Monday, September 1, 2008

Brain drain

I actually think brain drain isn't as bad as it seems to be. It is true though that we have a lot of really brilliant and talented people that have gone abroad in one way or the other to find the much sought after dollars or euros. Even odd jobs has not deterred our degree holders from seeking employment elsewhere. Doctors working as nurses, engineers slaving as electricians and technicians, degree holders as factory workers, has become not only acceptable but commonplace in many OFWs.

One good thing that I can see coming out from all this is that these people can get training and experience they would not otherwise get staying in the Philippines. Working in a foreign land also opens up opportunities for each individual. Of course, it stays with that person if he wants to take advantage of it. Doctors who end up as nurses abroad can still take up medicine in their host countries. Nothing can stop a Filipino engineer working as a technician outside go and get a master's at a nearby university. I'm not saying it would be a smooth ride all the way, on the contrary, its going to be very difficult. But with all that said it IS possible.

Having training and experience in another country can be a really good thing IF only these Filipinos would share it to other Filipinos. No one prevents any Filipino from going abroad to work. But I really hope that these OFWs would live true to their title and be the bagong bayani; return home and contribute to the society not only by the dollars they remit, but by using their experience to help improve the country.

It's just a sad thing to hear OFWs say that they wouldn't want to go back and settle in the Philippines because it's never going to change. I think that's the real danger of brain drain. But if this brain drain creates OFWs that would be seeking to gain training(not to mention wealth) and then go back to contribute, then I'm all for it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A lash out from an OFW

I encountered a post from an OFW who was clearly distraught about how the Philippine government is running the country. Then he asked the question about how the OFWs will get something from the country because of being and working somewhere else. I just had to reply. This was how it went.
This is probably the very reason why the Philippines has not yet risen to reach her potential. Yes, Filipinos are creative, intelligent, hardworking and very talented people and yet our beloved country is still being left behind by our Asian neighbors. Why? don't tell me its completely because of the government. There is corruption EVERYWHERE, in ALL countries, in EVERY shape and form.
I believe the real reason here is the Filipinos themselves. Filipinos are inherently selfish and a bit of a complainer. That might not sit well with a lot of you that might read this. But from what I saw that is the truth. Take this "the country owes us" statement. If you asked every OFW the reason why they chose to go abroad, their answer would be to give their family or themselves a better life. So what they do is go to another country and send money home. Mind you that most of this money goes into their families, not into charitable institutions, government agencies or infrastructure projects. True that some of it goes to the government as taxes, but that wasn't really the intention on the sender's part was it? And still we think that the country "owes us".
We Filipinos have a habit of pointing our fingers to other people or other things to explain the misfortunes that come into our lives. I don't really know where this came from nor do I really care. But it's just plain stupid. If something bad happened to you, like say, you fell on a muddy ditch, don't go throwing mud on other people's faces. Instead, stand up and wash yourself. It's really that simple.
The late U.S. President Kennedy said "ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country". This pretty much sums it up. We may never live to see a corrupt-free Philippine government, but we can sure as hell do something to make the Philippines a better place.
One last thought, if instead of writing the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, Jose Rizal thought "I have studied in the great universities in Europe and made quite a name for myself, I would surely want to come home and see the grand welcome in store for me". Would he still be remembered as the great man that he is?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pinoy Artistic renaissance

Before the start of every year, it has been a custom for psychics and fortune tellers to come out with their predictions for the coming year. 2008 was no different. All sorts of these statements came out. It can sometimes be fun just listening to them and waiting if they would ever come true.

One time, I read a 2008 prediction for the Philippines in a website. The item that struck me the most was that according to this, there was going to be a Filipino scientific renaissance. Well for a moment, I was lost in my thoughts of having Filipino scientists and engineers gracing the covers of scientific publications, making their presence felt in their fields of research. Then I read at the bottom of the page that this was just a prediction may or may not come true. I thought to myself, of course. That would be too good to be true, but I've been crossing my fingers ever since. Who wouldn't want the brilliant Filipino mind to be finally recognized internationally.

Well, half of the year has passed already. There was still no barrage of Filipino names on leading journals or publications. Although I must admit I came across some Filipinos making a mark in their fields. 6 more months to go, and my fingers are still crossed.

