Come home, sons and daughtersBy Jose Ma. Montelibano
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Does anyone know how much money Filipino-Americans send to their families in the Philippines? I am told it is $8 billion annually or about P340 billion. I am not sure if Filipino-Canadians are included in this amount. Either way, the amount is staggering.
Does anyone know how many Filipino-Americans remit money home? Well, the latest available study of Asian-Americans pinpoint Filipinos somewhere at the top with 52% of them sending money to the Philippines.
Does anyone know how many balikbayan boxes are sent to the Philippines by Filipino-Americans? I don’t, I simply do not have the data. But the Bureau of Customs may, and, of course, the forwarders doing business in the US if they can consolidate their business volumes. And then, there are more balikbayan boxes sent whenever disaster strikes.
Does anyone know how much Filipino-Americans earn in the United States? I don’t, but I have a good idea. Using the per capita income of Americans, and knowing Filipino-Americans earn just as much if not more, then we can safely assume that it is upwards of $160 billion.
Does anyone know how much Filipino-Americans spend to live in the US? In the year 2000 or 2001, a marketing study mentioned that Filipino-Americans spend $50 billion a year. That figure is estimated to be between $60-70 billion today.
Does anyone know how much the IMF, the World Bank, the ADB, and the US Exim Bank lend to the Philippines every year on the average? I don’t, but anyone can ask the Central Bank or get the figures from government reports. I am willing to conclude, though, that it cannot be more than $2 billion annually.
What’s the point of all these questions?
We have our own people, Filipino-Americans, who left in search of a dream they could not see becoming true in the motherland. They struggled as strangers in another land, as minorities competing against a powerful mainstream, and decades later finally making it.
The cost was steep – separation, homesickness, cold winters, and often enduring being regarded as less than equal. Beyond the cars and houses and modern way of life, we often do not see the pain and loneliness.
And too often, too, we do not understand the longing they bear quietly for their people, their homeland. We see the material trappings but not what we take for granted – being where we are, the natural belonging with one another and the only land Filipinos can call their own.
Why don’t we make it easy for them to have their reunion? Why don’t we court them to visit, to stay, maybe even live out the rest of their lives here? Why don’t we roll out the red carpet so they can invest here, or give outright grants to the poor we do not know how to take care of anyway? Why not serve the needy and weak with their time, talent and treasures?
Why do we bow and curtsy to financial institutions whom we do not wish to be submissive to anymore? Why don’t we reach out to our own people in America and explain how a few billion dollars a year, as investment in our own people, land and future, can change history with them as the heroes they can be?
We spend so much effort and resources to reach out to other peoples and nations, yet give nowhere enough appreciation and importance to sons and daughters of our motherland. Ask the Central Bank and our Finance officials what $8 billion does to our economy? Ask the Secretary of Tourism what millions of Filipino-American tourists can mean, not just with their visits and expenses here, but more so with their promoting the Philippines. Ask the Secretary of Foreign Affairs just how an awakened Fil-Am sector can facilitate a truly friendly relationship with the US?
We can go down the line of departments and ask them how 4 million Filipino-Americans who earn more than $160 billion a year and send $8 billion of that to their families in the Philippines can do to make them achieve their goals faster and better. These are our flesh and blood, patriots in exile, comrades in the war against poverty, fellow dreamers for the future generations.
While we are at it, we can ask the Professional Regulatory Commission and the Department of Health why they are not rolling out the red carpet for Filipino-American doctors, nurses and volunteers who spend their own money and time to care for the poor through their medical missions that the PRC and the DOH cannot serve. We have to ask these agencies what they have done, and plan to do, with maybe twenty million Filipinos begging for medical treatment because they never had it.
The most important question that must be answered before the nation – why are Commissioners of PRC making it difficult for Filipino-Americans to help? If they cannot anymore attend to the poorest for lack of funds, the DOH should beg Filipino-American doctors to please arrange for more medical missions.
I plead to our brothers and sisters in America not to give up on our people, especially the poor. I plead for them to remember how they, too, stayed faithful to their dream against all odds. They must subordinate their distaste and revulsion for a bureaucratic attitude and give the welfare of the sick among the needy higher priority. They must not allow the poor to suffer by letting the PRC get away with the worst kind of behavior in a moment of great change in our country.
I ask Filipino-Americans to let their love for the motherland and the common good to be their highest motives and greatest joy to serve. If officials in the PRC can betray the public trust so casually, Filipino-Americans can teach them about generosity, humaneness and patriotism. Please prepare for thousands of medical missions and defy the selfishness of regulatory officials with your determination to care and share. If you can find the heart for the poorest among our race, and show it, many more among us may yet learn to do the same.
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