Understanding the Vulnerabilities of Family in the Semi-feudal and Semi-colonial Philippines
The Philippines continues to provide workers to the world – a primary characteristic of a semi-feudal and semi-colonial society.
Almost all people in the Philippines have knowledge about the English language. Even unschooled kids can communicate or can understand this conquerors tongue. In schools, from primary years of schooling until tertiary level, students are trained how to properly use and pronounce this English language. In most cases, babies first learn several English words such as close, open, and counting numbers before learning our own language while, in some situations, some Filipinos were trained to only speak this English language.
While it is true that we learn how to properly use the English language, it is not the only thing that school gives us. Schools are supposed to train its students to be fully functional member of society thus, making students equipped with knowledge and technical know-how that they can use to have a better future. Unfortunately, this same education that is supposed to provide students’ knowledge/ideas to be fully functional and to have a better future is also the one that delimits our own potentials – that hinders us from becoming a really successful one.
In this paper, I will illustrate how the interplay of economics and education contributes or attack the vulnerabilities of Filipino families and what are we supposed to do.
The Cause – Economy
This year, Philippines is considered by CNN Money data as the 4th fastest growing economy with its gross domestic product (GDP) continuously growing. Thanks to the remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) that makes up the 10% of this continuously growing GDP. (the Philippines is the world’s third largest recipient of remittances)
If our economy is continuously growing, how come a large number of people in the Philippines remains to live under the poverty line? Are we really improving? Or, can we hypothesize that this economic growth is only being experienced by the few elites in the country. Even though there are figures being presented, the fact still remains that there are many poor people in the country – poor people who are unemployed in the country.
The unemployment rate in the Philippines remains as one of the highest in ASEAN region. The government cannot really create jobs for its continually growing population. Well, creating a job is not directly the role of the government, their role is to facilitate investments that will evenly distribute wealth and generate jobs for its people, but it appears that the government is not doing their mandate.
This issue of unemployment is a global concern. Though some countries have a higher unemployment rate, the sad part in the Philippines is, there are so many university graduates who are either unemployed or under-employed. If this is the case, where is now the better future promised by education?
The Process – Education
Last year, more than half million Filipinos graduated with a degree – additional half million that competes with those who are already unemployed. Hypothetically speaking, it must be easier for a university graduate to have jobs or better future; unfortunately, it is not the case in the Philippines.
Let me present these characteristics of Philippine education that contribute to unemployment.
1. Learning business – an education for profit. It is a reality that education in the country remains to be a big business. There are so many school drop-outs because of this system. This year, there are almost 4 million drop-outs in elementary and high school while college drop-outs are estimated to be 2.3 million. There are many reasons to these school drop-outs, but poverty remains to be the top reason.
The full implementation of the K-12 system will give rise to more out-of-school youth and more school drop-outs. Most of the graduates from public school system cannot enrol in senior high school since most schools that offer grades 11 and 12 are private schools. The governments’ solution is a voucher that will be given to the graduates of public school system that ranges from P11, 250 up to P22, 500 in the National Capital Region is not enough since most schools have tuition fees triple that amount. Again, this scenario will increase the unemployment rate. Can we say that the government is really doing its job?
2. Graduates for sale – an education that serves the interest of the foreign land. For the longest time, our educational system provides what bigger nation needs. During the brown Americanization, most of our grandparents loved the Americans since they gave education to all without us knowing that the education that they gave is for the benefits of American business and economy. This system is still happening today. We continue to provide foreign nation workers and technical know-how needed by their economy through courses offered and the use of English language. The concrete manifestation of this system are the changes in the in demand courses in the country – nursing used to be the trend and right now, service courses such as tourism, HRM and IT’s.
In the case of nursing industry, there are so many graduates who are either unemployed or under-employed since the government did not facilitate well the investments. They allowed so many schools to offer this course creating a large surplus of nurses in the country.
3. English only please – the conquerors tongue. It has been mentioned earlier that in we are trained to have the knowledge how to use the English language. This is a very important policy from the perspective of the government since if we know how to speak this language, it would be easier for us to have a job outside the country. The sad part of it is, it seems like the government is driving us away from home thus fuelling the economy of the foreign land.
