Sunday, October 22, 2006

Brain Drain

I have received responses galore from well-wishers concerning my wife’s condition after her traumatic stick-up. One local Filipino friend also sent news of his impending departure to The UAE. I find this upsetting…once again it seems that a very good man is traveling afar because there is just no real opportunity locally.

I had always heard the term “brain drain” when it comes to the Phils, but there’s more to it than that. It isn’t just smart people flooding out of here—good-hearted and caring people are also leaving in droves. Henry is one of each. I met him over three years ago when I started taking college classes. He teaches English and Literature mostly, but his contributions go much further. His classes are uncompromising in quality—he takes no shortcuts, and in a country where shortcuts are pandemic.

It seems like Henry provided oversight and advice to nearly every student club and activity on campus. He arrived at the school early and always left late. We often commiserated over the direction his beloved nation seems to be heading or its lack of any real direction at all, and now it seems that he also is abandoning the seemingly impossible task of trying to make change from within. The Philippines desperately needs good people like Henry, but alas, he feels he has no choice but to go. I’ll miss seeing him on campus.

As you read his note to me and my response, think of Henry and pray for him and his beloved nation. I know him—he would very much prefer to live and work in the Philippines, but unfortunately, his country has let him down. This is a classic modern Philippines story and it’s a tragic one.


Hi there buddy,

I just read your message and I’m sorry for what happened to your wife. I hope she's just fine.

I also keep on reminding my wife and students as well to be careful and vigilant. There have been incidents as such that were experienced by some of my students.

Actually, you are right that AC is becoming a dangerous place because of its economic boom which is not supposed to be, right? If AC's economy is improving, there must be an increase of employment. Maybe, now a days, people are becoming more lazy and want to have easy money rather than WORK legally.

At any rate, let's just be all extra careful and vigilant especially you every time you ride on your bike...and of course always PRAY........

By the way, I’ll be leaving for DUBAI probably 2nd week of November. So, you won't see me in school anymore. I'm going to try my luck there.... thanks for your friendship and I hope that even we're far, we will always be friends.

Until then...


Hi “Professor” Henry,

Thanks for the concern and good wishes. She’s doing much better now.

I keep hearing that there is an economic boom here in Angeles, but I'm not so sure. I see new stores going up, and homes, hotels and apartments, BUT where's the industry? It seems most of the “boom” here is driven by speculation that more tourists will come with the expansion of airline flights into Clark, but lets face it, the tourists that come here do so mostly for the girls. Much of the money driving the local economy is from OFWs (Overseas Foreign Workers) sending bucks back, like I assume you plan to do, yes? If there is so much more opportunity here then why are you leaving us Henry? That's a rhetorical question of course. I KNOW the answer and it is a shame, because many of the brightest and most industrious leave, often the very best that this country has to offer take off--present company included.

It greatly sorrows me to see you go as you are such a great teacher; in fact, one of the best I've had since I started attending classes here. But, I am happy for you if this move helps you and your family reach your dreams of a better life. It’s just a shame that it can't be done right here in your own country, ESPECIALLY for you, a guy who obviously cares greatly for your students, teaches righteous things and provides an incredibly selfless example.

If you must go to that part of the world to advance yourself, then I'm glad it’s the UAE. It seems to be very progressive and tolerant for a Muslim country. I certainly hope it works out that way for you.

I also hope that we can maintain our friendship and correspondence Henry. Please stay in touch my friend!



Ed said...

I think the brain drain in the RP is the same as it is here in Iowa, which has been discussing this for the last decade. It comes down to money. When somebody else pays more for the same job, you go towards the money. Since the RP is a poor nation, I expect those that can get out of the country to make more money, do so.

I've heard things were a lot better under Marcos.

PhilippinesPhil said...

So, everything is just fine here Ed? Jeez man. You can't relate the whole world to Iowa. Its not just a question of money, its a question of bad policy leading to stagnation and little local opportunity. And Marcos was a tyrant who declared himself king of the Phils. We paid him several billions over his 20 plus year reign and he and his dragon lady squandered much of it. That jerk, with our help, set this nation back for as many years as he was on his throne. He set the tone for the way things are now. For the life of me I can't figure out how anyone could attach anything good to him.

Ed said...

Doesn't "stagnation" equate to less money? Doesn't "little local opportunity" equate to less money? Money makes the world go round.

