Monday, March 22, 2010

The Pinoys’ unique diaspora

Since its first mention in the Septuagint, the Koinie Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the term diaspora has gone through various interpretations. While it originally referred to the exile of the Jews from Israel in 607 BCE, diaspora as it is popularly understood today denotes a sense of displacement from a homeland even though it may not exist in any meaningful sense. Thus, the migration or forced migration of people for whatever reasons may result in feelings of nostalgia and hope for a return to their homeland, which are often expressed in the continuation of their cultural heritage and traditions. In extreme cases, this cultural affiliation in a diaspora may be found in the community’s resistance to language change.

For Filipinos in the global diaspora, displacement came as an aftermath of the hardships brought about by the Second World War and worsening economic and political conditions in the country, particularly from the late 1960s to the present.

During the Marcos dictatorship in the 1970s and 1980s, Filipinos started leaving in droves. The discovery of the usefulness of overseas workers to the local economy prompted the government and the economic elite to encourage sending them abroad to keep the rotten system afloat.

As globalization facilitated the mobility of goods, services, information and ideas, it also engendered the movement of people, which soon became our primary export to the rest of the world. It has been estimated that there are about 11 million Filipinos overseas scattered in every country in the world, or almost 12 percent of the total population of the Philippines.

In Canada, the Filipino population is expected to surpass 500,000 by 2010. Most of overseas Filipinos and Filipino Canadians live in cities and urban areas. The Greater Toronto Area alone counts for almost 200,000 residents of Filipino ancestry.

Filipinos first came to Canada after World War II, mainly women who worked as nurses, teachers and workers in the health sector.

During the 1960s, Canada recruited more Filipino professionals, mostly from the United States with some coming directly from the Philippines. Winnipeg seemed to be the destination of choice for these new Filipino immigrants.

In the late 1970s, more Filipinos came to join their relatives under the family reunification program. It was during this period that more and more Filipinos settled in Toronto where jobs were prospering.

An influx of contract workers under the Live-in Caregiver Program came in the 1980s. From 1990 onwards, a steady flow of Filipinos entered Canada, and as of December 2008, the Philippines took over China as Canada’s leading source of immigrants.

The Pinoy diaspora in Toronto, or the global Pinoy overseas, may be a unique collection of Filipino expatriates that does not fit in to the ideal type of diaspora based on the Jewish paradigm.

According to James Clifford, a history professor at the University of California, the main features of this ideal type are: 1)dispersal from an original habitat, 2)myths and memories of the homeland, 3)alienation in the host country, 4)desire for eventual return, 5)ongoing support for the homeland, and 6)a collective identity by the relationship to the homeland.

Filipinos are not technically dispersed to all “kingdoms of the earth,” although sending them overseas to work and to bring home their dollar earnings could be interpreted as another form of dispersal. We are dispersed only from our families or relatives in villages, towns and provinces, but loosely from the concept of a nation-state or an independent nation we want to re-embrace after exile. Since our migration was forced by economic circumstances, we have seen it as our freedom to seek one’s fortune and experience the pleasure of adventure.

We certainly are fond of resurrecting our myths and memories of the homeland through cultural celebrations like pistahan, santacruzan, indigenous food, dances and music, and of course, our penchant for beauty pageants. Filipinos identify themselves with celebrities like singers, movie stars, athletes and boxing idols like Manny Pacquiao. Our religious devotion and family rituals have cemented the organic bonds of community.

We have been alienated in our adopted country because of racism and its vestiges as manifested in the labour market and in the political field. But it is this alienation that may possibly unite us. Most of us have gone through marginalization in our struggle for survival. Yet, many first generation Filipinos in Canada have short memories. Whether instinctively or as an acquired reaction, they would jettison their experiences of racial victimization and rationalize this past period in their lives as a natural phenomenon that all immigrants must undergo. Good that they have succeeded, what if they have not?

But this experience of alienation does not sit well with our children, who have now assumed the burden of disentangling this awkward period of pain and suffering in our history as a community. It is our disenchanted youth who seek to understand our history and our struggles as they depict this yearning in the language of their hip poetry and rap music, in plays portraying the harsh realities of forced migration such as Maleta, The Making of St. Jerome and Future Folk, the Alunsina art exhibits and Kamalayan or consciousness workshops.

