Church groups and NGOs promote community counseling
from the Philippines Today website

Despite the lingering recession in Japan, a huge number of Filipinos continue to live and work here, spawning a host of problems that the Philippine Embassy and Japanese government agencies are unable to respond to adequately.

Over the years, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have taken an increasingly active role in addressing the problems of overseas Filipinos in Japan.

The Philippine Embassy, which reportedly receives about 1500 calls from Filipinos daily, is only too happy to share with these NGOs the burden of addressing distress calls from Filipinos.

The problems continue to diversify as the profile of Filipino residents changes. Traditionally, labor problems dominated, especially in the bubble economy years, when Japan hosted some 100,000 entertainers annually, and male workers filled the construction sites. As more Filipinas married Japanese, marriage and its concomitant family problems followed suit. Recently, the wave of Japanese descendants (Nikkeijin) and trainees that set foot on Japan also brought new problems.

In view of this, Ugat Foundation, which is active among Filipino migrant workers in 20 countries in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East, is stepping up its efforts to make its presence felt in Japan. Recently, it sent a mission to look for its third Bayaning Pilipino from members of Filipino communities here. Two years ago, it chose Elvie Okabe, a community organizer and a psychotherapy trainee at the Urawa Diocese in Saitama Pref. The following year, the foundation, in conjunction with ABS-CBN, chose Andy Farinas, a Filipino worker active in Umeda, Tokyo.

Behind this, Ugat's main agenda is to train counselors on three levels: NGO's or so-called "carers," community leaders and communities themselves. According to Fr. Nilo Tanalega, S.J., project coordinator, Ugat is engaged in family ministry. Its counseling program in Japan was started in 1995. Although its concept of "peer counseling" is taking time to take root in Japan, it plans to continue its program by strengthening its local network.

Because of the unavailability of visa for NGO workers, most counselors who come to Japan have religious visa, and as such are connected with churches. Among these are the Philippine Desk, which is connected with the Yokohama Diocese, and the Open House, which is based in Urawa Diocese. Other groups that offer counseling service to Filipino migrants are the Philippine Pastoral Center, Kapatiran, Catholic Tokyo International Center, and Help, among others.

Fr. William Spicer, a Catholic priest in Chigasaki, Kanagawa Pref., says that there is a need to deal with migrant problems from a bi-cultural perspective. As such, religious and lay missionaries have to understand not only their own language and culture but also that of the host society, especially if the problems are family in nature.

There is a trend towards specialization in counseling among these various groups, and there also exists an informal network for cross-referral among these. Given the diversity of problems, the best way is perhaps training these workers to counsel themselves, as in "peer counseling" which is promoted by Ugat. *
An appeal to view migrant rights as human rights
“You cannot extract the labor out of migrants and ignore their humanity,”
These were the words of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in an address in Europe January last year. The message is simple. In the status quo, despite the significant progress of the human rights movement in the international community during the last decade, there exists a double standard on the way some view the premium on the welfare of the human person. Human rights should be universal and intrinsic; it exists regardless of race, location, contribution or class. It should apply to everyone regardless of which government and which jurisdiction we question. We all concede these principles. But in reality, for migrants, it exists contingent on two things:

One, government protects primarily their own--- an understandable policy; but post-globalization, sadly results to segregation of migrants into a different category. Migrant workers, millions in number, consequently are second-class citizens, not afforded the same treatment as one’s own nationals, despite the fact that they support nation building within their host countries.

And two, if you happen to be an expatriate, your worth is measured best by your productivity--- a system unfortunately adhered to by both sending and receiving governments. Ergo, our migrant laborers have become “commodified,” to be sold and bought, leaving their “universal” and “intrinsic” rights when they leave their borders, some even before. If you think hard on it, from the beginning, even the system that forced them to uproot themselves to better their life, in itself, highlights a crisis that our esteemed neighbors in the global village should address. Not because it is any government’s fault, but because we are past the political landscape where only self-interest and not humanitarian crises are justifiable reasons to intervene. We have a common responsibility. These migrants are not merely surplus of labor in third world economies that cannot support them. Not just outflows to another country whose market is not as congested. They are not just economic beings. They are human beings.

