POSTSCRIPT / January 25, 2004 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Does the Pinoy figure in globalized economy?

WHO SAID THAT?: We’ve heard many stories about Filipinos and other Asian children excelling in class in America. Many of these kids, some of them newly emigrated to the US, were just ordinary students back in the Philippines.

With that pat on the back, we share this story forwarded to us yesterday by reader Bobby Tordesillas with a caveat that it has come out elsewhere:

IT was the first day of school in Washington, DC, and a new student name Dagohoy, the son of a Filipino immigrant, entered the fourth grade.

The teacher began, “Let’s review some American history, class. Who said ‘Give me liberty or give me death’?” She saw a sea of blank faces, except for Dagohoy’s who had his hand up,

“Patrick Henry, 1775,” he replied.

“Very good,” said the teacher.

“Who said ‘Government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth’?”

Again, no response except from Dagohoy: “Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg, 1863,” he said.

The teacher snaps at the class, “Class, you should be ashamed, Dagohoy who is new to our country knows more about our history than you do.”

She hears a loud whisper from the back: “Screw the Filipinos.” “Who said that?” she demanded.

Dagohoy put his hand up. “General John Pershing, Manila, 1899.”

At that point, Jack, another student says, “I’m going to puke.”

The teacher glares and asks, “All right! Now who said that?”

Again Dagohoy answers, “George Bush Sr. to the Japanese Prime Minister during the state dinner, Tokyo, 1991.”

Now furious, another student yells, “Oh yeah? Suck this!!”

Dagohoy jumps out of his chair waving his hand and shouts to the teacher at the top of his voice, “Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky, the Oval Office, 1997!!”

Someone shouts, “You little shit if you say anything else, I’ll kill you.”

Dagohoy yells, “Congressman Gary Condit to Chandra Levy, Washington, DC, 2001!”

The teacher faints.

“I’m outta here!” mutters one student as he sidles to the door.

“President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Baguio City, December 30, 2002!!” Dagohoy responds.

As the class gathers around the teacher on the floor, someone says, “Oh shit, now we’re really in big trouble!”

“Saddam Hussein, on the Iraq invasion, Baghdad, May 2003!” Dagohoy bellowed.

“Now, I really have to run,” Jack mutters, heading for the exit.

“Gloria Macapagal Arroyo again, Pampanga, October 4, 2003!!!” Dagohoy shouts triumphantly, jumping with glee.

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GLOBAL ECONOMY: Also from our email inbox, we share this Perryscope piece titled “Globalization: Where is the Pinoy?” by Perry Diaz:

TWO weeks ago, someone posted an article called “Globalization” on one of the Filipino list-serves. The following was posted: “What is the truest definition of Globalization?” Answer: “Princess Diana’s death.”

Question: “How come?” Answer: “An English princess with an Egyptian boyfriend crashes in a French tunnel, driving a German car with a Dutch engine, driven by a Belgian who was drunk on Scottish whiskey, followed closely by Italian paparazzi, on Japanese motorcycles, treated by an American doctor, using Brazilian medicines! And this is sent to you by a Paraguayan, using Bill Gates’ technology, and you’re probably reading this on one of the IBM clones that use Taiwanese-made chips, and a Korean-made monitor, assembled by Bangladeshi workers in a Singapore plant, transported by lorries driven by Indians, hijacked by Indonesians, unloaded by Sicilian longshoremen, trucked by Mexican undocumented immigrants, and finally sold to you by Jews. That, my friend, is Globalization!”

I was intrigued by this posting and so I posted on several other list-serves and titled it, “Globalization: where is the Pinoy?” and added the following: “Question: “Where is the Pinoy?”

The following day, two readers posted their comments. Cesar and Celia Vasquez of Houston, Texas, said, “Where is the Pinoy/Pinay? Was or is s(he) a housekeeper/maid at the hotel or a nurse/doctor at the hospital where Princess Diana died?” The other posting, by a certain Perlita, said, “The Pinoy would have been more widely represented — by her housemaids and nurses at home and in the hospitals that tended to her, bell-boys that carried her bags in the hotels she visited, and the waitresses and cashiers in restaurants she visited, all supporting the balance of payments back in the Philippines.”

Isn’t that incredible? It’s amazing how much the Earth has shrunk in the last 500 years. In the 16th century, it took a Spanish galleon eight months to travel from Madrid to Manila. Today, you can travel the same distance in less than 10 hours. Within the next 30 to 50 years, man can travel from Earth to Mars in eight months — the same amount of time it took to travel from Madrid to Manila 500 years ago. If you have the money to spend for air fares, you can have breakfast in Manila, fly to Paris for lunch, and fly to New York for dinner on the same day.

In this age of globalization, economic boundaries are disappearing. Look at Europe. Sixty years ago, they were fighting each other. Today, most have joined the European Union and merged their economies into one. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has created the largest trading conglomerate in the world.

But where is the Filipino in a globalized economy? The Philippine government — still struggling to free itself from its internal political problems — is years away from extracting itself from an economic quagmire. The more the government tries to get out of the quagmire, the more it gets sucked in. And there’s nobody that is powerful and strong enough to pull the Philippines out of the quicksand, except, maybe, for the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

The eight million OFWs, who constitute at least 15 percent of the Philippine labor force, the annual remittance from abroad is more than $6 billion. The number of OFWs is increasing very fast. With a resurging global economy, it is estimated that at least 600,000 Filipinos a year will be going for jobs in foreign countries. In addition, there are the 3,000,000 Filipino-Americans who are also contributing to the dollar income of the Philippines through investments, tourism, and remittances.

If the Philippine government rids itself of corrupt practices, the OFWs and the Filipino-Americans could help get the Philippine government out of the economic quagmire. In the end, the Philippines’ best hope would be its own sons and daughters working in a globalized economy.

Being one of the most educated groups of people on earth, Filipinos have a place in a global economy. The American presence in the Philippines from 1899 to 1946 had paid off. Thanks to the “Thomasites” — the American teachers who came aboard the SS Thomas in 1901 — who provided the backbone of the educational system in the Philippines when the United States instituted a fast-track program to educate the Filipinos.

The Filipinos’ craving for knowledge and education made the Philippines the most literate country in Asia when it gained independence in 1946. And the best part of it was: they learned to communicate in English since the medium of instruction in Philippine schools was — and still is today — English.

With English as the universal language used in the world, the Filipinos found themselves marketable in the global economy. The “Brain Drain” that started when the United States passed the Immigration Act of 1965, has caused the Philippines to lose the best and the brightest among its professionals and the most skilled in its labor force. They comprised the OFWs in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, including the oil-rich Middle East, and in North America.

Filipino historians have dubbed the migration of Filipinos as the new “Diaspora.” It has a negative sound to it. However, if you look at the bright side, the biblical “Diaspora” was what made the Jews the envy of the world’s financial community. And in today’s global economy, it does not matter where a Filipino lands a job. He is just a phone call away.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 25, 2004)

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