WHEN TWO BECOME ONE
A Filipino flat mate of mine has been working, like myself, as the only expatriate member of a staff consisting of locals. He has adapted deftly, and is well-liked by most. On weekends though, he prizes the company of his own countrymen. At this time of the week, he will go anywhere that promises the familiar sight of other Filipino migrants gathered in fellowship; the familiar sounds of spoken Pilipino, and smell of the pigment of boiled rice wafting through the air. For him, karaoke sessions week in and week out are de rigueur as the singing never goes stale. It is his joie de vivre and staple for as long as the lyrics are from back ‘home’.
The urge, but more so, the spirit to socialize with co-workers in a new land is there, to be sure. But it’s hard to teach old dogs new tricks, and for him, there are just one too many awkward moments and silent gaps when he tries to make small talk and find common ground with them.
As part of human nature, the need to socialize with and reaffirm one’s community and identity with one’s compatriots is a basic given, and migrants are no different from everyone else. To reinforce the familiar, and celebrate what makes us a hardworking race – these are part and parcel of an assertion of one’s basic identity as Filipinos. I believe, that too should be celebrated, if not shared, for only then can two become one.
But some obvious questions do arise. For one, can juggling different identities and mindsets – Filipino from one end, and an increasingly Kiwi one on the other end, co-exist successfully together? Will my flat mate as migrant eventually assimilate seamlessly and absorb himself completely into his hospitable host culture, one that declares that it accepts, nurtures, tolerates and acknowledges the cultures of their migrants?
Worldwide, Filipino nurses and caregivers are still in high demand, largely because they are known to combine expert patient care, show outwardly an attentive nature and, exhibit warm bedside manners – all very desirable attributes and techniques sought after in nursing and patient care.
With this thought still in mind, I was asked this question recently: Why, despite the long recession and a stricter immigration policy, do more and more nurses and care givers from the Philippines (i.e., ‘Overseas Filipinos’) arrive in New Zealand as guest workers, most of who incidentally qualify under the immigration laws to become New Zealand permanent residents? The courteous answer to give is because of its good nursing schools and an orientation towards appreciating the value of the nursing profession as main drawing factors. But the reality hits them not long after landing on these shores.
OUR OWN REAL EXPERIENCES
Our own real experience as guest workers in New Zealand is, however, far from ideal. Why? It is because most all who do come here are granted temporary work permits having to gamble with the insecurity of dealing with the fickleness of both the migrant and work policies of an overachieving 1st World economy, hoping that while we all toil away in its offices, factories, mills, workshops, and hospi-tals, we would someday be rewarded with permanent residency to make set-tlement a fact of life, rather than an dicey reality.
But thus far, many of us haven’t had that much going for us in this facet of our lives living here. Most have had to re-apply for new papers every year, being treated as if we were just ‘fresh off the boat’ and wet behind the ears. Yet, when you’ve got a foot into the door and there aren’t better options back home to look forward to, you stay ready, good to go and prime your pumps.
Migration may be looked at by some as a gift and arguably, some are able to work it out to higher or lower degree of fruition depending on where the winds blow. In the end, it’s up to our own energies and inspiration to reach our promised land.
Editor’s Postscript: Overseas Filipinos worldwide represent approximately 11% of the total population of the Philippines, a multi-lingual country where English is taught and spoken as a second language. Those who do migrate often work as doctors, lawyers, newspaper editors and journalists, advertising executives, creative directors, graphic artists, IT and Web professionals, software develop-ers and code writers, engineers falling under several disciplines, chefs and food technicians, architects, industrial and fashion designers, banking officers, in-vestment managers and advisors, accountants, business analysts, teachers and educators, military servicemen, seafarers, entertainers, nurses, physical ther-apists, caregivers or self-employed entrepreneurs – valuable skills and qualifi-cations all which are sought after by many immigration departments and offices of 1st World nations.
The populations of migrant Filipinos, who have settled in OECD countries such as the United Kingdom (203,035), United States (2,802,586), Canada (462,935), and Australia (270,347), attest to the desirability of having Filipinos migrate and settle permanently in their respective countries because of their positive eco-nomic impact, ease of social integration and cultural contributions.
These are the gifts they bring from their migrations. This very well might explain too why these other host countries have proactively fine-tuned their migration and employment policies over the years to continue to attract and keep them from leaving. The numbers speak for themselves. In New Zealand, however, there are only about 24,000 Filipinos who are residents or citizens.