New York Times article “Toiling Far From Home for Philippine Dreams” – Compelling but Missed Its Mark

Overseas Filipino worker toiling with Philippine flag in the background (Google Images)

On September 18, 2010, The New  York Times article recently published an article “Toiling Far From Home for Philippine Dreams”, easily becoming one of the most emailed stories  that weekend.  The reporter, Norimitsu Onishi writes compellingly about the dreams of overseas Filipino workers and their shortcomings as they build a better life for their families left behind.

I agree on three key points that the article mentioned.  However, the article didn’t mention the growing donations and community giving that many overseas Filipino workers are conducting. I lament such gross omission that the article largely missed its mark.

Three Key Points that Were Right On the Mark:

1. Philippine government unhealthy dependence on remittances and calling overseas Filipino workers “heroes”.

It’s ridiculous that the Philippine government continues to call overseas Filipino workers “heroes”. The façade of heroism hides the ugly reality, risks and dangers that many Filipino workers face as they seek employment abroad.  In the end, being called “heroes” becomes another marketing ploy to continue promoting workers to leave.

2. The Philippine government has an unhealthy dependence on remittances

Migration and promoting overseas employment is not a sustainable enterprise.  In fact, 30 years of sending out workers abroad has not made the Philippines prosper much (Opiniano, Diaspora Philanthropy by Filipinos, 2005).  Remittances has saved the Philippines from dire economic straits and postponed the government to carry out much-needed economic and social reforms.

3. There are no jobs in the Philippines. The Philippine National Statistics Office plays a shell game with their unemployment numbers.  In July 2010, they happily reported that the unemployment rate dropped to 6.9% (Manila Bulletin).  However, they also included a second group, the labor force participation rate of 64.6% which I think tells the true unemployment rate of 35.4% (Philippine National Statistics Office).

One Gross Omission of the Article – failure to mention the community donations of overseas Filipinos

The New  York Times article omits the growing numbers of Filipinos overseas who help their communities beyond acquiring two-story homes, flat screen TVs and private education for their children.  In fact, from 1999-2003, they contributed over $218 million to community projects beyond remittances and gifts to their immediate families (Opiniano, Diaspora Philanthropy by Filipinos, 2005).

Filipino overseas workers have funded wells, provided community scholarships and organized medical missions to their hometowns, among other endeavors. Filipinos anchor their giving to the traditional values of community or ‘bayanihan’.

About daleasis

President of the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide
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2 Responses to New York Times article “Toiling Far From Home for Philippine Dreams” – Compelling but Missed Its Mark

  1. You’re right in that the word Heroes does glamorize migration. Perhaps the better word should be “Martyr”, which can be negative or positive, or even both.

    There was a pretty heated debate on the Brain Gain Network on the subject of migration, and how it affects our economy. I personally think there’s too much brain drain happening, since very few Filipino’s repatriate to share the knowledge they acquired overseas.

    Then there are those who justify it using the remittance argument, and the amount of charitable contributions given by OFW’s. Not to mention the improvement in lifestyle some OFW’s have by leaving, that an appeal for them to stay might seem too selfish. Probably why Winnie Monsod Palma’s speech bothered the hell out of so many and caused quite a stir.

    • daleasis says:

      Hello Kriszia,

      Salamat! Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Can you send me the link to Winnie Monsod’s speech you’re referring to? I’m interested in reading it. Thank you for reading and commenting on my blog!


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