I am here to issue a challenge. Migration undoubtedly presents a marvelous opportunity for advancing human welfare, but this clash of economics and politics makes weighing its cost and benefits very difficult. As an economic analyst point out, effects that look like benefits from a liberal economic point of view becomes cost when viewed with politics in mind. There are many states that have started efforts to protect expatriates, but later gave in to an unenlightened local electorate demands. I argue, that at the end of the day, despite political and economic gains, we still should give priority to the human person wherever they may be.

Specifically, I want to appeal to all the states present, which has yet to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, to kindly keep this consideration very high on your legislature’s agenda. I am happy to report that last June 2003, this convention was ratified after more than a decade of extensive lobbying. It presently has 22 signatories (as of 2003), although sadly, the countries with high importation of labour, so called receiving countries, have yet to sign it. I am hoping that today, I may change your mind. Also as important, I appeal to all governments that have ratified it, my own colleagues in the Philippine congress and senate included, to jumpstart the statutes that would render these principles effective. In the advancement of migrant rights, much depends on legislation.
Let’s analyze the situation. Primarily, I argue this in the context of grassroots migrant laborers, mostly in blue-collared work, as they are the ones most in need of institutionalized global reform. Conceding that there are exceptions, and I salute all countries and individuals for their efforts and success, I contend that much is still needed to be done.

First off, what does this convention entail? In sum, these are its landmark provisions:
1. It provides a universal definition of the migrant workers as a person who is to be engaged or had been engaged in remunerated activity in a State of which he or she is not a national
2. It extends fundamental human rights as elaborated in the principles embodied in existing basic human rights instruments of the United Nations without distinction to all migrant workers and members of their families, both documented and undocumented.
3. It views migrants as not just economic beings but social beings, hence, migrant workers and members of their families are treated as a unit with rights beyond that of laborers. Thus, there is a premium on family reunification either in host society or in their return home. And
4. It establishes the principle of equality of treatment with nationals for all migrant workers and their families in areas such as before court and tribunals and access to education for their children.

Allow me to lay down my premises before I address more controversial areas.

A concern on the onset is why should we consider this matter high on the agenda?

First premise is this: I argue that migration is inevitable.

Two reasons make this so. The first is the more obvious change that has been triggered by globalization. But the second, a more systemic reason, is the recognition that third world poverty necessitates it.

Let me briefly address the first one. Globalization and free trade has already opened the floodgates to a borderless world where one maximizes their competitive advantage by sending their best to where the market is needed. Oxfam showed that the number of people living other than that of their birth was 175 million in 2000 up from 105 million in 1985. Advances in telecommunications and transportation systems have “diminished” the global and facilitated the movement of capital, commodities, people and ideas. Skeldon, in particular, has detailed 5 structural changes in transnational migration. First, he said that there are more countries involved in global migration than in previous years. From traditional receiving states of Western Europe;--- Middle East, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan have become important sites for both capital accumulation and labor immigration. Second, there is an acceleration of the volume of migration. This is true for both sending and receiving countries. Third, in the status quo, migration systems are more diversified: types include settler migration systems, student migration systems, contract labor migration systems and refugee movements. Fourth, migration has become highly feminized, and with it its corresponding implications on the family and parenting, and last , migration has become increasingly “commodified.” There are both government and private institutions assuming an important regulatory function in the global mobility of labor and trend towards greater involvement. Recruitment and placement services abound, attracting the importation and exportation of labor, making it more systematized, and likely to last for a long time. In short, over the past years, there is greater, faster, more diverse, more feminized and more systematic migration, which, by sheer number and speed alone inevitably will affect a large amount of nations for years to come. Therefore, we need to standardize basic principles concerning their treatment. Given that all these is inevitable, the challenge then is to exploit the development opportunities that migration offers.