4. Prioritizing degree, devaluing education – a degree motivated students. Many students in today’s society simply want to have a degree or to graduate to have a job immediately. What they are seeing is the process of education to employment. Many students are not looking at the bigger picture of education. It may be true that almost all courses offered in the country prepare students to be workers, it is still important to see that learning is more important than simply having a job. This degree will probably give you a job, but learning will give you more than that. The real learning will develop you and mould you as a real person and probably transcend the basic concept of being a human being in a consumer-centered society or probably create jobs for others.
The first characteristic is a common scenario or problem of the poorest segment in our society, the second is probably being experienced by the middle-class sector while the last two are experienced by all segments of our society
These characteristics of Philippine educational system contribute a lot not only to unemployment but might lead to a dysfunctional family or even a different family set up.
High unemployment rate, ability to communicate and technical know-how coupled with the genuine love for the family increases the possibility of family members leaving their loved ones behind – a real hard hitting scenario among Filipino families.
The Victim – Family
The family is an integral part of every society. It does not only provide consumers and workers but most importantly, it provides a sense of security – emotional and financial. With this high unemployment rate and family’s role of providing financial security, family members are placed in a dilemma whether to provide financial support, which means leaving their loved ones behind or spend each day with the family, that means never missed any special occasions or milestones of each member while continue living in poverty. Another predicament may be is, who should leave, the mother, the father or the kids.
It may be cliché, but it is really true that it is not easy to leave your loved ones behind. “Mas mahirap at mas masakit ang umaalis kaysa naiiwan.”
Though leaving the family behind is not the easiest decision to make, there are times that it is really necessary. Those who are left with the only choice of prioritizing financial security will now have to rely on technology – but still, money, balik-bayan boxes, and technology cannot really replace the actual presence of the family member.
Given this set-up, can we still call this as a family? Let us always remember the reason why they work outside the country, and that is, to support the family they loved so much. So even though they are not physically present, as long as constant communication, trust, respect, and understanding is present, they are still family.
The idea is that constant communication, trust, respect and understanding should always be present. The moment that one party stop any of these three key terms, it may result to unwanted realities.
What will you do in these situations?
You regularly do your job, day and night without any messages coming from your loved ones in the Philippines. Then one day, you receive a message asking for money to buy etc needed for the school. Definitely, you will send money. Or one day, you receive a message saying that your high school daughter was kicked out because of drugs while your son went home with a pregnant girlfriend. It is not really easy to leave family members behind.
You regularly do your job, day and night and saving a lot for the family. Then one day, you were raped or abused by your boss. What will you do?
There are so many negative experiences of our OFW’s that we don’t know and we will never know. It is really difficult to be an OFW.
I mentioned earlier that the feeling is more depressing to those people who leave compared to those who are left behind. Again, those who are left behind still have other family members to be with in times of disheartening moment unlike those who went away. Those who are working day and night who misses’ special days and milestones of family members are more vulnerable and might experience really being down.
The sad truth is, they might look or search for anything that would ease up their heavy loads. The issue may be handled easier by those people who have strong faith with God – they can talk to God. Some may end up committing suicide, others might have psychological problems and other might look for someone to be with.
As we can see here, the negative scenario happened because of their love for the family. Probably, the same love that tears apart the whole family because of lack communication, trust, respect, and understanding. Again, we already have the technology to start with, and then let us make use of it. Constant communication is the key element to continue giving trust, full respect and understanding.
Let us always remember that they are there for you. They are working for the security of your family. The best thing that you can do right now is to value the reason why they missed special days in your lives, and that is because of you, because of your education – the education that will break the chain of leaving behind your loved ones. For your own family someday to not experience the same sad experience that you had.
In your education, do not simply aim for the degree that will give you jobs someday but rather aim for knowledge that you can use whether you ended up employee or employer.
We cannot change the system right now, but we can soften its negative effects. When we go home today, give them a call, hug them, kiss them … surprise them. Again, they sacrifice for you right now for your own future and it is a right thing to give back something to them – to our parents.