The continued rhetoric of the Trump administration of closing the borders, building a wall and blaming Mexican immigrants (and all immigrants for that matter) as criminals was getting to me. I thought I better pack up, put my notions of bayanihan (community giving) in hibernation and maybe emerge from my cave in 2020 when this is all over. However recently, I’m having second thoughts. I’m beginning to believe that despite all the negative news, glimpses of community giving are emerging. The Filipino ritual of giving and helping each other could not be squelch and perhaps provide hope and renewal in the age of Trump.
Last June 2017, I went back home to the Philippines to attend my aunt and uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary. When I get back to Chicago, I was eager to bring back dried mangoes to my friends and colleagues. Some of my co-workers were even anticipating these gifts from the Philippines, a remembrance of home.
Dried mangoes from the Philippines, a favorite ‘pasalubong’ – a souvenir, a gift given to someone
The precise beginnings of the pasalubong ritual are difficult to identify. Dr Nestor Castro, anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, believes pasalubong is a pre-Hispanic practice, given that the term is indigenous to the Filipino language and that early Philippine communities engaged in long-distance trade (BBC Travel, July 2017).
Fellow anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, Dr Michael Tan, agrees, writing, “…I suspect it referred to a time when travel was difficult, making the return more emotion-laden. The more distant and the more difficult the place one went to, as in the case of many of our overseas Filipinos, the more important it was to bring back something.”
This implicit recognition of reciprocity – that the person who receives pasalubong is expected to give pasalubong in return – is an essential part of the ritual. Expressions of appreciation and reassurances of joy for the person returning home are also expected (BBC Travel, July 2017).
Store of pasalubong(souvenir) in Batangas, Philippines (photo courtesy of BBC Travel, July 2017)
This pasalubong ritual I think is a major extension of community giving within the Filipino culture. At the end of our summer picnic last 4th of July, my mother insisted that every guest of her backyard barbecue take home a Tupperware of pancit (Filipino noodles) or baon. These extensions of community giving – pasalubong and baon continue to flourish despite the negative news and pulling back of the welcome mat of the Trump administration (CNN News, July 11, 2017).
My partner, Will Dix and I bought sundresses back as gifts to our mothers, they were both ecstatic to receive their pasalubong. Our small gifts was more than a ritual. It was an extension of bringing something home to them. “We should not underestimate the resiliency of culture,” Dr Castro added. “The longing for pasalubong connects Filipinos to their notion of home and heritage.” I think these extensions of giving through pasalubong, baon and bayanihan continue the spirit of community giving that no autocrat could squelch.
This Summer 2017, the Bayanihan Foundation will sponsor partial and full travel accommodations for up to seven young adults (18 years old and up) to visit the Philippines for 14 days. Travel scholarship opportunities [valued up to $4,500 each] will be awarded based on merit and financial need; scholarship funds go towards international airfare to Manila from Chicago, domestic transportation in the Philippines, meals, lodging, and sightseeing. Anticipated costs that participants are expected to cover on their own: passport and/or visa costs, incidentals, souvenirs, travel vaccinations (please consult your doctor), and travel insurance. Participants are encouraged to fundraise $300 to $1,000 or as much as they can for their own service projects.
Diaspora philanthropy (sharing resources with your homeland)
Service projects (contribute in sustaining community with action)
Visit family & friends; immerse in Filipino culture ([re]connect with your roots)
NEXTGEN SUMMER 2017 TIMELINE
By Saturday, April 15
Complete online application to participate
Sunday, April 30 (IL) and/or
Sunday, May 21 (CA)
Attend Bayanihan Foundation events centered around NEXTGEN selected scholars (announcement ceremony!)
Between April 30 – June 20
Work on “Filipinx X-plore Our History” orientation workshops online (stay tuned for more information)
Selected participants are expected to attend an announcement event and complete the orientation workshops to be provided online. Please mark the following dates on your calendar and plan to attend an announcement event either:
Sunday, April 30, 2017 in Chicago, IL
Sunday, May 21, 2017 in Los Angeles, CA
We hope you join us!