I shouldn't have left a little one sentence comment about Marcos which is a complex subject. I agree that Marcos was a tyrant, at least from how he was protrayed over here. But about 90% of the Filipinos I have talked to about Marcos have said that even though he was a tyrant, the economy of the Philippines was a lot better under him than it was now. People got paid more and had more money to spend, which seems to almost tie into your original topic. It seems to me, or at least in the upper Luzon region and Manila where I have hung out, that the majority of the natives would take the tyrant back if only to have the economy back the way it was.

Perhaps since you are closer to the subject, you could blog about it someday.

Anonymous said...

One time when I lived in Mexico I was chatting with a group of fellow students. One was a Filipino and since this was the first time these Mexicans had met a Filipino he was the center of attention for the first few minutes. One asked him what his country exports and his reflexive response was "Pineapples and people".

I swear he did it in all seriousness, as if it were NORMAL for a nation to export its people in the same way they export commodities like fruit and manufactured goods.

It's bad enough that those who (mis)manage things here have made a basket case of the economy, leaving the people without jobs in their own country. But it's inexcuseable to treat this as a normal situation. An entire industry has developed to support this with visa consultants, schools to train for overseas jobs, placement agencies, not to mention the many vendors of phoney documents.

This country and its people have so much to offer, and so much could be done to fix things here at home. But there is apparently no will to do so.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Ed, corruption, corruption, corruption and greed... ONLY the people at the top of the foodchain get to eat at the economic "trough".... This situation causes despair among the ordinary person who isn't "connected." They lose all hope and any vestige of faith in their own government to do the things necessary to promote growth in the economy. I hate to say this but foreign investors look here last when they look for a place to grow their money. Bitter experience has gotten around that the "risk to reward" is not slanted well in the direction of the foreigner. Every time a potential investor flies into Manila and looks at that unused terminal building its a reminder that says, "Beware, all ye who enter."

The Marcos economy was almost purely driven by the American dollars that flooded this country back then directly from American government coffers. Marcos loved to play his "commie card" to keep the bucks flowing in, even as this government now attempts to use the al qaeda card. The US government no longer pumps in billions, the loss of that money and the overall unfriendly conditions toward foreign investors has made this place an economic basket case compared to other Asian nations. Take away those US bucks and Marcos is just another thug. If you got on that man's wrong side you just disappeared. He and his cronies were some scary dudes. Filipinos are renowned for short memories and ability to forgive and rehabilitate bad politicians both dead or alive.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Alec, you just banged the same drum I did only better... The primary goal of nearly everyone of my classmates is to "go abroad." Think about that in the context of how attached Filipinos are to their families! It has become an automatic response that is contradictory to their love of family. This is not just about money for most of them, it's about necessity. Example: one of my best friends is an electrical engineer, and a very good one. The only work he can get locally is a $10 a day job in a hotel as an electrician. He's been to Saudi where he made about $1200 a month, but the extra money was not worth it if he could not be there to see his little girl grow up. I get sick thinking about it, because it doesn't have to be this way...

Ed said...

Thanks for the Marcos lesson. I can understand now why some of them think things were "better" under him. I was too young to even know where the Philippines were when Marcos was in power. About the only thing that stuck in my memory were all the shoes his wife owned. Do you know of any good books on him that provide an accurant account of his reign?

For your electrician friend, the money wasn't worth it but it seems for a lot of them, leaving behind family for money is.

Sadly, some of the Filipinas I know around here came on fiance visas and I think came for the money instead of the love. Some of them are fifteen years removed from the Philippines (because their husbands don't let them go back), hate their life, husband and want to go back but can't because of their strong Catholic upbringings that teach them to stick with their marriage.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Ed, it might be hard for you as an American with almost unlimited options, opportunities and possibilities to really understand what its like to have to grapple with the conundrum that many of these folks have to deal with. don't take this personal, but you're coming across here as rather hard-hearted. Now that you've got your little one how hard would it be for you to leave her behind for 6 months, 1 year, 2 years? I did it in the military, but that was my duty; and in a way, that's exactly the reason why so many Filipinos leave their families, only for them its duty to family, but ONLY because they have no choice, not like we do.

Lots of people marry for the wrong reasons. I probably know a few more Filipinas than you that got married, went to the States and got divorced. Rarely did I meet any who hesitated to get divorced based on religion. I know Filipinas in their teens married here to Americans in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70s! Believe it or not, most of these marriages are working. They ONLY fail once these old guys convince themselves that nothing will change if they take their beauties to live back home. The solution? Don't take your bride back to the States!

Hopalong Cassidy said...

