In all, the booming global services industry is providing job opportunities for Filipinos seeking employment overseas not just as health workers but also as caregivers, entertainers, domestic helpers, and chambermaids. The result has been the migration, in droves, of Filipino women who now make up 65 percent of those going abroad to work.
SMACK IN the heart of downtown Manila and around the Professional Regulation Commission can be found the country’s export processing zone for nurses. There, a dozen or so nursing schools and training centers have somehow converged and are thriving, mining the dreams of those aspiring to work overseas.
In one of these schools, students called upon to recite are admonished by the teacher to speak in English. “How can you work abroad if you can’t even answer in English?” the teacher tells them.
LANI, a radiology technologist in a government hospital in Quezon City, remembers the time when she moved among the best in her department. “We used to have good senior nurses here,” she says.
Then, almost suddenly, her co-workers started leaving. “That whole year, I kept seeing resignation papers,” recalls Lani. Even the aides were disappearing, going off to London or the United States or elsewhere for good. Today, out of the 40 staff members that she had originally worked with in the department, only four have stayed behind. But even they—including Lani—have either applied or are planning to apply for work abroad.
THE IMPORTANCE of family to the individual is almost an article of faith in the Philippines. I remember the bewildered look of our respondents in a research project when we posed the question, “Is it important to have a family?” It was as if we had come from another planet, since we asked a question whose answer was obvious: yes. And just in case we did come from another planet, the respondents all zeroed in on the fact that life is simply unimaginable without the family. Whether they are down and out or happy and successful, Filipinos always have their families conveniently nearby.
© 1989–2022 All rights reserved. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.