For any inquiries, you may contact Coordinator [and NEXTGEN alum] Jeselle Santiago via email at email@example.com.
The following blog entry is written by Jeselle Santiago, 2015 NEXTGEN Fellow that traveled with the Bayanihan Foundation. In 2017, Jeselle will be learning about non-profit management and administration with the Bayanihan Foundation as part of her Internship as she completes her Master degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. Jeselle will also be helping prepare the next cohort of 2017 NEXTGEN Fellows to the Philippines in June 20 – July 4, 2017.
Jeselle Santiago, 2015 NEXTGEN Scholar, will be working with the Bayanihan Foundation as part of her Internship completing her Masters Degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago
There are no words that I feel could adequately capture what the Bayanihan Foundation Worldwide has come to mean to me. Truly, my experience as one of their first NEXTGEN scholars has been transformative to say the least, and a catalyst for clarity that moved me to my current life’s path in the field of social work. Our trip to the Philippines two summers ago (2015) awoke my dormant Filipinx soul and reignited my passion to spend my life in servant-leadership roles. Since returning to the U.S. from that trip, Bayanihan’s Executive Director Mr. Dale Asis has graciously taken me under his wing and given me the honor of being involved in various service projects such as sending balikbayan boxes of books to local Philippine schools in Iligan; spearheading fundraisers such as the kamayan (traditional Filipino feast) hosted at my family home; contributing to the development of a Filipino/Filipino-American history workshop series “Filipinx X-Plore our History”; and even co-creating a Filipino focused giving circle “Community Power Giving Circle.”
2015 NEXTGEN Fellow Jeselle Santiago collected used books for elementary school in Iligan (October 2015)
At the time I joined as a NEXTGEN Scholar that summer 2015, I had just graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) with my Bachelors in Psychology and Minor in Asian American Studies…but after that milestone, I lacked clear direction about what to do next with my life. Now, only about a year and a half later, the possibilities of what I can do seem limitless.
I am proud to say that I am now a second year Masters of Social Work (MSW) student at Loyola University Chicago–specializing in Mental Health, sub-specializing in Migration Studies, and pursuing my certificate in Nonprofit Management and Philanthropy. Time has flown by, and I can’t believe I’m due to graduate this coming December 2017! In the meantime, I have the privilege of continuing my involvement with Bayanihan and have leveled up from volunteer to formal intern!
(left to right): Dale Asis, Serena Moy of Asian Giving Circle; and Jeselle Santiago Fall 2016
As an intern, I will focus on developing our Community Power Giving Circle; contributing to the growth of the next NEXTGEN cohort; and working on policy advocacy for mental health issues affecting Filipino-Americans and Asian Americans overall. Up until this point, I had humbly been volunteering with Dale as I could, but felt constrained in capacity with competing responsibilities as a full-time graduate student with two jobs. Now that we have formalized my role with Bayanihan by connecting it to my MSW program and legitimizing it as my advanced level fieldwork experience, I am excited to have structured time for me to focus on our efforts towards Bayanihan’s mission of “Filipinos abroad helping Filipinos at home.”
I would like to close this post by taking a moment to step back and acknowledge that I could not have done this all on my own. Perhaps it sounds cliché, but I mean it when I say that my current path was made possible by the generous support and love I have warmly received from so many folks I’ve met along the way, folks including those of you reading this right now. Thank you, sincerely! Maraming Salamat, po!
Will Dix and Dale Asis enjoying unseasonably warm weather during Chicago’s winter season February 2017
On February 18, 2017, Chicago and the Midwest was hit with record-breaking temperatures reaching 64 degrees Fahrenheit (CBS Local News, February 2017). Winter temperatures normally hover around the freezing mark, 32 degrees Fahrenheit. So Will Dix and I went outside and enjoyed the unseasonably warm weather. Is this just an anomaly? Or is this part of larger climate change happening worldwide?