Philippines Phil

I am very sorry to hear that your wife "got mugged" and I sincerely hope she is alright and has gotten over what must have been a very traumatic experience. The event reminded me of this Bible verse:

2 Timothy 3:1 "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come."

I just discovered the two questions you asked me in the comments of the Sat./Oct./14 post at the Ignatian Perspective. I have answered them there as that was where they were asked.

Leah said...

More and more Filipinos are leaving to search for the milk and honey, of greener pastures and a hope of good future for themselves and more so for their children.

In the end we will all come back (at least I plan to) and return to the beauty of the Philippine Islands.

So sorry to hear about your wife's experience. Hope she is calmer now.

And to Henry, Good luck!

Señor Enrique said...

Let's not forget those who left the Philippines for a better life and did achieve it, but now couldn't come back because their children grew up Americans and won't have anything to do with the Philippines on an extended period -- visiting yes; living no. And since, they didn't want to be away from their children, they remain living abroad.

Going abroad defintely has its many ups, but it certainly has its many drawbacks as well.

I sometimes wonder if ever the Philippines will produce enough good people who would use their votes "wisely." As the American adage goes, "you cannot have good government without good people."

Ed said...

You talk about the married side of people leaving and I mostly see the single side of people leaving, mostly in the health care profession. Are their any sources of statistics that tell what the marrital status of individuals leaving the Philippines for overseas?

You are right, I would not leave my family for any amount of money in the world unless things were pretty dire. However, if I were single, I would go with whomever could SHOW ME THE MONEY!

PhilippinesPhil said...

Ed...Filipinos do not do well single... it goes completely against their nature. The ones who stay single usually do so knowing that it will make it easier to secure working visas to 1st world nations. And these folks do go places that few others would dare to go just to provide for their families... Even when these people are young and single, most do NOT put themselves first. They always think of their family ahead of themselves. I would have thought after being around your wife you would get that by now... Americans are grandly selfish when single aren't they... your "Show me the Money!" slogan is very reflective of the "me me me" American way of seeing things... Single or not, over here, its family first! No offense buddy...

PhilippinesPhil said...

Mr T, I'll go check it out, thanks.

Lea, you're right, lots of Filipinos who go to the USA dream of coming back, but not all can adjust to it when they return. Almost all the single guys who leave come back at least once to get themselves a Pinay wife, especially when they realize what many of us learned eons ago--Filipinas are #1!

Senor E, Filipinos vote here EVERYDAY! They vote with their feet! And its always a vote of no confidence...

Ed said...

My wife and all the Filipinos that I know, don't put their family back home first as you state, they put their family (spouse, children) first, family back home second.

My show me the money phrase in no way states that everything is about me, me, me. It means, as I previously alluded to earlier, that all things EQUAL, I will follow the path of more money. That is not selfish. That is thinking towards the future when I don't have to work for the man. But as we both know, nothing is ever equal so we have to make choices. I have passed up a salary twice as much as what I earn now just so I could work in the Midwest and not in the suburbs of New York City. I took a paycut from my last job to this job just so I could move out of a town of 200,000 down to 15,000 people. But if I could find a town of 15,000 people like where I live now and get paid twice what I'm making, you can bet I'm going to do it. I'm guessing all others, perhaps except you would too.

Amadeo said...

Filipinos leave the country for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, nowadays most of them leave simply to “earn a living” outside, though a small number leave to “migrate” to other countries when the opportunities are with them. Thus, the bulk of departures are now those individuals, or couples, who leave to spend their productive life abroad leaving the rest of their family who will be sustained by inward remittances from their wages. The latter situation is most traumatic and disruptive of family life.

But there are many, and I would include our family here, who did not leave necessarily for economic reasons. For me personally, the family just wanted to try living in another country.

Thus, while the grown children rightfully will not have anything much to do with the old country except maybe visit, we never really aborted our local connections. We continue to maintain everything we had before we left, such as our residence and other resources that we had accumulated over time.

We therefore continue not only to be participants in local life (though absentee for most times) but more importantly as investors with resources coming from the “rewards” of the good life here in the US. Hopefully, this type of a “lifeline” is multiplied many times by similarly situated Filipinos as a meaningful way of stopping the economic hemorrhaging in the old country.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Amadeo, are you telling all here? I moved to the Phils for a combination of reasons, mostly economic, but also to help take care of my wife's parents in their waning years. Why would you just up and move to simply "try living in another country?" You make it sound like such a casual decision. There are plenty of closer countries to "try," so why try the US? For one thing, its HARD for a Filipino to get a permanent visa there, although maybe it wasn't such a big deal when you did it. Now, people here, especially ordinary folk, look at a visa as winning the lottery. Maybe you've gone into more detail on this subject in earlier posts, but I'm missing something in your comment above. No one just decides to try to live in another country on a lark so to speak. It's not as if I just decided to try living in Florida instead of Michigan. Immigrating takes an incredibly intrepid leap of faith, and I'm sure it did on your part, so I'm also pretty sure you must have done it for some good reason other than as just an offhand caper. Out with it man!