It is quite ironic that our community associations and their leaders have chosen the easy path of celebrating traditional, religious and folk festivals as a means to calm the feelings of nostalgia among our elders and senior citizens. In doing so, however, they have neglected to address the concerns of our young people who yearn to understand our history as a nation and their quest for the Filipino identity. As a result, the Filipino youth and second-generation Filipinos seem to face alienation from their elders more than they have to countenance acts of racism and discrimination from their host society. This burden of alienation from our elders becomes even more difficult to bear because they also have to continue the efforts to weed out racism and its ugly vestiges in our society as a whole.

Our desire to eventually go home is suspect, our support to our compatriots is limited to charitable acts in time of natural calamities and disasters, and our collective identity is confused between keeping our Filipino uniqueness and flaunting the newly-found equally unsure Canadian distinctiveness.

Filipinos will never return to their old homeland of misery, poverty, exploitation, unemployment, hunger and lack of human dignity. Even when they are economically secure, this yearning to go home will never materialize. After their resettlement, overseas workers such as temporary workers and live-in caregivers would rather move their families and relatives to Canada, even if it only offers an illusion of future improvement.

Another responsibility that our children and young Filipinos in Toronto have placed on their shoulder is solidarity and support for the struggles at home for a better government and more equitable society. We have witnessed members of our community march in Toronto’s streets to support programs in the Philippines which the Church endorses, but not in mass protests against the Visiting Forces Agreement, for example. Conversely, it is our young people who have demonstrated political depth and awareness in their collective indignation against extra-judicial killings and disappearances, ironically the same youths who have had no direct and personal experience of kinship to their parents’ homeland.

Our Filipino identity in Toronto and in Canada as a whole is being shaped by the yearnings and activism of our youth who apparently feel this crisis of collective identity more than their parents.

Perhaps, our Filipino diaspora in Toronto is an odd species, for it is not obsessed with returning to the physical homeland, but more to a symbolic homeland of history.

Let us simply hope that the drama of change that is happening in the Philippines will not allow the Pinoy diaspora in Toronto to slumber in the comfort and wealth of its environs. If recent artistic and cultural events spearheaded by young Filipino Canadian groups give us pause, it is that youth is not wasted on our young: our thriving communities of arts, cultural and political activists are breaking ground in all corners, and on their own terms.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Meeting John Malkovich

How often does one run into a bigger-than-life seasoned Hollywood actor, and of all places, in Toronto’s Chinatown? The Toronto Film Festival fever hasn’t hit the city yet. But it happened, on a gorgeously sunny Saturday afternoon in winter, without a speck of snow on the ground, and with temperatures soaring to 9 degrees Celsius.

My wife and I were sipping our obligatory cup of tea last Saturday afternoon in one of the teahouses across from the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) on Dundas Street West. We had just seen Future Folk at the Theatre Passe Muraille on Ryerson Street, a few blocks away from Chinatown on Spadina. It was quite a letdown and we were disappointed with how the drama played out, a play that tells of the struggles of Filipino nannies seeking a better life in Toronto. Not that the stories were not believable, but the entire play was “big on heart, low on everything else,” as the Toronto Star Theatre critic Richard Ouzounian described it.

Future Folk used a mix of music, dance and drama to depict the abuses suffered by our Filipino nannies from their employers, and of their feelings of homesickness and quiet desperation after being separated from their families back home. The music and dance sequences were exquisite but the dialogue and plot was weak and unconvincing, with many holes that needed plugging. We’ve seen this dance-and-song routine a few times when the Sulong Theatre Collective was still developing their play at Kapisanan Art Centre. At the time, with just the songs and the dance segments, the effect was riveting. It was the least we expected when the play evolved into a disjointed conversation among the characters once they added the dialogue.

There were times too when the play’s actors wanted to connect with the audience but did not elicit their empathy because of lack of foreshadowing. Personally, I would have preferred a little estrangement. Bertholt Brecht used this device by focusing more on the central ideas in the play, thus allowing the audience to have an emotional distance from the actors to give them the time to reflect on what is being presented.

The play was much too short to cover the depth and seriousness of its theme. Perhaps, some of the scenes needed more dramatization, instead of being narrated to the audience. Showing rather than telling could have allowed the plot to unfold new tensions in the lives of the characters.

Future Folk is an attempt to prick our consciousness about the complex struggles of Filipino nannies. The Sulong Theatre Collective, although sincere in its depiction, comes a tad short of its aim. One redeeming feature though is that the majority of the audience who watched the play was not of Filipino background, which tells us that others are already listening and are interested to see and hear more about Filipino productions in Toronto.