Second, the polarization of economies make the push and pull of people a systemic problem that has its roots in basic human instinct to better their standards of living. Initially migration is a temporary measure to meet employment economic and livelihood needs of the people. But it has become permanent temporary measure as more and more nations fall into debt and currency devaluation; as well as possess an economy that fails to support the population. It is conceded that given a choice, migrants prefer to live in their respective countries, for who would willingly leave their spouses and children to face an uncertain fate and an unfamiliar culture in another land. Governments regret their labor flight, but with little incentive and capital to make them stay, it is still advancing their welfare to go. What I am saying is, as long as there is poverty to be addressed, people will continue going abroad for employment.

This reminds me of the worldwide ban of workers in Iraq, a sad fact that some of my Filipino workers circumvented by flying to Iraq’s neighbors, and crossing the border from there on, and braving a post-war zone. Although the Philippine government stopped deployment for their sake, some still insisted that, when pressed between a hard rock and a wall, you take your chances. For them, there is no choice, because to remain is to suffer unemployment.
And so the solution therefore, is to improve this imbalance of wealth, and generate the jobs that can assist this people within their states. And I agree, wholeheartedly. But as most of you fighting for debt relief know, this is not a simple economic equation. But this is the good thing about migration of labor. Migration, through remittances, is a lifeline for nations to solve their problem. By opening your doors, you have helped bridge that gap between richer and poorer states. Let me address this further as I argue my next point.

Second premise: The migration phenomenon is a win-win situation.

Migration, if properly facilitated and managed, has triple beneficial effects.

In the host country, imported labor help boost growth, reduce inflationary pressure and fill labor market shortages that are in demand in many a first world economy. Self-selection by migrants means that they are likely to be especially resourceful, entrepreneurial and ambitious. Most offer relatively cheap labor compared to first world counterparts, thus they sustain the industries and increase local GDP.

It benefits these migrant individuals and their families whose incomes rise and would be able to improve their standards of living. Remittances are key for those they leave behind. For the Albanian workers in the United Kingdom, as detailed by Oxfam, these salaries are used initially for day to day survival, then later to improve living conditions like indoor toilets, piped water, furniture and domestic appliance and if successful, then to the building of a house and a house extension.

It benefits the sending nations, for the remittances that are sent are utilized to buffer the impact of economic recession and cover growing budget deficits that cheat the taxpayers of programs for social reform. Furthermore, it increases global GDP and it promotes convergence in wages and opportunities between sending and receiving areas that eventually reduces the situations that called for the migration to begin with.

Given global awareness of developing nations being in need, here is an effort of third world nations to better themselves, and we thank all the states that have responded to these efforts. As good as a direct aid such as the packages you give to states suffering from war, calamity and oppression, this is an implicit exercise of moral responsibility we applaud.

If it is this simple, why doesn’t these benefits manifest itself?

The Fabian Society and Oxfam Great Britain research on migration myths for the European Union, United Kingdom and Albania has the following conclusions, which I argue to be generally applicable. They believe that the benefits of migration are hampered by two main blocks: first is the stereotypes against migrants that civil society and various governments hold and two, the difficulty mobilizing different forms of repatriated capital for the development of the sending country.

First, the stereotypes. Migrants are viewed as a foreign presence requiring constant surveillance on the part of employees and the society. There is a categorization of migrants as different entities, a paradigm that shifts even into legislation. Civil society responded to the immigrant question as a threat to local economic and social position when in the first place they take jobs locals do not want to take (i.e. domestic help, care giving, construction work, etc.), specialized jobs that the country’s labor force lack (i.e. IT professionals) or jobs that there is little manpower to sustain (ie. Migrant nurses support Britain’s health care systems.)

Second is the improper use of repatriated capital. This is Glick Schiller et al’s concept of Tran nationalism; migrants involved in their home country and their new country at the same time. Portes et al (1991) and Vertovec (2001) said that presently, the migrant’s connections to their home region is much more possible than in the past. Perhaps, vis-à-vis this campaign, is the campaign on how these money can be invested and utilized wisely, and efforts on these are starting.

