2007 Student-Faculty Fellows: Green Mountain College
Joint Project: “The Impact of Overseas Filipino Employment on Families Left Behind”
Mentor: Evangelina Blust
Students: Matthew Bower, Paula Maciel, Svea Miller, Ashley Potter
Our three-and-one-half week research on the impact of overseas Filipino employment on families left behind was preceded by activities that paved the way for a smooth research process. To be familiar with our research venue, our team did a transect walk and made a map of Barangay Talisay. Using prepared interview guides that included an oral consent, our team interviewed 49 Banangay residents. Preliminary conclusions derived from the cursory look at the data showed that the benefits of overseas labor migration to the families left behind were mainly economic and social and derived from the remittances sent to the Philippines. The costs, on the other hand, were social and psychological. The top destination countries of Banangay Talisay overseas workers were Italy and Hong Kong. 300 out of 500 households in the community had at least one overseas worker. Our research was enhanced by a trip to the Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Manila, attendance at the Forum on Illegal Recruitment in Lipa City, and a conference with students and faculty of the psychology department at De La Salle University in Lipa City, and also, by home stays for the student researchers. We presented our observations, preliminary findings, and tentative conclusions to the Barangay Talisay residents and also to a group of graduate students at the University of the Philippines at Los Banos. In time, we also intend to share our findings through different venues to various audiences in the United States.
As a student of philosophy, my interest in the “liberation” school of thoughts views on globalization naturally carries over into social theory, but until this trip, I did not have first-hand sociological experience with much of what is discussed in academe. My instinct has always been to condemn the aspects of globalization that have mobilized the Philippine work force, but through this experience, I have gained a much richer awareness of its complexities. Gaining a personal understanding of how peoples. social, economic, and moral priorities are organized in light of dominating global forces in the developing world was one of the valuable aspects of the trip. This provided me with the opportunity to see the Philippines as a nation of largely working-class people, entering the world market to fulfill the demands created by a luxury-class society in highly developed nations such as the United States, Western Europe, and a few countries in Asia. Such vast global disparity and inequality makes it difficult to justify a life that does not in some way attempt to contribute to the larger good.
From our research in Barangay Talisay and the meetings we attended, I learned more about the plight of the Filipinos, many of whom are well-educated but have nowhere to work or apply their skills for decent pay to make a living. However, culturally they have learned how to “roll with the punches.” I found them to be strong, fun-loving, and hospitable. My experiences have cemented by desire to commit to a life of service. Committing to a career solely as a researcher would be very difficult for me. As an American, I feel it is my duty to be socially responsible and to invest myself in improving the lives of others in our global community.
The trip to the Philippines has brought amazing changes in my personal life and has expanded my education. I was in awe of the people.s hospitality and the landscape, especially in the countryside. Almost everywhere I went, I was greeted with warmth and smiles by people, a few of whom I now consider as close friends. I have learned a great deal about overseas Filipino labor migration and the Philippine culture. I have gained skills that will be beneficial to my present and future careers. The Philippine experience has led me to reconnect with my past and take a step forward while embracing the present.
Traveling abroad to do research cannot compare with going abroad to make money for a family left behind in a third world country. Everything that I have learned from the Philippine experience, both personally and professionally, has made a significant impact on my life. One of the biggest things that changed is my view of America and the set of priorities that take over our lives. Another was a change in career plans. I realized my desire to help others. I could see myself in a position that connects those at the grassroots to those at the top, to help fight injustices. Our research has helped me to acquire new skills, and to hone what I already have. I have become better in public speaking; proficient in interviewing, note taking, and transcribing; and more adept in working with individuals at a professional level and in a group setting.