Monday, June 25, 2007

Life's Curveballs

I just want to share this article... Jennifer (or Jenny as we call her) is a graduate of DLSU - same batch as mine. She placed 2nd on our CPA board exam and she's now working in Tokyo. :) I always thought of her as one of those fortunate people who has a natural intellegence and beauty to boot! (going to bora just before finals?? how cool is that? hahaha!)

I just wanted to post this article since I share the same sentiments as her... (though i think I miss my family more than she does. hahaha)

By Jennifer Galang
Last updated 02:51am (Mla time) 05/24/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Too many times I have been asked, by foreigners and fellow citizens alike, why Filipino professionals leave our country to work abroad.

On one occasion in Tokyo, a light dinner conversation took a more serious turn when my American friend brought that subject up. “Everywhere in the US,” he said, “There are Filipino doctors, nurses and IT and business professionals like you. If you all go back to the Philippines, you could easily drive your economy to a boom,” he said.

I was quick to argue. I am, after all, one of these professionals. “It’s not like most of them have a choice,” I said. “People leave because otherwise their families back home wouldn’t have anything to eat.”

“True, but not for you. Your families are well-off,” he said, referring to me and another Filipino at the table, a lawyer who’s also working here in Tokyo. I almost choked on my kimchi. My Filipino friend rebutted, “The economics of our present situation is not that simple. If all the professionals return, you have to deal with the unemployment and the loss of remittances. Our economy, our people, just can’t afford that right now.”

The debate went on for a couple of minutes more and, as expected, ended on a hanging note. If I only knew the answer to our country’s problems, I would have shut all the politicians back home up, and that would easily win me a Nobel Prize.

The interesting thing, though, is a few years ago I shared Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros’ fervent views about professionals leaving for work abroad. I lived a rather comfortable single life in Manila. As a CPA, I was paid enough to enjoy an apartment in Makati City and a few occasional luxuries. I didn’t have any reason to complain. I frowned upon the professionals who chose to leave (as opposed to those who had to leave for the dire need of a better income), for I thought life in Manila was quite livable. However, I gave up those views like someone would drop a hot potato when I received an offer to work abroad. I packed my bags without hesitation and left.

For most professionals, especially CPAs like me, I could have chosen not to leave. Clearly, in my case, it was not a question of needing a higher paying job. Nor was it a question of nationalism or lack thereof. I am here because of a desire for personal growth, to realize my potential as a young, skilled professional. This, I believe, is not essentially bad in itself, which is why I’m bothered that we, the “leavers” are branded to be the bad, unpatriotic youth.

On what basis are we Filipino professionals being criticized for working abroad? Will our going back to our own country be able to solve our economic problems? To tell you the truth, those questions are not even relevant to me anymore. I believe the more important question is, why should I be expected to live my entire life in the place I grew up in? Is there something fundamentally wrong with living and working outside your country?

I will not appeal for your empathy by saying that under my circumstances, what I’m doing is a sacrifice. It is not, and I might be the first one to admit that. On the contrary, I feel privileged for being given this excellent work opportunity.

Some say that living away from your family is a sacrifice in itself. Yes, it could be tough at times, but isn’t that true wherever you go? Life throws curveballs at you wherever you are. As a person who always sees a glass half-full, living independently for me is just a part of the appeal of living abroad.

The experience of stepping out of my comfort zone in Manila was nothing but exhilarating. I fend for myself, cook my own dinner and clean my own apartment. I have made friends from all over the globe, exposing me to new values and new realities. My office is a hodgepodge of cultures -- American, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Turkish, British and so many others -- that my accent is now all confused. My work is well appreciated in my job and that has made me confident enough to deal with clients from anywhere. I have countless choices I’ve never had before and numerous opportunities that I would never have had, if I had chosen to stay. I can choose to stay here or move to our office in another location, or I can take my MBA in the United States or in London. Even my overactive imagination as a kid never conjured that life could be like this. And all of these are because I am here.

This is not an encouragement for others to leave as well. I have my personal reasons, as I’m sure others have their own. My being here is essentially about living in another country, and not about leaving my country. I’m not here because I wanted to leave the Philippines. I’m here because I want to be here. Because I like being here. I believe that clearly distinguishes between being a sincere Filipino and an apathetic citizen. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with wanting to stay here. I have chosen to brave the other side of the fence with the purest of personal convictions, and without regret. I should not be condemned for doing so.

1 comment:

Ryan Macalandag said...

This is a very good view on the case of professionals leaving the country for "better" jobs abroad.

I had just read the first few chapters of Thomas L. Friedman's book "The World is Flat". He points out that we are now in Globalization 3.0 where the major stakeholders are not anymore nations (1.0) or global corporate organizations (2.0). Instead, the world economy has become a marketplace of indviduals. Now, more than ever, even "third-world" citizens (pardon the language) like us are given the opportunity to compete in the global market.

With the advent of internet technologies, knowledge has become one of the primary commodities. Thus, naturally, we Filipinos are given the opportunity to join the world's workforce - not as "third-class" workers but equally competitive professionals.

Truly, the world has become flat. Things impossible before can now be attained.

So why are Filipino professionals leaving the country to work abroad these days? Because we can! And it is a pretty darned feat to achieve.

We should be proud of every Filipino worker making it outside our land.


P.S. I have "restructured" my future plans and shifted to go abroad if the opportunity presents itself.