But third premise, most important of all, is this: Regardless of inevitability, regardless of gains economically and politically, this convention is the logical extension of the UN Declaration on human rights that everyone profess to agree on in principle.

We created the free trade and liberal globalization systems. Advocates always come out and say that if you join this bandwagon, it is better for you. Cheap labor will fill ailing industries in capital-intensive countries and your unemployed citizens will have competitive salaries.
But one should understand that with this “win-win” system we created, we lost foresight for social costs. Why is migration open to human rights violations?

One, there is considerable cost on the migrant’s families. As explained earlier, to migrate for work is inevitable and shall continue until significant economic growth can be sustained in sending countries. When a migrant leaves, a large upheaval on the family, conceded as a significant unit in any society, happens. There is the issue of loneliness as the seas separate the migrant and his family. There is a disruption in the power structure of the remaining family unit. Because some work for years abroad, it is not unusual for divorces, extramarital affairs and abandonment to ensue. Kids, even as young as toddlers, are left to questionable guardians, by mothers who ironically takes care of other people’s kids as caregivers and domestic helpers abroad. Statistics will tell you that there is a greater rate of drug addiction, promiscuity, drop-outs and delinquency among children of overseas workers owing to the fact that there is an absence of parental control and supervision—and yes, even love. Upon reintegration, these parents and children, these spouses are strangers----when ironically they left the country for their family’s sake.

A problem like this on one family is a case. If it happens to many---and migrant care providers like non-governmental organizations, the church and others will attest it happens to a considerable number of them---it becomes no longer a case, but a crisis. This disruption in the family, silent though it is---happens to millions. And will continue to happen because this is the inevitable carryover of globalization and poverty.

Many of you are concerned with this premium on family reunification on this UN Convention. We understand and hear your concerns. Primarily, some are afraid that ratification may bring an influx of unproductive family members. But human rights are above productivity. People should be with their loved ones, as cheesy as that may sound, it is an intrinsic human right and if we can do something about it, why don’t we? It is a sad situation that economics uproots the family unit. But it is rather concerning to say that it is alright for us to have the laborers even at the expense of these social costs, the cost of the family. This means that we---the countries who send them and the countries that receive then---are perpetuating a crisis that we are aware exists. Is this the post-human rights movements paradigm? That we sit on an ivory tower because we can’t feel the repercussions because they are internal?

That there would be an influx of unproductive migrants dependent on welfare is arguable. One, it can be regulated vis-à-vis programs for reintegration in the homeland and through provisions based length of stay. And two, the family can always make itself productive, and in fact, by virtue of a working member, least likely to become dependent on the state.

Second consideration is the openness for abuse in this set-up. The migration and employment experiences of those who go overseas are neither as straightforward nor as empowering as presumed. The expansion of secondary or low wage labor markets in receiving countries gradually has led to segmentation by gender, class and ethnicity. The discrimination can come in the form of denial of benefits and unsafe working conditions that they would most likely bear silently owing to their need and owing to the number of competition. Crisis centers abound with cases of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. They are vulnerable because of their absence from their state of origin and the government that protects them. This discrimination is felt, some even cultural in origin, thus leading the United Nations to include migrants in their convention against xenophobia.

Just the system that necessitates migration encourages migrants to engage in human trafficking, illegal entry and prostitution. The convention does not encourage them, rather, it wants to level the playing field so that these can be avoided and their rights can be upheld.
As migration is a large-scale phenomenon, we need your states’ assistance regarding this matter. Embassies can only do so far, faced with a crisis this large, particularly since most embassies still have to deal with the states to address institutional concerns. Why you? Globalization made us a big melting pot of cultures that respective governments can’t reach them anymore. This should be a collective effort of the international community.

If signing this convention is too much to ask at this point in time, may I request that you consider the spirit of these vital points, and use whatever means are available to you, to uplift the welfare of your migrant workers? We know there are considerations, and matters are not so simple. We know that some countries, Malaysia for instance, had to institutionalized affirmative action for its indigenous Malays because of the favor on migrant Chinese and Indian nationals. We know that there are migrants as well who have abused your state’s hospitality in the past. We know that you have other unique burdens to carry as a nation and as a government. But these can be addressed.