Climate Change is Real
Many critics agree that climate change is happening and will affect cities and countries around the world. In 2015, the Climate Reality Project, a non-profit Washington, DC based organization involved in education and advocacy related to climate change reported the Global Climate Risk Index. They listed the Philippines as the number one most affected country by climate change. This is thanks, in part, to its geography. The Philippines is located in the western Pacific Ocean, surrounded by naturally warm waters that will likely get even warmer as average sea-surface temperatures continue to rise.
To some extent, this is a normal pattern: the ocean surface warms as it absorbs sunlight. The ocean then releases some of its heat into the atmosphere, creating wind and rain clouds. However, as the ocean’s surface temperature increases over time from the effects of climate change, more and more heat is released into the atmosphere. This additional heat in the ocean and air can lead to stronger and more frequent storms – which is exactly what we’ve seen in the Philippines over the last decade.
The Philippines also lacks natural barriers; as a collection of over 7,000 islands there is almost nothing standing between them and the sea. In addition to their coral reefs, one of the best buffers against typhoons are the Philippine mangrove ecosystems. These mangroves help mitigate the impact of storm surge and stabilize soil but have disappeared by almost half since 1918 due to deforestation (an issue for another day). Since 2010, the Bayanihan Foundation has been planting over 30,000 mangrove seedlings in Liloan, Cebu to combat deforestation and climate change.
(standing second from right): James Castillo, foundation board member, leads youth participants in planting mangrove trees in Cebu, Philippines
Other natural factors, like regional wind patterns or currents, can also increase the risk of tropical storms. Geography again plays a role here, as these factors affect different areas of the country differently, due to their unique circumstances. The graphic below from a report by the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources shows how the various regions in the Philippines can face a range of climate threats, based on where they sit on the map.
The map also shows the regions most vulnerable to sea-level rise, another detrimental effect of climate change that can be exacerbated by the storm surge from tropical storms. Sea levels in the Philippines are rising at about twice the global average. And when especially strong storms like Typhoon Haiyan make landfall, this higher sea level contributes to storm surge that can rise upwards of 15–20 feet, displacing thousands or even millions of citizens in coastal communities. Which brings us to our next topic: development in the Philippines.
Developmental factors have made it difficult for the Philippines to prepare and respond to disasters. Evacuation plans, early warning systems, and shelters are critical to dealing with extreme weather events. Warning and relocating thousands or millions of citizens when a storm is approaching would be a massive hurdle for any country – and in the case of a developing nation like the Philippines with nearly 100 million citizens spread out across thousands of islands, the hurdle becomes bigger still.Then there’s what these storms mean for the Philippines’ economy. According to a 2013 statement from government officials, a destructive typhoon season costs the nation two percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). It costs another two percent to rebuild the infrastructure lost, putting the Philippines at least four percent in the hole each year from tropical storms. And when you’re a nation aspiring to grow and create better lives for your citizens, this regular hit to the economy is the last thing you can afford.
James Castillo (standing center) leads youth in a film making workshop
This is not an easy problem to fix, but we need to try. The first step is educating citizens both in the Philippines and around the world about what the nation is facing, and about the practical clean-energy solutions available that can begin to address the harmful effects of climate change in the Philippines and beyond.
Since 2010, Bayanihan Foundation board member James Castillo has been conducting youth leadership and education workshops on environmental sustainability and climate change.
Climate-related displacement is not hypothetical
Since 2008, an average of 21.5 million people per year have been displaced by natural disasters, and thousands more have fled slow-onset environmental hazards. While migration can serve as a safety valve to adapt to changing conditions, few orderly, legal channels exist for climate migrants (also known as environmental migrants) (Migration Policy Institute, 2017).