However, if you looked the on the other side, there are a lot of Filipinos making waves at the performing arts scene. This should actually come as no surprise since we already have a multitude of world class talents. However, the pinoys that have come out this year has just been phenomenal and deserve some praise.

First of which is a pinoy born of both pinoy parents. He grew up in Austria though. He sings and he dances, very well indeed. He joined the Austrian TV show Musical: Die show, much like any talent show except they only perform songs from well known musicals. Surprise, surprise he won the grand prize. Here is a clip of my favorite performance of his. I must tell you that you should see all his performances. All of which are superb.

The next pinoy performer is a young girl, not even old enough to vote. But she has been asked to perform in TV shows and programs in different countries. Her name is Charice Pempengco. Interestingly, her rise to fame started when a video of her was uploaded in Youtube. From then on, she has performed in Korea, UK and the USA. Here is the video of her performing in StarKing Tv show in South Korea.

It's just funny how the jaws of the guests on the show drop when they hear her start singing.

Another pinoy who was catapulted to fame by a video posted in youtube is Arnel Pineda. Arnel was a lead singer of a local band called the The Zoo. The band performed cover songs, some of which were songs by the American band Journey. Now by some coincidence, one of Journey's members was looking through Youtube in search of a lead singer for his band. Then he chanced upon The Zoo's video and was blown away by Arnel's performance. So much so that he immediately contacted Arnel for a meeting. At present, they already released an album and performed in various places. Here is a clip of the band performing in Chile with their brand new frontman.

Like I said, half of the year has passed. And I'm hoping more pinoys would be recognized for their talent and work. Some would argue that we shouldn't be too proud of these people just because they're pinoy. I beg to differ, we should be in a constant lookout for people like these and set them as examples and ambassadors of the Philippines. We have, as a nation, a responsibility to make our presence felt in the world. And with pinoys like them, we can truly say we are proud to be pinoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ancient Philippine Golden Society

Some weeks ago I happened to watch this video documentary by the Probe team.

This is just the first segment of the 8-part documentary. If you want to watch the whole video you could look for it in . It's worth the time, I'm telling you.

This documentary was really an eye-opener for me. I knew from school that the Philippines had a lot of minerals and precious metals spread out in its 7,107 islands. But it completely blew my mind to know that ancient Filipinos had been mining and crafting gold way before Magellan even got to our shores.

What was more surprising was the amount of testimonies that proved this was the case. Pigafetta, one of Magellan's crew, observed that Filipinos during that time were wearing gold jewellery according to their status in the society. The datus and rajas, for example, had gold sashes, swords and even on their teeth. The common people on the other hand, had gold earrings or bracelets. What this showed was the abundance of this metal in the ancient Philippine society. It has even been said that all you had to do to find gold then was to go out into the river and sift through the waterbed.

The quality of the gold pieces shown on the documentary was another surprise for me. I was expecting very crudely made pieces, like slabs of hammered gold ores. But when they actually showed the stuff, I had to take a second look. They looked nothing like uncivilized chunks of metal. They were intricate works of art! One of the pieces there was called the sacred thread. And it was a mind-blowing 4 layers of woven golden thread, put together to form a 4-kg metal sash. I mean that is impressive if they made one today, which the documentary explicitly says they don't do it anymore. What drives me crazy is that they made it even before the Spanish settlers came.

One of the experts who spoke on that documentary explained that the detail and craftsmanship of the pieces on the exhibit were completely top-notch. He even goes to say that it would be very difficult if not impossible to recreate those pieces even with present-day technology. For the Filipinos then to come up such great craftsmanship must only mean that they have been practicing such techniques for hundreds of years before that.