Perhaps you can incorporate, in your local labor laws and immigration policies, through a campaign to and by concerned civil society members---and all the other resources we can tap into for this honorable cause; incorporate all the significant principles in these convention, that we may still be dynamic and responsive, even as we schedule signing the convention itself for later.

Regardless of how you go about it, at the end of the day, we ask you, can we extend the human rights we afford our own locals to migrants. We all value the same things: dignity of labour, tolerance, premium on the family, meritocracy, equality and justice. Why can’t we extend it to all?

We know you all care about migrant rights. That is why you are here. Now lets put it in paper.
By: Fr. Nilo Tanalega, S.J.

The opportunity rarely presents itself--- when a network of organizations sharing the same interest and vision come together in one council to not just talk; but hopefully make the trains work. In this instance, the interest is the economic, social and political welfare of Filipino expatriates and the medium is the Global Filipinos’ Roundtable Consultative Discussion on Empowering Filipino Expatriates through Unified Strategies and Programs, held last January 5, 2005 at the Laurel and Recto Halls of the Senate.Change should be bi-directional. One is from the top-down, from government mandates and legislation to implemented policies that trickle down to our grassroots Filipinos. Principles that are not recognized by our state institutions commonly remain a theoretical entity, gaining its weight only if there are enough people willing to lobby for its fruition. But at the same time, change should also be bottom-up, a movement from individuals to the institutions. There is a need for a shift in mindset, to chip down the perceptions that provide resistance to more unified and humane stands on different issues. It is but logical to presume that the two are complementary and mutually inclusive.With these two approaches in mind, the goal of this paper is twofold. First is to present a concrete social reform agenda that can be appreciated by our esteemed legislators. The second is to serve a new paradigm when looking at migrant issues, in order to block self-defeating stereotypes that we unconsciously draw on when addressing our migrant Filipinos: namely that they are not just workers abroad but people. They are not means to an economic end, rather they are the end themselves: world class players in a highly globalized environment.

The following are the changes our organization, UGAT Foundation, a non-governmental organization for grassroots families, proposed and later refined in the aforementioned round table conference with the help of our affiliates. It is our hope that sharing this with you would multiply the number of individuals who will actively pursue this advocacy.In the appreciation of the later analyses, however, please bear in mind this paper’s limitations. The focus of our ministry is to assist struggling Filipino workers abroad, mostly from the grassroots level, and consequently this paper highlights them rather than the also significant in number, successful Filipino expatriates who have managed to gain capital, recognition, businesses and even political clout abroad. Justifiably so, since the foci of a reform agenda are those most vulnerable to abuse and most in need of assistance. And yes, we concede there are also laudable families who have weathered separation and reintegration with our expatriates rather successfully. We just feel that the fight against the social costs of the disruption of the family structure because of migration is not yet over.

The rate of success when it comes to working abroad is influenced by a variety of factors. Among these factors are the countries they choose to reside in, the nature of the job they apply to, with contractual workers more vulnerable, and even their gender. Some countries have legislation sensitive to migrant rights, and an amicable friendship between our governments exists, permitting a successful feedback system between states. Some countries, however, are high risk zones for Filipinos. For instance, in a certain Asian country, the outlook on migrants working in blue-collared jobs is akin to ownership, owing to racial differences. In another country, this time in the Middle East, employers are culturally predisposed to look at women differently from their men, making them prejudiced to our female expatriates, which makes them vulnerable to abuses.This aggravated by the fact that a good number of our expatriates go abroad undocumented, which makes it more difficulty for institutionalized help to reach them. The recent tsunami highlighted this concern, our government is not even certain on the number of possible Filipino casualties abroad since they risked migrating illegally. In sum, we opted intentionally to air the bad-case-scenario, for this is our opportunity to respond.


