. The “Gates of Hell”, that Dan Brown had written really features the Aquino era, in our country.

    Corruption and Graft continues unabated; inspite of the so called : “daan matuwid”. Aquino himself is corrupt. The “daan matuwid”, means the DAP money went straight into his pocket. His cahoots, the “daan matuwid” , means the Pork Barrel Funds, went straight also to their Pockets.

    Our country is going deeper and deeper into more problems. We will soon become a failed state.

  6. It should be noted that life in Libya before the outbreak of hostilities is not even close to pleasant.

    In such a place that considers barely competent Nursing school graduates, that can not pass board certifications exams in Western countries, to be ‘highly trained’ professionals says less in a positive way for the host country than it says less in a negative way for the country that produces the incompetent,by Western standards, Nurse to begin with.
    Lawyers in the Philippines become plumbers in the EU/USA and it is still a better life in the EU/USA…that said…..
    It no doubt just sucks to be born in the Philippines.
    *****IMPORTANT NOTE************

    North-Western Europe is the place OFW’s should go.
    Lacking in a Police state,positive citizen wealth funds.
    The previous two sentences should be considered a public service announcement to all Filipino’s.

    1. I met a Law graduate/member of the Phil. Bar, from the Philippines, here in the U.S.; working as Gasoline Pump Operator. You go to fill up your car, in the gasoline station…he comes to fill it…with a tip for a few dollars…

  7. you can live fine in the philippines and make a great living. im doin it right now. people go abroad to get a bigger house and compete with neighbors and relatives

    1. @Cher

      That is such a narrow-minded view of why you think Filipinos go abroad. You probably don’t realise that the Phil government started sending OFWs abroad in the 70s to help with the recovery of the economy. This was under the overseas employment program established with the passage of the Labor Code of the Philippines in 1974 during the Marcos years.

      If not for the remittances of the OFWs, the country’s economy would go bust.

      And by the way, there is nothing wrong with seeking ways to uplift one’s condition in life. Some people do not want to live in squalid conditions forever.

      1. What started out as a temporary solution to the problem has now turned permanent one, so what your saying is Filipinos are better of in war zones around the world.

  8. Let me put the Philippine Economic and Political condition in a context of a typical Filipino household.

    The father is usually the breadwinner in the family, so let him be called the CAPITALIST
    the mother is the sole administrator of all the father brings in, so let her be called the GOVERNMENT
    they both take care of all the needs of their young son, so let their son represent the PEOPLE
    the maid do all the household chores, so she may represent the WORKING CLASS
    and their two-year old baby girl, let’s call her the FUTURE

    now, here’s the scenario:
    the young boy woke up in the middle of the night because his little sister is crying with no one attending to her. he then found out that her sister’s diaper is wet and full so he went to his parent’s room to seek help only to find out that his mother is sleeping soundly while his father is not in the room.
    he went to the maid’s room instead which is tightly locked. but instead of disturbing the entire household by knocking hard on the door, he decided to peep inside through the keyhole and was surprised to see his father screwing their maid from behind.
    desperate that he could not get the help he needed, he went back to his room, changed his sister’s diaper and then went back asleep.

    this scenario can be summed up in a political context thus:
    while the CAPITALIST (father) fucks the WORKING CLASS (maid) the GOVERNMENT (mother) is sleeping.
    the FUTURE (baby girl) is in deep shit, and the PEOPLE (young boy) are left to fend for themselves.

    and that, my friends, aptly describes the political and economic conditions in our beloved land!

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