This only strengthens the belief that ancient Filipinos had a vibrant and progressive culture. And that is something to be proud of as a Filipino.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Respect in a different perspective

Every Filipino-raised child in this world is taught a great deal about respect. We have almost have infinite forms of it. We add words in our sentences to show it like "po" and "opo". Whenever we meet our elders, we take their hand and touch it to our foreheads. We say "kuya", "ate", "tito", "tita" to practically everyone that is older than our age group. In old tagalog, there is even a name for every rank of the siblings. Considering the large numbers of children in the family, simply calling everyone older than you as "ate" and "kuya" just doesn't seem to be enough. There is the "diko", "ditse", "sanko" and "sanse". At schools, we address teachers and staff as ma'ams and sirs. This extends to the workplace when we give everyone in higher positions specific titles. The company I worked before goes beyond that. In there you call everyone, boss. I found it funny at first. But you learn to play along after awhile. And the list goes on and on. This is the Filipino way.

This is the way I was brought up in. And I have always wondered what the western way was like because it was supposed to be very different. I have heard stories that children call their parents by their first names. For me that was unthinkable. So when I got to Iceland I found out that it was really different.

For starters, everyone calls everyone by their first names. Yep as strange as it may seem, that is how it is here. So you'll never hear a person being called Mr. Lastname, as you would oftentimes be called in the Philippines. That goes true even at work. You don't have to call your boss, boss or sir. It got a little uncomfortable for me when I went to school. It just felt awkward calling your teachers by their first names. That took some getting used to.

It may sound strange especially for Filipinos, but the good thing is people still respect each other. The Icelanders don't need to use titles to show respect. They show it by the way they act and relate to other people. That is their way. I'm not saying this is better or worse than what I've been used to. I mean, it worked for them. Our way worked for us. It's just a different way of expressing it. I wouldn't have known that if I haven't lived in another country. This is just one of the many realizations that I made since getting here.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Living and growing up in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of how things work in the world. I mean, how hard could it be? You go to school, get a degree, get a job, start a family, have kids and die happy. And so there I was, finally making my parents proud and adding 4 letters before my name. I felt on top of the world.

I imagined this moment many times in my life. A time when school would finally be over forever. Everyone wearing those togas, black this time! The graduates feeling all excited, ecstatic, sad and nervous all at the same time. No wonder I saw a lot of tears that day. Not only from them but from the parents as well. I'm sure our parents were extremely delighted to see their children march off to get their diplomas. But I guess they were more relieved than anything. After all Filipino parents consider giving the education to their children their supreme mandate.

After all the ceremonies and camera flashes, I celebrated with my family. After that I felt I fell into a deep sense of blankness. For years before, it was completely routine. Year after year, I would wake up and go to school. Classes would start, during which all I would wish for is for the next vacation to come. Then when it finally comes, I would be bored in just a couple of weeks. That's the time I would wish classes starts again. The school may change, the classmates may be different, but it's basically the same idea.

But now, there's no "next term" or "next semester". There is just "Opportunity". That's what everyone calls it. I could do whatever I want. Then it hit me. What do I really want? Well years before if you asked me that question I would have answered with all the newest toys or the coolest cellphone or probably a car. But now it's for real. Decisions have to be made and the consequences can be great. From then on it becomes scary. You see, I consider myself a nearsighted person when it comes to these things. I really have no clear sense of future. Whenever I get that question in a job interview, I would answer with every good thing I could think of just to impress. Honestly though... I have absolutely no idea. All I could figure out is maybe one or two years from now. So the prospect of planning my life from this point onwards was really daunting for a simpleton like me.

With that I braced myself for things to come. With every journey, the first steps are the scariest and definitely the most exciting.

WBC Lightweight Champion Manny Pacquiao

I know every Filipino in the entire planet already knows about this win by Manny Pacquiao. But we should never tire to talk about the things that make us say we are proud to be Pinoy. And clearly, Manny Pacquiao is one of them. Once again Manny proved to us Filipinos what we can achieve if we set our goals and do everything in our power to get there.

Many people only see Manny in the 12 rounds he fights on the ring and the many endorsements he now has. But behind all this is the amount of hardwork and training that he puts in every fight he goes into. If you read writeups about how this guy trains, you'd get the impression that he isn't human at all. He tires out even those that train him. And his coaches have to hold him back to keep him from training too hard.

This works all to his advantage as he reaps dividends in every fight. He deserves to win.

I leave you with a clip of Manny's icing to the cake.

Congratulations Manny Pacquiao! Once again you did us proud!