As an ex-pat retracing old haunts in the old homeland, one inexorably finds the issue of emigration not only as a hot-button issue, but takes on front and center when discussion centers on the current politics and economic prognoses of this islands nation.
No question that emigration has been a familiar resident to the typical psyche of the Filipino for a long time, maybe dating back to pre-history. And the several migration waves to the US mainland during the 40 odd years of the American regime readily and unquestionably comes to mind. History is wont to point to the start of the 60's as yet another watershed in this migration to American soil, this time made up mostly of professionals since the earlier ones were deigned as composed of menial workers, or sacadas, collectively recruited for the plantations and other agricultural endeavors in the mainland.
And for decades, emigration in the Philippines had always been discussed in this context, that when one decides to leave the country, whether for economic reasons or otherwise, the most likely destination would be the fabled land of milk and honey, the United States. Europe and other more progressive Asian nations may have also figured as likely destinations, but definitely in very insignificant numbers.
Even in the Western Hemisphere, Canada and the Central and South American countries did not figure prominently. Only the United States. And there was a justifiably good reason for this. The US was most liberal and open to migration coming from most nations of the world, while other recipient nations were not as hospitable and accommodating. And this continues to be the norm to this day.
Other countries today may balk at this assessment and point to their more liberalized policies on migration. Countries like Canada, Australia, and maybe even, tiny New Zealand, may unfurl and glowingly advertise their welcome mat to the hordes of actual and potential immigrants from the far corners of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and maybe even from parts of the old Eastern Europe, but the proof of the pudding still is in the eating.
Simply dissect and examine the compositions of these countries' populations and the scores of immigration applications received and continue to be received by them. This should undoubtedly paint the true picture of how their words have been translated to action. It is one thing to advertise a country's desire to be open-handed in extending its blessings to the "the tired and huddled masses" but quite another to gauge the actions it has taken to bring it about.
The US lives this, and then some, when one considers the millions of illegals that continue trekking through its northern and southern borders, many of them from origins sometimes unknown. Not to mention those who enter the legal way but extend their stays illegally.
Though at the present time, there is a gathering school of thought on the need to stem this almost unrestricted tide of migrants, the collective conscience of the American people is quite conflicted since many of them also can point to their own past of illegal entries and initial stays. Even securing its wide borders has blossomed into a very delicate contentious issue, a common fodder during election cycles.
No doubt some of these countries, such as Canada and maybe Australia, and some European nations, may already show noticeable and/or significant shifts in their populations' breakdowns as a result of the world-wide clamor for affluent nations to open their doors to migrants, or at least temporary workers, from more distressed areas. But as far as I know, it is still only the US that can boast to this day that its population is made up essentially of immigrants from across the far reaches of the world - from Ethiopia, Somalia, to Burma, New Guinea; from France to Ukraine; from the Philippines to Indonesia; you name it, and they have it.
I am quite amused to relate that tiny Norway of almost 5 million population can still say that its population is largely homogeneous; but oh, there is a steady stream of migrants, though mostly from neighboring countries such as Holland and Finland. Any wonder then that this postage-stamp country continues to be adjudged by international groups such as the UN as the "best" country to live in, scoring high in most categories such as low crime rates, good schools, etc. The US usually gets the cellar places among more developed affluent nations.
In spite of all these, telltale conditions and immigration policies that conventional wisdom would readily judge as negatively impacting on one nation's health and continued prosperity, the US nonetheless continues to post figures and stats that buck this bit of folklore. The US economy continues to be the most vibrant and brisk among all the developed nations. While most European nations are content to point to an anemic GDP growth in the 1's and 2's, this lumbering behemoth, the US, unerringly continues to post high 3's and 4's. Mighty Canada's economic health is quite dependent on its next-door neighbor if the trade figures are to be believed. As a matter of fact, defense of Canada and the entire continent is made secure no thanks to American steel and willpower. It is noted that New York City has as many police officers as Canada's entire military.
And Mexico, on the southern border? Needless to say, the underground economy provided by its citizens illegally in the US provides the life jacket to keep its own lop-sided economy, occasioned by extreme poverty brought about by an inept and corrupt government, afloat and on even keel.
It thus greatly saddens me to notice some voices in the old homeland, voices emanating mostly from the "educated" elite (in the Philippine context, as compared to the affluent elite), gratuitously putting down the US not only with uncalled-for comments but derogatory statements usually attributed to dubious or partial sources or those sources with personal axes to grind against it.
Legitimate disagreement should always be welcomed and not stifled for it enhances discussions and brings about more brainstorming ideas into the table. But hateful or incendiary rhetoric, not addressing issues or those founded on unexamined premises or biases, should be avoided. As the good book of a' Kempis states, if one must talk, talk about things that edify. Avoid superfluous rhetoric. What possible good could come out of those? What defiles a man is not what is outside of him, but those that come out from his own mouth, the good book chimes in.
To unequivocally declare that Philippine professionals who are caught in menial jobs in their adopted country in their earnest search for a better life are considered "lucky", is at best cruel and unfounded. FilAm and Filipino professionals can be found in many US companies, appointive or elective positions in government, and even as entrepreneurs.
And another, for one to declare that one other country provides a voice to the ordinary citizen while the US does not, is at least grossly misinformed, or worse, intellectually dishonest. First amendment rights are almost sacrosanct in the US, to the point of being considered licentious.
True, that universal health care rains on every citizen the many benefits of medicine and its many leading edge technologies, but realities give those sponsoring it justifiable causes to re-examine it in the areas of sustainability, and even on fairness and equity. Socialized medicine has not yet come to the US, not because it is a greedy and unmindful society, but because it constantly worries about the unintended repercussions that could impact on its long-term sustainability.
Most of Europe, and yes, Canada, too, do practice socialized medicine but one would be remiss not to mention that their continued practice has been noted to expose the sponsoring countries to its vulnerabilities - in the areas of exorbitant tax rates impacting on individual entrepreneurship, the incipient inabilities to render efficient and fast medical services under government-sponsored and/or -dictated programs, and others.
At many times, learning from the experiences of other countries may be the better part of wisdom in a country's conduct.