To assess the needs of our Filipino workers abroad and their families, a consultation with social development workers with exposures in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Taiwan, Saipan, Palau, Guam, American Samoa, and the USA was conducted. These caretakers are in direct contact with our migrants and have insight on their working and living conditions.In these consultations, seven main issues surfaced.

1. On the Inability of Expatriates to Save and Invest
Recently, a group of economists from the Asian Development Bank released the results of their study on the effect of overseas worker’s remittances on the long-term poverty alleviation program of the country. The results were disappointing. It concluded that expatriate’s dollars are mostly spent on non-essentials and luxuries by recipient families. Many workers, despite having slaved in a foreign country for years, fail to establish a nest egg. Two scenarios are common. Either they come home with savings but the money supply gets depleted the first year of their return or they regularly send home what they earn but their relatives in the country fail to make the income sustainable.Much of it is psychological. Filipinos are very rarely long-sighted when it comes to monetary concerns. Risk-taking is very low, and the decision of investing is a scary prospect we would rather fend off for later. Instead, we are highly consumerists; preferring to live in the here and now, and preferring tangible but not necessarily practical proof of our labor. Thus, the katas ng Saudi is no longer the jeepneys and taxis that shall provide sustainable income to the family at home but the signature clothes, appliances and big houses.

But to presume such is the same for all is myopic. After all, what Filipino wouldn’t want to retire in luxury? Perhaps the Filipino’s inability to save is also due to the servicing of debts he incurred while saving enough to leave the country or maybe salary they take home is really not enough to address the mounting needs of dependents at home.It was encouraging to know that many groups are now taking an interest in educating the Filipino on investing, one of which is Francisco Colayco who advocates a change in expenditure habits, as well as wise investment of funds. But in case a forcing function is more appropriate, as most likely is, we recommend that the government legislate Forced Investments. This Proposal involves choosing of stable institutions to invest in pre-departure and consequent channeling of a percentage of expat's salaries to these investments which may only be accessed by expat and spouse together upon return.This set-up has been utilized before by other governments through the cooperation of their expatriate’s employees. In a system similar to the deduction of social security contributions and taxes, the system would be automatic, requiring inconvenience on the part of the Filipino migrant except in the initial selection of where the money should go, a process which may be facilitated by the National Securities and Exchange Commission in order to ensure that the pool of companies for selection are relatively low-risk.It’s a win-win situation for both the country and the individual since we also desire the infusion of capital into our local industries in order to address the poverty that forced our labor force to seek greener pastures in the first place. More importantly, like taxation, such contributions may be progressive, depending on how much the worker gets as salary to begin with and fulfilling first a minimum criteria to comply e.g. amount of contribution vis-à-vis number of dependents in order to be sensitive to the comfort level to the employee.

Although at first glance in may appear as if another attempt of the government to get a chunk of these “resources”, on another level it is a measure of insurance that what they worked hard for can be placed into good use. By making the presence of both spouses a prerequisite to get the returns, one also puts premium on the couple as a unit and possibly provides incentive for the quality of reintegration

2. On the Dependency of the Extended Family on the Migrant
One cannot discuss the productive use of migrants’ remittances without addressing the concept of dependency. Economics, after all, has a social side to it as well. Because culturally we are predisposed to the concept of a “benevolent provider” in the family, it is not unusual for the extended family to come to depend on the migrant as well, in the misconception that their son/daughter, in-laws, niece/nephew went abroad to “save” them all, even if these remaining family members are well and able, and should provide for themselves. Indeed, even the opening of “balikbayan boxes” becomes a community event in some families.Although it is a value to maintain such close family ties, one must examine the validity of the sense of entitlement that exists in families of migrant workers. If it comes to the point that these funds are not utilized for the immediate families basic’ needs and welfare, and the Filipino’s sense of kinship gets in the way on saying an empathic no, a third party must come to the picture.One of the proposals our group of social development workers came up with is the creation of an arbitration court for migrant welfare issues, specifically family issues, which has the teeth to enforce their decisions.

