‘Permanence of absence’

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National Migrants Sunday” will be marked February 17. A new commission on “Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People,” 27 years back, set first Sunday of Lent to focus attention on a trickle but growing stream of migrants.

Today, a quarter of Filipino workers are scattered in over 193 countries. “Labor migration has been called a ‘civil religion’ in the Philippines,” says Asian Century Institute, “An ever-growing force, international migratiion shows few signs of retreat”, adds the New York Times.

This rite jogs our memory. We boarded a Southern China Airlines flight 309 for Ulan Bator in Mongolia with a Beijing stopover. Eight seats away, was a nanny, with two Chinese kids in tow. Her simple T-shirt-cum-jeans, braids and accent proclaimed.”Filipina”.

We chatted in Beijing ’s airport corridors.. She was from Pampanga. Her mistress was visiting relatives, pointing to the bejeweled matron striding ahead. They’d visit the Great Wall, Forbidden City, with the kids..

An airport official urges us to move along, Our petite Filipina waves goodbye and blends into the queues. What would be the stories from an estimated 10 million Filipinos now abroad?.

“Roughly 3,752 Filipinos leave daily,” Viewpoint noted “That’s over 30 times the first clutch of timid migrants who left five decades back…The ‘youth bulge’ is evident. Many are between 25 and 44 years old. And 36 out of every 100 have a college degree.”

Filipinos serve as air traffic controllers in Dubai , engineers in Libya , maids in Hongkong, illegal handymen in Saudi Arabia to musicians on luxury cruise vessels plying the Carribean.

“You don’t have to answer this, Captain,” a foreign recruiter told the Filipino 747 pilot. “You’re number seven in seniority at your airline. Why sign up with us?” “Simple,” our high-school classmate replied. “You pay me five times more. And it’s all tax-free.” The recruiter beamed. “Sign here, Captain.”

The number of international migrants doubled in the past quarter-century to more than 200 million. In Latin America, Filipinos, Indonesians and Bangladeshis spearhead migrants from Asia . Filipino emigration rate is double that of Vietnam .

European Union peg illegal Filipinos or TNTs (tago ng tago) at 113,000. About two percent of US illegals are Filipinos. There are 3.4 million Filipinos,. naturalized as Americans. That includes our five kids.

`“We should follow the example of a New York City nurse named Menchu Sanchez,” President Barrack Obama said in his State of the Union Address.. When Hurricane Sandy plunged NYU Langone Medical Center into darkness, the 56-year-old registered nurse — born, raised and educated in the Philippines — organized staff to evacuate 20-at-risk babies. Cell phone glow lighted their way down eight floors. Sanchez sat between Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.

International migrants are on track to remit an increase of 6.5 percent in savings to their families, says World Bank in it’s “Migration and Development Brief 19” brief ..” Filipinos are number 3 among the top 10 recepients of migrant remittances. China is No. 2 and Mexico No. 4.

Credit Melanie Reyes of Miriam College for a comprehensive review of studies on the effects of migration on children left behind. About 9 million ( 27 percent ) of the young fall into this bracket. “Global parenting” is reduced phone, internet or Facebook. But man does not live by padala alone. Children feel abandoned, specially by migrant mothers. And seven out of 10 OFWs are female.

The kids “tend to be more angry, apathetic, confused — and afraid,” the scientists note. A “permanence of absence” mindset, like that of orphans, enguls many And if the eldest child is a girl, the burden of performing a mother’s tasks is strapped willy-nilly on her.

Padalas generate a vicious circle of migration. They underwrite education of family members in preparation for their emigration .And thus is a “migration mindset” is cobbled. People’s first thought is to head for the exit.

When large numbers want to scram, pressure on government to implement reforms eases.. The elite are only “too happy to feel no domestic political pressure to give up privileges such as tax evasion and corruption…

Asian Century Institute recalls: Former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton telling President Benigno Aquino “Let’s be very honest here. Too many (migrants ) feel they cannot progress in their own country. Too many feel that the elite in business and politics basically call the shots,

“And there’s not much room for someone who’s hardworking, but not connected. Too many believe that even if they get the best education that there won’t be an opportunity for them. And so they take that education and help build someone else’s economy, very often here in the US.

A country that cannot hold on to its best and brightest compromises its future. Such countries find they must reinvent themselves, as nations beyond borders. Migration drains the Philippines of essential skills, Asian Development Bank cautions. Spoon- feeding individuals and governments puts off tough reforms.

“My mom was always sleeping during the day because she works at night,” explained a Pinoy migrant’s son who joined gangs. “And my dad works all the time They thought getting money on the table was the only thing they should do.”

“When we first came Britain, our children were babies”, the migrant parents say.. Now they are young adults with their own culture and their own ideas. And we don’t know how to deal with them”.

Twenty seven Migrant Sundays from today, the wife and I will long be gone. Can anyone tell us what will “permanence of absence” will have etched into children of today’s diaspora?

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