The Philippines has long been particularly vulnerable to extreme weather. But in recent years the nation has suffered from even more violent storms like Typhoon Haiyan. On average, about 20 tropical cyclones enter Philippine waters each year, with eight or nine making landfall. And over the past decade, these tropical storms have struck the nation more often and more severely, scientists believe, because of climate change. In addition, two factors unique to the Philippines – its geography and development – have combined to exacerbate both this threat and its devastating consequences.
Climate Change Displacement Is Not Hypothetical
Climate-related displacement is not hypothetical: An average of 21.5 million people per year have been displaced since 2008 by natural disasters, and thousands more have fled slow-onset environmental hazards. While migration can serve as a safety valve to adapt to changing conditions, few orderly, legal channels exist for climate migrants (also known as environmental migrants), as this article explores (Migration Policy Institute, February 2017).
1. The entire landmass of the Philippines is made up islands, making it the second-largest archipelago in the world.
In fact, the Philippines has approximately 7,500 islands with only 2,000 of them inhabited and nearly 5,000 still unnamed on global maps. (Source)
2. There are about 175 languages spoken in the Philippines, with 171 of them considered “living,” while four tribal dialects have no known living speakers. The country’s official languages are Filipino (based on Tagalog) and English, with Cebuano and Ilocano also popular in some regions. (Source)
But when Filipinos interact with tourists and foreigners, it’s easy for them to speak English since it’s the fifth largest English-speaking nation behind the U.S., India, Pakistan, and the U.K. (Source)
3. About 11% of the population of the Philippines – more than 11 million people – work overseas. In fact, the Philippines is the top supplier of nurses in the world, with about 25% of all overseas nurses coming from the country. In the United States, Filipinos are the second-largest Asian-American group behind only Chinese. (Source)
4. Filipinos are crazy about basketball! You’ll see makeshift hoops erected on every street corner, young men commonly wearing NBA jerseys, and local teams playing in every community hall. Their professional league, The Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) is the second oldest in the world after only the NBA! In fact, a good number of players with U.S. college and NBA experience come to play in the PBA. (Source)
5. Filipino’s also love boxing with a passion, and when their most famous native son, Manny Pacquiao, fights, it’s like a national holiday. In fact, Filipinos are so supportive of “PacMan” that every time he has a boxing match, the Philippine National Police report that street crime drops to zero in Metro Manila, and the same is true in most of the country. (Source)
6. The Philippines produces and exports more coconuts than any country in the world, shipping off about 19.5 million tons of the fruit (called “buko”) every year. (Source)
7. While most of their Southeast Asian neighbors practice Buddhism, the Philippines is the only Asian nation that’s predominantly Christian, with 90% practicing that religion (and about 80% of its population, Roman Catholic) because of its Spanish colonial influence. (Source)
8. Filipinos are very social, spending as much time as possible with family and friends. But they also stay in touch these days by exchanging a whole lot of text messages. In fact, it’s estimated that Filipinos send about 400 million text messages every day, adding up to about 142 billion texts per year, earning them the designation “the texting capital of the world.” (Source)
That’s more than the total number of daily text messages sent in the U.S. and Europe combined. (Source)
9. One of the most remarkable geological formations in the world, the Taal Volcano consists of an island (Luzon) that contains a lake (Taal Lake) with a smaller island in the lake (Volcano Island) with a lake on that island (Main Crater of Taal Volcano) with another tiny islet (Volcano Island) inside! (Source)
10. The Philippines population crossed the 100-million threshold in 2014, ranking as the 12th most populous country in the world. With an annual growth rate of about 2 percent, it’s also one of the fastest growing countries in the world. (Source)
11. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, ranks as the city with the highest population density in the world (and some of the worst traffic congestion!). In fact, Manila spans only 24 square miles but has 1,660,714 residents, giving it a population density of 55,446 people per square mile. (Source)