Such courts may be set up on either the baranggay or the municipal level whichever is feasible.One may look at Family Life Workers of the Church to man such courts. The judgments are of course based on the Family Code and this proposal doesn’t imply a sectarian judgment. The premium here is in on the knowledge of family dynamics that most family lawyers lack, as ideally such cases involving the kin systems should settle their issues legally as a last resort.

3. On the Welfare of Really Young Children of Filipina Migrants
With poverty as the springboard of migration, the presence of a nurturing mother during a child’s formative years becomes a privilege rather than a right. The social costs of overseas employment especially in the children of expatriates include growing up in a single parent family, albeit a temporary one, victims of rape/incest, drugs and alcoholism, and degradation of norms/moral values considering that majority of the expatriates are women where they play key roles in child rearing and value formation. Often times, the children rebel because of lack of role model and parental guidance leading to low academic performances.

We propose therefore that Filipinas with children 7 years old and below secure permission from the DSWD first before leaving the country. This permission shall be contingent on the availability of a competent guardian for the young children.The Hector Morada’s research showed an average of 0.56 children below 7 in households of female migrant workers. At first glance this might not be a big number, but juxtaposed this with the fact the majority of our expatriates are women, most married with kids; we are still talking in terms of millions. There is a need to secure the welfare of these children and what would an extra step during departure hurt?

3. On the Resiliency of Expatriates and their Families
Resiliency is the ability to spring back from and successfully adapt to adversity. The Filipino migrant upon settling into another country has to deal with various pressures both within and outside. There is the challenge of adapting into another culture, adapting into Filipino communities abroad, and dealing with loneliness and separation among other things.There is a need to beef up ongoing research on building resiliency among migrants and their families to further understand the strengths of successful migrants and the needs for improvement among those which easily succumbed to the demands of living outside the country. This project, we are happy to say, has already been jumpstarted, c/o Maria Lourdes Ramos of the Ateneo Psychology Department, with a premium on the following factors: openness, adversity, hope & optimism and coping. Similar endeavors for the determination of the resiliency of expatriates and their families are proposed.Information is still one of the better ways to promote resiliency. One of the resolutions of the above conference is to complement the pre-departure seminars of migrants with another on-site version. The rationale is simple: each country is different; its laws, working conditions and expectations are also different. There is a need to tailor fit the orientation process to the setting so as to circulate feedback to new workers and make sure that mistakes are not repeated and productive resolution of diagnosed problems can be conducted.The key still is access. There is a need to make such orientation accessible, maybe as near to the airport terminal as possible.

The goals are twofold. Aside from insight on what to expect, the government may also utilize these gatherings to account for the Filipinos in the host country, and establish links so as to not lose track of them once they are settled and working.

4. On the rate of Psychological Illness among Filipinos AbroadI
n relation to the inner strength of the Filipino abroad, there also exists a need for the government to establish some form of filtering mechanism to assess pre-departure a person’s potential to succumb to the stresses once abroad. There may be a need to put it in legislation to ensure that competent psychometricians do the work and that everyone leaving the country goes through the process.The problem with the status quo is that since it is an option, recruiters and individuals planning to go abroad are less likely to spend for these tests when they do not have to. The result is to either get lower quality of appraisal (i.e. limited testing) or to skip the process altogether.But prevention is better than cure, as such a mechanism may be able to see the individuals more likely to become psychotic, suicidal and/or depressed and thus set up interventions for his/her welfare.

5. On Moral Issues
Sadly, some unproductive Filipino group dynamics extend even abroad. It is not uncommon for our migrant to engage in spats and quarrels, not with the other culture but with fellow Filipinos as well. There is the tsismisan, the crab mentality and the lack of an establish support systems. Although being together and being hospitable is a Filipino strength, the quality of life together may still be addressed.Values is still the key. In this conference, we continue to affirm the presence of outreach missions and values seminar among our expatriates. Such is also a must when one thinks of specific moral dilemmas that our workers have to deal with in face with a different way of thinking. Continuing outreach missions of Filipino clergy and religious will boost the morale of migrant workers.

