More than mere ‘Vacas Lecheras’

9 Nov

Looking beyond billion dollar remittances


October 14, 2010 – Casa Asia – Barcelona, Spain

By Kay S. Abaño

Filipino Migration, Associativism and Development were the main themes discussed in a conference organized by Casa Asia in cooperation with representatives of the University of Valencia and the Scalabrini Migration Center in the Philippines. The presentation focused on the results of the two groups’ collaborative project- the Migrants’ Associations and Philippine Institutions for Development, or MAPID. This project’s main objective is to understand the relationship between Filipino migrant associations and Philippine institutions, and to promote their cooperation with each other for the home country’s development.

Edelia Villaroya, coordinator of MAPID at the University of Valencia, and Fr. Fabio Baggio, director of MAPID and the Scalabrini Migration Center in the Philippines, elaborated on the project’s findings along with their analysis of the information presented. Their respective presentations were factual yet quite accessible and infused with a deep human understanding, possibly a result of their direct and close contact with Filipinos in Spain, Italy, as well as in the Philippines.

From Brain Drain to Brain Gain

Of all the figures presented, I believe that the most astounding was the number of Filipinos leaving to work abroad each year: 1,422,586. That’s almost 1.5 million Filipino contract workers leaving the country every year, working and using their knowledge and abilities on foreign soil rather than in their own land, to benefit their own people. This fact was also pointed out by the speakers, saying that the migrant phenomenon has been creating another phenomenon through the years- the Brain Drain- which is unfortunately matched with the lack of government programs for what they called “Brain Gain.” Their study also revealed that there are no existing programs for migrant re-integration, nor perceived links between migration and development in the country. Throughout their presentation, a very important idea was repeatedly stressed– the transfer of capabilities and knowledge. It was made clear that the key to migrant re-integration and development in the Philippines is in this sharing of abilities and knowledge, and that Filipino migrants are capable of being more than “Vacas Lecheras” or machines that merely send money home.

Happy Filipinos

Interestingly, the study has found that many 2nd generation Filipinos still feel more Filipino, or see themselves as Filipino-Spanish rather than just Spanish. Also, it was discovered that Filipinos abroad (particularly those in Spain and Italy) are able to stay happy in spite of the various forms of discrimination that they experience. The project’s leaders attribute this positive mentality to the Filipino’s innate psychological strength, which is perhaps what helps the Filipino migrant through the difficult realities of marginalization and the apparent lack of preoccupation for the migrants by both the host and home countries.

Region and Religion

However, not everyone feels the same way about this phenomenon. The study found that there are some migrants who do feel alone and abandoned by their hosts and their own countrymen, many of whom suffer this ordeal in silence.  Hence, the importance of associations.  Filipinos both in Spain and Italy have organized themselves into different groups based mainly on religion and region.  But, although this kind of support exists, they discovered that many migrant workers still look for support and recognition from home.

Everything revealed and discussed during the presentation about Filipino migrants and the realities that surround them was clear and true. Filipino migrant workers do what they do because they have to, and they are certainly capable of dealing with whatever it entails and however it affects their lives. But, what was also made clear was the importance that has yet to be given to migration internationally, its relevance to nations and individuals, but especially on how the host and home countries perceive it. The Diaspora, according to the study, enriches both nations in a number of ways, and goes well beyond mere employment generation. In the end, apart from all the information already available, it seems that there is still more to learn about this phenomenon that everyone could further benefit from. Meanwhile, Filipinos will continue to leave the country in search for greener pastures, towards uncertain futures, in foreign lands.

Representatives from the Spanish and Philippine government, Casa Asia, Scalibrini Migration Center and University of Valencia together with federation of Filipino associations (KALIPI), Centro Filipino and Asociación Filipina de Escritores e Investigadores en España (Ang Bagong Filipino) were present to discuss the different dimensions of Filipino diaspora and its relevance to development.

One Response to “More than mere ‘Vacas Lecheras’”


  1. » Tuesday’s News Moving Matters - November 16, 2010

    […] and Development Filipino Migration, Associativism and Development (link) Sudanese diaspora to be able to vote in upcoming referendum […]

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