Amadeo said...


I will take then the situation with a number of the FilAms originally from our same old hometown, who are here in the US and with whom we continue to maintain connections. They have been here for many years and have also not really completely aborted their local connections, still having resources there and going back on a regular basis and planning to eventually spend more time there, especially after retirement.

They came to the US because their parents or grandparents were US citizens, and when family registrations were filed they too took on US citizenship. Thus, for them coming to the US was much easier, not being subjected to quotas or visa requirements. Of course, the citizenship also filtered to their children, and down the line.

For this group, it became then more of who was going to make the first move. And once the tide was started, more family members followed suit. Now, I can say that these people were not very rich, but neither were they poor.

A number of us had good jobs and doing quite well in our chosen professions. As a matter of fact, coming to the US was made much easier because our careers allowed us to accumulate resources needed for the crucial initial start in a new country. This was the biggest common challenge. And of course, being able to live in the US was quite a tempting attraction, too.

Less known today was the fact that in the late 70’s the Phil. Gov’t came out with a law that disallowed companies from hiring “aliens’ as employees. Thus, one co-employee whose family registered earlier and got his citizenship earlier had his decision to leave for the US made for him by this development.

PhilippinesPhil said...

So I was right--it is more difficult these days for most Filipinos to simply migrate to the USA. I assume that for the first few decades after the commonwealth period ended those folks with direct family in the States had it much easier to make the move. Now I understand your claim that you thought you'd "try" it out. Guamanians snd Puerto Ricans, who did not opt for complete sovereignty, maintain this free movement even to the present. I've met many locals, especially those who used to work on Clark and some of the old Philippine Scouts, who ponder wishfully that this country might have done better continuing as a U.S. territory, but the ruling class here was dead set against that from the very start and I think most US officials were actually quite anxious to get rid of the "headache" and responsibility of governing such a difficult place. Was it Quezon or Roxas who said, "better to live in hell under Filipinos than to live in heaven under the Americans." With rationale like that complete sovereignty was inevitable, especially considering that the average Filipino did not vote in the referendum on the first constitution in '35. MOst of the voters at that time, Filipinos qualified to vote, were from the upperclass or those in their pockets, and we all know what they wanted! And as I said, the Americans ultimately wanted it too.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Oh and your point on the law making it almost impossible for foreigners to work here... That is one more example of how shortsighted decisions were and are made to try to force more locals into the workforce and to keep businesses SOLELY under control of Filipinos, which ultimately backfires by discouraging foreign business and investment. The Philippine Constitution is riddled with clauses that do similar things. My observations are that this place is stagnated mostly because of these anti-foreigner laws. For instance, much of Davao was developed by foreigners many decades ago, but that kind of investment now is no longer common. The economic juggernaut called the USA was built by foreign investors, mostly British and other Europeans. From what I've seen, the fact that ONLY Filipinos can solely own businesses here is to this county's detriment. Investors simply opt for other nations where the perception is there will be less risk and more reward.

Amadeo said...


Those were good analytical points coming from you. I suppose as usual it takes somebody with an outside perspective to see the situation clearly.

But Philippine statehood as a movement has been off and on during those same periods. I was even a member of one called Philippine Statehood USA that was formally organized by an elected public official. We had to pay our one peso to register and be sent a membership card. HeHeHe. Initially, over one million signed up!

But of course, even during that time the issue was moot and academic.

And yes, foreign ownership and the issue of whether foreigners should be allowed to exploit mineral resources are again in the forefront. And as you said, very nearsighted outlooks exhibited, and at times blind to the fact that it takes huge foreign capitalization to undertake these endeavors, such as mining.

And you are right, it was MLQ who pondered that, it is better to have the Philippines run like hell by Filipinos, than one run like heaven by Americans. One should be careful what one wishes for. It could come true.

PhilippinesPhil said...

In reality, statehood or any form of continued United States territorial status, was NEVER on the table as far as the ruling families were concerned. The US acquiesced to these same families starting from the time of the "insurrection" in return for their cooperation, which they provided grudgingly all the way through the mid-30s. In effect, the way things were when the Spanish ran things is the way things stayed, and you can thank United States laziness for allowing this to happen.