WARNING: 2 MILLION FILIPINOS—OUR “NEW HEROES”-- FLEEING EVERY YEAR!
REFLECTIONS ON THE DIASPORA in Two Recent Books by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.
A year or two ago, the head count of Filipinos leaving every day for abroad, either as Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) or immigrants and expatriates, was well below 2,000. But by this February, the figure has risen to 3,000. The exodus seems unstoppable. We will soon witness nearly 2 million Filipinos leaving the country every year. More than 9 million Filipinos are already scattered around the planet, from Alaska to South Africa and the southern part of South America. Pinays and Pinoys are in every continent, from north to south pole.
Is Mount Pinatubo showing signs of life? Is Mt. Mayon threatening another fireworks display so that thousands—“mga bagong bayani,” as Tita Cory acclaimed them, if they don’t return in coffins-- are fleeing the homeland?
Not at all. It is only business as usual. The Arroyo regime, happy about the millions of pesos obtained from taxes and fees from departing mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters, seems proud of this headlong rush away from home. Thanks to earnings sent home, the peso has risen above the dollar, allowing our rulers to borrow more for their self-indulgent appetites. The Philippines has become a neocolonial economy chiefly dependent on the sweat and blood of Filipinos forced to sell themselves as domestics, cheap labor--indeed, prostituting themselves for lack of jobs at home and the hopelessness of the daily struggle, given the scourge of state terrorism buttressing sharp class inequality and daily social injustice.
Everyone knows of 834 victims of extrajudicial executions—no end in sight (see UN officer Alston’s press statement and the Melo Commission report). No need to worry about this banality. Government officials jump with joy that dollar remittances have risen up to billion. Foreign debt to the World Bank and corporate lenders can be paid. No serious disturbance to the luxurious life of the elite—oligarchic compradors, bureaucrat-capitalists, landlords or jueteng lords, dynasties of “trapos” and their entourage—as long as those Moros and unkempt NPAs can be warded off for now by U.S. Special Forces and AFP death squads. There is always a way out—as long as wars, business failures, and the permanent crisis of capitalism do not prevent the “escape” to Hong Kong, Singapore, Italy, Canada, U.S., and so on. But how long will this last? An impending catastrophe looms in the horizon. Meanwhile, the party in Malacanan goes on….
Two books on topics dealing with the Philippine crisis (of which the OCW is a symptom), in particular the phenomenon of the emerging “diaspora” of Filipinas/os, were published recently: FILIPINOS EVERYWHERE by IBON Foundation in Quezon City (www.ibon.org; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) and ON THE PRESENCE OF FILIPINOS IN THE UNITED STATESS by Sarimanok Publishers in Salinas, California, USA (email@example.com). Both can also be obtained from PHILIPPINE EXPRESSIONS (310-514-9139; fax 310-514-3485).
A Filipino resident in the U.S., San Juan is an internationally recognized cultural critic whose works have been translated into French, German, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and other languages. He was previously a Fulbright professor of American Studies at Leuven University, Belgium, and visiting professor of literature at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. He has taught in various universities around the world, including the University of Trento, Italy; the University of the Philippines, and Ateneo de Manila University.
San Juan’s previous works include The Philippine Temptation (Temple UP); Beyond Postcolonial Theory (Palgrave Macmillan), Racism and Cultural Studies (Duke UP); Working Through the Contradictions (Bucknell UP); Himagsik (De La Salle UP); and Sapagkat Iniibig Kita (UP Press), and the forthcoming E. San Juan Reader, Balikbayang Sinta (Ateneo de Manila UP). He serves as advisory editor to numerous journals, among them Atlantic Studies, Amerasia, Cultural Logic, Nature Society and Thought, Left Curve and Kritika Kultura. He was recently Rockefeller Foundation fellow at the Bellagio Study Center, Italy.
Some of his essays are posted in two sites: rizalarchive.blogspot.com; sonnysj.blogspot.com.