Metro Manila, comprising several other conjoined cities, stands at more than 12,877,000 people, making it one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the world. (Source)
12. The Philippines island of Palawan has been named one of the best island in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, and other publications, thanks to its jaw-dropping natural beauty. Visitors can explore white sand beaches, swim in lagoons, enjoy island hopping in Coron and El Nido, find some of the best scuba diving in the world, and even traverse the underground river in the capital, Puerto Princesa, a UNESCO world heritage site and the second longest underground river in the world. (Source)
13. The country suffered one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history on June 15, 1991, when Mt. Pinatubo erupted only a couple of hours from Manila. The blast was so powerful that it shot 10 billion metric tons of magma and 20 million tons of toxic sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, 25 miles high. (Source)
Mt. Pinatubo’s sent such a big mushroom cloud of ash into the atmosphere that it created a haze of sulfuric acid all around the world for two years, causing global temperatures to drop by 1 degree Fahrenheit! Tragically, the eruption killed at least 847 people, injured 184, and left more than 1 million people homeless, as well as forcing an American air force base to be abandoned and relocated soon after. (Source)
14. Jeepneys are a unique form of transportation that many people in Manila and other places in the Philippines use every day. In fact, jeepneys were born from the thousands of army jeeps that the U.S. military left after World War II. Resourceful Filipinos extended the cabs to accommodate about 18 passengers for hot, bumpy and dusty rides through the streets.
As time went on, drivers adorned the jeepneys in colorful and creative designs to help them stand out, with flashing neon lights, paintings of favorite superheroes, basketball stars, cartoon characters, religious sayings, and just about every other gaudy decoration you can imagine. Still costing only about 8 Pesos (20 cents U.S.), about 50,000 jeepneys run daily in Manila alone, billowing thick clouds of black smoke. They don’t have set routes, so passengers just jump on a jeepney going in their direction, pass a coin forward to the driver, and ring a bell when they want to get off. (Source)
15. Filipinos LOVE their shopping malls! In fact, they serve as community hubs since they’re clean, safe, and, most importantly, air-conditioned. Aside from the usual stores they also have countless food venues, gyms, grocery stores, banks, health clinics, nightclubs, parks, concert amphitheaters, and even churches inside their malls. In fact, the Philippines is home to three of the ten largest shopping malls in the world, The Mega Fashion Hall of SM Megamall (third-largest in the world, encompassing 5,451,220 sq ft), SM City North EDSA (fourth largest) and SM Mall of Asia (tenth largest). (Source)
16. Even among the countless natural wonders of the Philippines, the island of Camiguin stands out since it’s home to the most volcanoes per square mile of any island on Earth. Only about 14 miles long and 8.5 miles wide, Camiguin holds the distinction as the only island on the planet with more volcanoes (7) than towns (5). It’s now a great tourist destination with white-sand beaches and friendly locals, but don’t worry – the volcanoes have been dormant since the 1950s. (Source)
17. Travelers and vacationers flock to the paradise island of Boracay, known for having one of the best beaches in the world with powder-like white sand. Only 3.98 square miles, the island still receives about 1.5 million visitors from home and abroad every year, making it the most popular destination in the Philippines. In fact, Boracay has celebrated as the best islands in the world in a Condé Nast Traveler reader’s poll, as well as highlighted in Travel + Leisure Magazine, CNN, the New York Times Travel, and others. (Source)
18. Typhoons wreak havoc in the Philippines nearly every year, and in 2013, it was Super Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda locally) that ripped through the archipelago. Haiyan brought the strongest winds ever recorded at landfall as well as the strongest one-minute sustained wind speed of 195 mph. Sadly, it was also the deadliest typhoon in Philippines history, killing at least 6,100 people and displacing millions according to government reports (although locals estimate the death toll to be closer to 15,000, and a thousand people are still missing). (Source)
Coincidentally, I was living on Boracay when Typhoon Haiyan slammed the Philippines, and you can watch my home video of it here.