6. On the Pervasive Violence Against Expatriates
Sometimes, governmental protection is not enough, since pervasive violence and abuse to our migrants may be culturally rooted. For instance, it might be based on how certain cultures view their women, view the jobs Filipinos commonly take on, or view foreigners in general. In this light, two proposals were considered:

a. Selective Deployment of Expatriates to countries where harassment cases against Filipinos are less pervasive; and / or

b. Withdrawal of workers from the country provided that the case hasn’t been settled on the third attempt.

This, of course, may mean greater government control than some would like as some Filipinos would still risk abuse for employment as evident by the disregard of the ban to Iraq, but as the cost of causalities and victims are staggering, it is a matter no government should go soft on. Inter-government (e.g.Malaysia and Philippines) initiatives are very important in tackling issues.

There is also a need to beef up the establishment of shelters in cases of emergencies like in domestic violence and human trafficking. There are few shelters run by NGOs and they are always full. In some countries these are called Resource Centers and are run by the Labor Office. The prompt response of embassy officials to migrant issues is also appreciated along as the coordination and liaison with the Migrant Workers Support Centre of the diocese.

7. On the Inability to Send Home the Remains of Migrants who dies abroad Cremation may be a more practical option than covering costs of sending the remains home. It might also be better to raise local emergency funds for such emergencies.


More importantly, as these proposals will no doubt be subject still to countless debates, there is a need to first establish a new mindset. In fact, there are specific instances when the paradigm shift is a pre-requisite for institutionalized action as even our well-meaning legislators unconsciously become guided by the seemingly flawless ideas that they hold. Also, there is a need to change the way of thinking among individuals.Our expatriates are lauded as modern heroes, that much is conceded. But still this perception is hinged upon the premise that they bring home remittances, aiding an ailing economy.

This is not as positive as one may initially assume. Why? For this kind of thinking reduces the expat to the level of goods being shuffled around for profit.First, there is a need to look at migrant workers not as economic beings, but as human beings.Majority of our migrants would rather stay in the country if they had a choice. True, seeing new settings and visiting famous places are dreams of a lot of people, but not when they come with the expense of separating from the people that matter to you and the culture that has provided you comfort as an individual. Besides, they are not abroad as tourists, most have to contend with the 4 Ds of overseas work. It’s dirty, dangerous, deadly and degrading. Most take jobs that the people indigenous to the place would not take. At times, discrimination exists, with protection to imported labor significantly less.Of course we are not saying that this is true for all cases. It is certain that there are also a good number of Filipinos who find their job fulfilling, their purpose recognized. And we are happy for them. This paper merely highlights these cases commonly encountered by our social workers as they are the ones that need our assistance and can most benefit through social reform.

The dehumanization of our overseas Filipinos stem from the mindset of consumerism. A desire for the maximum profit, motivated by greed and brought about by the movement towards a borderless world. They say in the globalized environment, our only competitive advantage with first world nations who have the capital is our labor force and it is best to send them where the businesses are. Of course the downside there is that there are also other third world nations offering these rich nations labor, cheaper too. So we lower our standards to get the job and suffer several indignities just so we won’t have to get off the bandwagon.Such displays our priority when we make legislation. We can’t even make the distinction human trafficking and respectable employment just so we won’t loose the dollars! And such displays the priority of our fellow Filipinos. We do not care about our welfare in a country filled with civil strife, even if it meant the possibility of being taken hostage, just for the money.

Also, we need to broaden our assessment of the impact of migration. That the migrant is not just an individual, but a member of a family. His departure affects both sides of the ocean. There is a remarkable strain on the family unit and their resiliency has to be explored---on how best to maintain relationships from a distance, raise children even from abroad and find support in the face of loneliness and separation.


Although it is difficult to provide respect for quality of life and dignity because we are constrained by financial necessity, at the very least these social/ psychological interventions should come vis-à-vis with economic interventions. There is a need to remind ourselves that they are not just to be milked for remittances, rather they should be assisted to discover their resiliency, inspite of the unique situation they are in.