To soak our disappointment, we decided to walk around Chinatown. The sun was up and the air was balmy. We finally settled on a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese pho restaurant for our favourite soup and spring rolls. Next, we ambled east along Dundas Street towards Kim Moon Bakery to buy lotus hopia, red bean pastes and sesame balls.

We passed by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and decided to see the exhibits in two of the art galleries across the street. The Bau-Xi Gallery, one of the few galleries we liked since settling in Toronto in the late ’80s, has continued to amaze us every time. Not only with the paintings hung on the white walls, but also by its minimalist and spare space. Established in Vancouver in 1965 by a young artist named Bau-Xi Huang, the Bau-Xi Gallery expanded and opened another gallery in Toronto in 1976. The gallery continues to promote contemporary Canadian and Pacific Northwest art. Before we left, the receptionist offered us a glossy Bau-Xi Gallery catalogue, plus a handful of beautiful postcards.

The Bau-Xi photo gallery next door featured a collection of landscape photographs of Iceland by Vancouver artist Eszter Burghardt. Burghardt’s Wooly Sagas 2010 fine art photographs were almost like watercolour paintings or oil on paper. Not one of the paintings or photographs in the two galleries was within our reach pocketwise, however, so we just tried to savour every bit of craft and imagination the artists gave through our eyes.

Soon we found ourselves at our de rigueur stopover—our other favourite watering hole—the teahouse on the corner of Dundas and McCaul Streets, which served organic coffee and tea. It was here where I was first introduced to Gunpowder tea, but that Saturday I wanted the calming brew of organic Chai instead. The teahouse was quite busy that afternoon. We took a corner table. Across from us were a group of women and a young baby boy in its mother’s arms. From snippets of their conversation, we figured they were all related. One of the women was the boy’s grandmother and the other elderly woman was her sister. We sipped our tea and nibbled the sweet desserts we bought from Kim Moon. Soon after, the group beside us rose to leave. All the women were by then teasing the baby boy who seemed amused. From the other end, a group of young Asian women sat on a table with a young Asian man who, like the baby boy, appeared to enjoy the company of women.

At a quarter past five, a tall enigmatic man, wearing a black kupi cap and a light brown leather jacket and accompanied by a woman in a black coat, entered the teahouse. My wife’s back was facing the counter so she could not see the people who just came in. I know this man, I said to myself, and whispered to my wife that John Malkovich, the actor, was by the counter ordering coffee.

How could I forget John Malkovich, the lecherous seducer Vicomte Sébastien de Valmont in Dangerous Liaisons? As the menacing leader of a group of prisoners aboard an ill-fated airplane transporting them to another prison, Malkovich’s portrayal of Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom in Con Air was so intimidating and creepy. And as the daunting assassin Mitch Leary in The Line of Fire, opposite Clint Eastwood, Malkovich made the villain’s unforgiving role so easy, so frightening, yet so unforgettable.

I searched for my pen in my coat’s inner pocket and nudged my wife to ask John Malkovich for his autograph. At first, she thought I was just teasing her but took the dare. She turned her head towards the actor, quickly pulled out the Bau-Xi Gallery catalogue from her duffel bag, and proceeded to pursue our person of interest. Without so much as a sputter, she asked the visiting Hollywood celebrity: “Are you Mr. Malkovich?” And he replied very softly: “Yes, I am John Malkovich.”

My wife was star-struck stunned that she couldn’t say anything more than: “E..r.r... So you must be in town for a location shooting?” And he said, “Yes, I am working on a project here.”

So my wife asked him if he could sign his name on her Bau-Xi book. He just nodded, flashed his famous smile, and signed away.

All this time, I just watched my wife and John Malkovich, who was very obliging and affable, engage in fan-celebrity conversation, centuries away from the threatening roles he had deftly portrayed in films. As a former news reporter, my wife found it easy to talk with the actor, too. He was far from stand-offish, and conducted himself discreetly and with great humility. I was simply content to hear Malkovich speak in his very distinctive voice, which was once described as “a reedy, faintly, orgasmic drawl.”

