The OFW phenomenon has yielded some complicated situations. For example, there are Filipinos who have renounced their citizenship and become citizens of other countries. Yet they share some views and criticisms about their home countries. Other Filipinos brand them as traitors, because they have left their country for a better life and supposedly abandoning their country to its fate. Thus, they are condemned to have no right to say anything about the country, even if their criticism of its ills are true.
Here’s the catch: what if they are still sending money back to the country or doing other help?
Yes, for sure there are arrangements wherein a Filipino, despite having renounced their Philippine citizenship, still sends home money because they are the ATM for the family or others. Simply because, they’re family.
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Then they do have the right to say something about the country. Because it is their money that keeps their family and the country afloat!
It makes me wonder: are the remittances that help float our country understated? Could it be that remittances from Filipinos who are now non-Filipinos are not being counted? Could there be a deliberate effort to make OFW contributions look smaller for propaganda purposes? I’ll just leave these questions though for another time.
This represents the complex situations Filipinos abroad are into. While there are OFWs that maintain their Filipino citizenship, and some who maintain multiple citizenship (so they’re still Filipinos), it is even possible that they don’t send money home. If you ask, why some would change their citizenship, it is because some countries offer better paying jobs for citizens. In the Arabic countries, I have heard that conversion to Islam rewards Filipinos with bigger salaries. You may also note the rising levels of anti-immigrant sentiment in many countries, and so the countries are setting greater limits on non-citizen workers, including Filipinos. So the Filipinos change their citizenship and even their religion in order to avail of higher pay and benefits. Those who came earlier and already became citizens have this advantage too.
One may ask, “why can’t Filipinos stay here and just be content with their low pay?” But their pay here is not enough for supporting their families’ needs. What if they’re supporting someone who’s ill and needs thousands of pesos to support? Surely P80,000 a month abroad will do better than P20,000 at home. “Why should it be all about money?” Because they need money to support their families. You can’t support your families with just your presence. Money helps keep the stomach from being empty. “Why don’t they just stay anyway and just leave their family members to rot?” But I thought it was a Filipino value to support your family, wasn’t it? “Make them find jobs!” Are there really enough of those to go about? “Come back here and set up a business!” Read this to learn of the many traps laid to keep smaller businesses from succeeding.
Well, that’s one issue that the OFW situation highlights: the moocher state of Philippine society. Filipino families tend to be very high-maintenance. Some members of an OFW’s family can be irresponsible. They may have children, niblings or other relatives who have children but can’t afford to raise them or the parents themselves have died. There may also be distant relatives, like cousins or so, who hear about their relative having a high salary abroad and thus want to mooch on it. But then again, you may have relatives who are sick or need special care, including those who are mentally disabled as well as physically.
Also, these relatives at home are bombarded with advertising and marketing that tells them, if they don’t have the latest or trendiest products, they will be treated like trash (such as the skin whitening products). Thus, they pester their ATM abroad to send more money or goods, to they can “keep up with the Joneses.” And if you assume that money stays in the country, guess again; a lot of products have something like royalties that go back to the headquarters abroad. The people selling the products would even like it that the breadwinner is abroad, since they are not physically there to prevent their family members from spending impulsively. Thus, our society is a captive market where families are turned into money pumps for businesses, but become dysfunctional as a side effect. It’s as if there is a deliberate effort to keep Filipinos poor, or make the can-afford ones poorer.
Of course, there are Filipinos who have decided to fully burn their bridges and not send anything home; perhaps those you can judge as you see fit. Of course, look at what they say or do; that should tell you enough about whether they are helpful or not. However, renounced Filipinos who still send help home prove that they still care, and want to make sure that the help they send is well-used. They even send help when a disaster like Yolanda happens. So when something happens like the funds or goods meant for that help going missing, they have a right to be concerned.
And the question is, why the need to shut up people who may be right? The simple answer, it’s part of propaganda efforts to block people from offering opinions and giving facts (and thus, speaking the truth) about the situation of the country. There are people who seem to benefit from Filipinos being in dire straits, and they want to keep it that way. Sadly, this includes not only politicos and people in high places, but even ordinary people who decide to be “part of the system” in order to benefit from it.
Filipinos have to learn to stop biting the hands that feed them. Instead of attacking or shunning these “Filipino foreigners,” we should give more room for their voices to be heard. Of course, that is a problem with our OFWs as well. OFWs are perhaps the true saviors of our economy, and something should be done to ascertain the real figures of their benefits to our country. Yet, there is widespread disrespect and disregard for our OFWs, since many Filipinos are content with being moochers and want their OFW ATMs to remain as such. And of course, this points to the issues of transitioning from an OFW-dependent economy and mooching culture, all of which require deeper and more long-term approaches to solutions. Such approaches may even oppose our own cherished beliefs about our society, such as Pinoy Pride, following traditions without question, pretending to be happy and just following the bandwagon. Indeed, we should be willing to attack the very beliefs we hold dear, because these may actually be the things holding us back.
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.