19. Politeness is an art form in the Philippines. Most foreigners will be referred to as “sir” and “mam” no matter their age. You’ll see younger people refer to the women and men a little bit older as “ates” and “kuyas” (sort of like aunt and uncle, respectively).
Filipinos respect and cherish their elders, and that shows in many ways in everyday life. For instance, seniors are addressed as “po” after please, thank you, and other exchanges, with the younger person taking the elder’s hand and touching it to their forehead in a charming display of reverence called “mano.”
Elderly, disabled, and pregnant women even have their own line at banks, restaurants and taxi queues, allowing them to bypass the crowd.
However, their politeness can go a little too far, as you’ll rarely hear a Filipino come out with a direct “no” answer when you ask them a question, a trait that can create many challenging and hilarious situations for the foreigner! (Source)
20. Filipinos are warm, happy, and have a great sense of humor! In fact, the Philippines is one of the happiest countries in the world, ranking near the top on Gallup’s index. (Source)
Filipinos also have an uproarious sense of humor, as joking, lighthearted banter, and even singing makes every day in their presence a true blessing. As some Filipino friends have pointed out to me, it’s an inherent trait that helps them cope with such poverty, hardship, and natural disasters. No matter the reason, life in the Philippines is all about smiling, laughing and enjoying every moment with those around you!
These are just a small portion of incredible facts about the Philippines, which I find one of the most remarkable countries on earth.
Contact me if you’d like more information about traveling to the Philippines!
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th US President and overnight the United States changed its outlook to be more inward looking and having a more nationalistic stance. President Trump touted during his campaign to build a wall between US and Mexico. He recently enacted executive action limiting travel from certain countries but was overturned by the courts. He wanted to put America First.
Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) member countries (photo courtesy of International Business Review)
Firing Up Regional Brain Network of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Report February 2017
However, on the other side of the world the Philippines and nine other Southeast Asian nations that comprised the Association of The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have a totally different outlook. The Philippines and ASEAN countries are opening up their borders, not building walls. They are promoting skilled migration, not enacting travel bans. They are promoting a slogan of unity “one identity, one community,” not “me first.”
The Philippines and all the ASEAN countries recently relaxed travel restrictions between them. Now they are poised to see a massive expansion of both the demand for and supply of skilled migrants that are willing and able to move.
ASEAN member states have recently signed to ease the intra-regional mobility of skilled professionals in the tourism and six regulated occupations (accounting, architecture, dentistry, engineering, medicine and nursing). Close to 15 million ASEAN workers are employed in these professions could be affected, accounting for about 5 percent of total regional employment.
“The convergence of these mega-trends represents unique opportunities for human-capital development and brain circulation, as this report explores and which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic integration among its members,” said Migration Policy Institute (MPI) Senior Policy Analyst Jeanne Batalova, the lead author of the report.
The report covered that whether ASEAN can enter the age of brain circulation is far from certain and that many challenges remain including ongoing brain drain to the US and other developed countries. However, I think that the Philippines and ASEAN countries are moving to different projection of growth and not following the lead of the Trump Administration of isolation and walls.
Given diverging demographics, rising educational attainment and wide variation in economic opportunities, countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations realize that they have to capitalize on their skilled immigrant workforce to stay and contribute to their countries’ growth. With the number of college-educated ASEAN emigrants in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries rising from 1.7 million in 2000 to 2.8 million in 2010-2011, brain drain is recognized as an obstacle to economic and social development. Brain waste, or the under-utilization of highly skilled workers, remains an unstudied issue in ASEAN.
Filipino architects in Brunei? Singapore engineers in Malaysia? Thai accountants in Cambodia and Vietnam? These skilled migration are already happening on the ground and will be expanded. Is the ASEAN recipe of promoting skilled migration a better formula for growth, prosperity and peace? Or is the Trump recipe of borders, walls and nationalism would win the day? Time will tell.