Friday, August 20, 2010

Filipinos' imagined virtues of "generosity" and "love of country"

Some non-debatable facts that Inquirer.net columnist Jose Ma. Montelibano dropped in his recent piece on the economic might of Filipino-Americans (figures that follow presumably are estimates or averages): on an annual basis (1) Filipino-Americans spend $50 billion in personal living activities and purchases, (2) they remit $8 billion to the Philippines. To highlight the scale of these numbers, Montelibano shows that the total expenditure is double the budget of the Philippine Government and the remittance figure accounts for 60 percent of total remittances to the Philippines by Pinoy expatriates.

Trouble is, Montelibano derives a few dodgy conclusions from the above facts. One that sticks out is the quickness to attribute the $8 billion dollars to two imagined virtues in the Filipino: generosity and love of country, a conclusion Montelibano encapsulates in the following statement:
The sterling example of Filipino-Americans in lending a consistent helping hand symbolized by an $8 billion remittance to relatives in the motherland is an affirmation that they continue to love the Philippines.

Firstly, it is debatable whether a big portion of the $8 billion dollars is sent by choice. It comes to a question of whether the forces that channel that money to the Islands is characterised by a pull or a push.

Do Filipino Americans push the money to the Philippines motivated by real "generosity"? Or do impoverished Filipinos in the Islands through their victim-esquely irresistible appeals to familial sentiments pull the money from their "more fortunate" kin overseas?

Things that make you go hmmmmm....

This brings me to my second point. Given the questionable motives and debatability of the sort of force that propels the movement of these immense sums of money, the notion of whether "love of country" is really an underpinning motivation either way becomes suspect.

Hmmmm...

Finally, let us again revisit the deepest issue that is at work here -- the very fundamental reason why the most talented Filipinos live overseas and why this humungous amount of money gets routinely sucked out of the economies of their host societies.

Poverty

But Montelibano gets that one wrong as well in his pinning the blame for our chronic wretchedness -- get this -- on the evil imperial empires that have historically enslaved our pathetic lot...
The historical pattern of exploitation by the governing elite who have ruled the Philippines for centuries, in cooperation with Spain, America and Japan for three and a half centuries and all by themselves in sixty-five years is pinpointed as the fundamental cause of poverty in what could be the richest land of the planet Earth.

Two things, sir:

(1) It is now a widely-recognised observation that wealth in natural resources (specially cash crops and minerals) contributed more to impoverishment of entire societies rather than a scarcity of said resources; and,

(2) It is really the shameful five-fold ballooning of the population of a consistently incrementally unproductive people since the 1950's that accounts for our poverty.

The sooner we deal with what is real, the sooner we come up with real solutions.

2 comments:

  1. Swear to God, I don't know how most of these "columnists" managed to graduate, their sense of logic is so retarded. Quick quiz, Joma: How many OFW's send many to the National Treasury out of "love of country," as opposed to sending money to a specific person for more down-to-earth reasons?

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  2. what a stupid guy this montelibano character is. i suppose he also thinks overseas filipinos who send money to their children so they could buy the latest cellphone are doing it for the country's sake.

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