At 21 years old, with a college degree, Ronnie says goodbye to his family and girlfriend and boards a plane from the Philippines to Dubai where he will work selling gourmet chocolate at a high-end mall in Dubai City where tourism abounds. He hopes to make enough within the next year to return and marry his girlfriend and stay at home in Olongapo City.
Ronnie’s situation is not unique among the Filipino population. In fact, it has for the past decade become the most common story in the Filipino labor market. Thousands of professionals and college graduates seek job opportunities each year in North America and Europe, some utilizing high-level educational achievements simply to get a job as a maidservant or nursing assistant.
As for Ronnie, he must now bear living in a one-room apartment with no air conditioner in a country where temperatures regularly climb over 100 F. He shares his apartment with 4 other Filipino migrant workers, all doing their best to cut down their rent cost in a country where the cost of living is significantly higher than what they are accustomed to in the Philippines.
Our organization’s time in the Philippines has given us the opportunity to observe the ill-effects that such massive human export is having on an already underdeveloped nation. When ambitious minds like Ronnie’s seek employment elsewhere in a more developed nation, there is less ambition spent towards the development of health care, government infrastructure, education, economic development, and the many other facets of Filipino culture that desperately need transformed.
As is the case with Ronnie, the intention is often to return home to the Philippines after a short time. However, case after case demonstrates quite the opposite – people stay for years, often missing out on their children growing up. Beyond simply removing the most capable workers from the workforce, the widespread move towards human exports is tearing away at the traditionally revered family unit.
Filipino sociologist Randolf David observes, “the clannishness and the intense familism of the Filipino are being belied by the frequency with which one reads funeral notices announcing that so many of the children of the deceased are abroad and are therefore unable to attend the old man’s burial.”
As a development organization, we are eager to maintain the cohesiveness of the family unit so that fathers and mothers are able to be present as their children grow up. Nevertheless, we recognize the complicated realities that cause people to make the decision to leave their family to go to a place where they can send money back to help pay the bills. It’s not as easy as simply finding an equivalent job at home.
Continue in prayer with us as we work towards opportunities to come alongside people like Ronnie and envision alternative ways to overcome the hardships of an impoverished world. Currently, we are excited that we have been able to come alongside Rina Escosura (pictured above) and help invest in her education that will, in turn, empower her to meet needs within her own local community surrounding Olongapo City.