July 2007
Alien Nation

Alien Nation

HERE’S one reason for staying in the Philippines: the world has been coming to our doorstep, anyway, so why even leave?

When no one was looking, Koreans came by the planeload, and now they seem to be all over Metro Manila, Baguio, and God knows where else. Every year, there are always hundreds of Indian nationals applying for immigrant status while Chinese is the mother (and only) tongue of many of the stall owners at 168. There is a significant number of Nepalis enrolled in our universities, many of the collegiate basketball teams are starting to sound like a United Nations roster, and in Boracay, the population at the beachfront is usually predominantly Caucasian. It seems people from elsewhere find the Philippines attractive enough to visit — and some of them wind up staying put — even as Filipinos keep leaving this country in droves. If not for our high birth rate (we rank fourth in Southeast Asia, after Laos, East Timor, and Cambodia), it probably wouldn’t be long before we would begin looking like that Disneyland attraction, ‘It’s a Small World.’

This is nothing new. Even before Ferdinand Magellan sailed into the waters off Cebu and was turned into shish kebab by Lapu-Lapu, these islands were already among the usual landing spots of traders from other lands. Unlike Magellan, they were welcomed by the natives and were treated to the precursor of our now well-known hospitality. In fact, some of them must have felt so at home they decided to establish roots here. Or, perhaps just like British writer James Hamilton-Paterson, they were just curious to see how it was to live in such a “strange and wacky place.”

Of course, we haven’t been always nice to newcomers. (Magellan’s organ failure by way of a very sharp weapon thrust through his insides was just one example of what can happen when we turn nasty.) Then again, neither have we been nice at all times to people whose forefathers most probably set foot before ours on what would later be part of Philippine soil.

For the month of July, i Report looks at the aliens in our midst, including those who have been around for generations. Some of them have actually ceased to be strangers, really, but others are still painfully so. Yet while the reports may well be a reintroduction to this country’s past and present outsiders, they may also end up taking the Pinoys among our readers on a journey within.