Of Greener Pastures, Brain Drains and Headhunters

 (A response to J.A. Carizo’s comment on A Lesson from From Shamans…)

Colonization actually started also with the dream of greener pasture which, as in the case of Spain, not really to spread Christianity and glorify their God and His Ten Commandments like Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, Thou shall love thy neighbor etc. , for in fact they came in search of resources and employment and, worse, conquered, enslaved the natives, murdered and looted the whole Philippine archipelago. In the Philippines alone, colonization provided jobs for tens of thousands-perhaps millions- of Spaniards at that time in the Philippines and surely substantially increased Spain’s GDP during this pillage that lasted for 333 years. How about if you add to that the colonized South American countries? You may recall the Galleon Trades en route Mexico-Manila-Spain resulting to sinking some of these ships for being overloaded with golds, silver, goods and slaves. Some treasure hunters are still on the way mapping out the oceans with the hope of locating these lost  cargo ships. Now, we may just say it was the past and we just happened to be one of those unlucky nations that fell into the hands of those European colonizers. Some European friends of mine also admit that they were the ones who started the troubles in this world. It was painful for the colonized, glorifying for the colonizers. But from today’s modern perspective, for the former colonizers, what they did was a shame and source of remorse, for the former colonized ones, it was the birth of nationalism and authentic heroism, in short, a source of pride. You see, how situations and meanings change with time, true to the maxim that time heals if you were the victim, time injures if you were the perpetrator. In other words, time brings justice. From the modern, civilized, humanistic perspective, the Philippines is a proud nation for it has a clear conscience unlike Japan, Germany, Spain, France, Great Britain and America who unti now suffer from this collective guilt and in some cases have to pay reparation fees.Viewed against this context, we can shout  with clear conscience to the whole world “Mabuhay Ang Pilipino!”.

However, we now can comfort ourselves with the idea that the Spanish colonizers’ landing on the shores of Mactan was far from being an exact planning. The work of Professors Feyrer and Sacerdote of Darmouth College showed that it was wind direction and speed which decided where Europeans settled first and not by cherry-picking, i.e. choosing consciously better islands to settle. In short, by chance. Good or bad luck for us, you may say, for in truth colonization had both its negative and positive sides. Spain helped accelerate our development in many areas like education, arts, literature, sciences, engineering, architecture, nation building and -whether you like it or not-religion and Catholicism; they planned and built our cities, towns, universities, hospitals (and churches!) etc. The same with our American and Japanese colonial periods; they also contributed to the development of these areas mentioned. In effect, it has united us as one people, gave birth to nationalism, provided the platform for the development and cultivation of the Filipino mind and stimulated our political consciousness. We are all familiar with the negative sides of colonization so it’s about time we talk about its positive sides and use these with our modern insights to help us overcome those negative ones for as a nation we cannot afford to linger forever in the past and keep romanticising the pains of colonialism; we have to move forward.

Translated into our Bulan politics, we should act in such a way as to help those people in our municipal government be aware of their own good sides and good intentions so that they’ll think and act accordingly resulting to positive achievements for the town. This is what I mean by redefining many things in Bulan. We have been acting and behaving for ages according to the old definitions we carry in our subconscious that’s why we never move forward. We have to define our politics anew if we want progress: For the politician or politician-to be, think of how you can enrich your town while in office or if elected; for the political opponents including their supporters who lost the election, think also of how you can help those elected enrich the town. Fair play and teamwork is needed for the town to grow. This is simple but hard to do for this means transcending the ego for a higher end. This is difficult for it goes against the natural man in us and requires a civilized step we call reflection. Not transcending selfish motives and hate means staying by the old definition of politics and therefore against the idea of Bulan moving forward. The mayor should respect her office and use it to motivate and unify our people and act according to our new definitions of things in Bulan. This is the only way for Bulan to move to the next form.

You have mentioned OFW. The same way that Spain suffered a big outflow of human capital at that time the problem of human capital flight in the Philippines is as old as our colonial history itself. Think of the years spent by Rizal, Luna, Hidalgo, etc. outside the Philippines during their most productive years. Brain drain, originally coined by the Royal Society to describe the emigration of scientists and technologists to North America from post-war Europe, is not a new phenomenon and familiar causes of emigration are conflict, lack of opportunity, political instability, etc. -reasons also known to Rizal in his time. But we should not forget that it was not one sided at that time. Our country profited during that time also from  a huge in-flow of human capital or brain gain; educated European brains settled in our country and improved our GDP by bringing with them their knowledge and skills we never had before they came. Actually it was the colonizing-and later the war-torn Europe- that first suffered from brain drain. The families and relatives of the OSW, or Oversea Spanish Workers, knew already long ago the sentiments we Filipinos are experiencing now with our own OFW. Actually, brain drain in the Philippines started in the 1970’s due to the government’s adoption of international contract work known thereafter to us as Oversea Contract Workers whose first wave landed mostly in Saudi Arabia and in other Southeast Asian countries as well. There are by now around 8 million Filipinos working abroad (more than the population of Austria, Finland and Switzerland) and last year they sent home over 10 billion dollars which is about 12% of the country’s GDP. Arroyo’s government is happy about this money that’s why it boasted last July 25 of “coffers with monetary reserves” to face the world’s food and fuel crisis. But this is the hook to it: The lack of nurses and doctors and other medical personnel is continuously damaging the country’s health care system (resulting to closures of hospitals) – this with around 15,000 nurses leaving the country each year.

The problem in our country is that our political and economic situation is only conducive to brain drain but not to brain gain, i.e. in-flow of highly skilled individuals. Many foreigners are hesitant to invest their money, time and knowledge in our country for we do not meet the requirements of these people; it’s unthinkable for instance for European or South Korean nurses and doctors to apply as such in our country. However, brain drain is not only a problem among developing countries, it is a global problem. On the other hand, countries benefiting from brain gain (human capital) and economic gain (financial capital)  are countries that invested and continously invest in education and research and are politically and socially stable ones. A case in point I know so well is Switzerland, one of the best headhunters in the world. This is a place of brain gain from almost every imaginable discipline. I can say with certainty, as an example, that at the moment in history, the best brains of theoretical and astrophysics are gathered in Geneva working for CERN’s recently opened Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator. Whereas, to talk about headhunting in the Philippines is still taken literally by many foreign nationals, which understandably triggers fear and flight instinctive reactions in these people.

To qoute J.A. Carizo, “Aren’t the municipality missing guys like you and Atty Benjie and the rest of the Taga-Bulans who are now in Manila and other places living far from your hometown for lack of opportunities?”. Well, Attybenji would somehow find it easy as a lawyer to find a job in Bulan. I could imagine him as practicing lawyer, a competent politician or as a legal counselor to our mayor, for instance. But for a clinical psychologist, I think it woudn’t be easy to find clients in Bulan, a psychiatric hospital or a psychological clinic/research institute. Or, am I mistaken? I stand to be updated here!

 

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer

 

 

 

   

 

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Filed under Over a Cup of Coffee, Politics, Views and Concern

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