On Sunday morning, we read in the Toronto Star that John Malkovich was in town to shoot a big-budget espionage movie with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman. The Star also reported that Malkovich would be back in Toronto this June to play the lead role in the Luminato Festival’s opening event, The Infernal Comedy, where he will be the only actor on stage. Again, Malkovich will be in his natural element as Jack Unterweger, a modern-day Jack the Ripper. He will be joined by a 40-piece baroque orchestra and two sopranos performing famous death arias by Mozart, Haydn and others on behalf of the 11 prostitutes Unterweger strangled with their bra straps two decades ago. Indeed, being John Malkovich must be one eerie adventure in the world of eccentricity.

As for myself, I would like to see Malkovich, if things fall in the right places, in a motion picture adaptation he plans to do of the Arnon Grünberg novel, The History of My Baldness. Without much on his pate himself, this one would be really one hairy tale to watch as it unravels.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Taxing the über-rich

A few nights ago while working on our 2009 income tax returns, I noticed that my wife has paid to Revenue Canada close to 20 per cent of her salary as income taxes which were deducted at source. This is much more than I earn annually from my part-time teaching job and my small retirement pension. Aside from her salary, my wife also earned additional income from royalties (mostly from the Public Lending Right Commission), permission from a publisher to include her work in a book, and a grant from the Toronto Arts Council.

Which makes me start thinking that maybe my wife must be über-rich and I start wondering where all the money is going after the taxes are paid. The truth, however, is, with all our debts that had accumulated over the years, plus all the GST and sales taxes we’ve been paying and a few loans to our daughters which we don’t expect to be repaid, we’re actually only a few notches above the poverty line. And it took only a fraction of a second for reality to dawn upon me.

But the worse is not over yet. Come July 1, 2010, the province of Ontario will begin implementing the much-hated Harmonized Sales Tax. The HST, as it is commonly known in these parts, combines the provincial and federal sales tax on products and services: 5 per cent GST and 8 per cent Ontario PST. As a result, many items that used to be exempt from sales tax will now be taxed. Maybe it’s time to move to Prince Edward Island, the only Canadian province that is not imposing HST on its residents.

There is a likelihood of spikes in the price of gasoline and heating fuels. Electricity will no longer be exempt from provincial sales tax, and the same applies for tobacco, personal services like haircuts, membership fees for clubs and gyms, newspapers and magazines, taxi fares, real estate commissions, and professional services of lawyers, architects and accountants. Everything will now be caught by the HST. My barber will surely feel embarrassed every time his loyal customers bring up the subject of HST on their bills.

According to the provincial government, Ontario is implementing this single sales tax to put in place “what is viewed as the most efficient form of sales taxation around the world.” Ontario’s finance ministry expects the single sales tax to reduce the cost of goods that the province exports, making it more competitive and boosting a sector of the economy that has been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. The ruling Ontario Liberal Party hopes that revenues from this single sales tax will create more than 590,000 new jobs and make the province a more competitive environment for investment.

But why is it that the government never mentions that the GST or PST, or this harmonized sales tax is fairly regressive, being a consumption tax? Eventually, the poor pay a much greater portion of their income in sales taxes than the rich. Sales taxes also act as break on consumption, which is why in slow economic times, they are often cut to try to stimulate spending.

From reading the classic textbook by Paul Samuelson and listening to my Economics 101 professor, I have learned in college that a regressive tax, like the sales tax, imposes a greater burden on the poor rather than on the rich. Because the poor have less disposable income than the rich, a sales tax creates an inverse relationship between the tax rate and the taxpayer’s ability to pay as measured by assets, consumption or income. Hence, the single sales tax which will take effect this coming July will leave families with lesser incomes feel the pinch since they have to spend more on a range of goods at a time when they are already struggling to deal with job losses.

If the government wants to have more revenues to spend for its programs and services, why not stop spending too much money or fix or cut wasteful programs as a start? Spending restraint should be the government’s first option in deficit fighting, rather than general tax increases.

The eminent historian Professor Michael Bliss of the University of Toronto goes a step further when he suggested that the U.S. and Canadian governments seriously consider returning to post-Second World War levels of tax on very high incomes. Bliss observed that inequality of compensation has soared in our time, as the rich have become much richer and less taxed.

Professor Bliss wrote: “Higher taxes on high incomes would begin to narrow the immense chasm that has opened between the über-rich and the ordinary North American. If properly applied, they could put an end to the frustrating debate about the obscene salaries and bonuses we pay not only to flailing financiers but to mediocre professional athletes.” This idea has been floated around before.

A few months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt urged the U.S. Congress to limit the income of any one American. FDR said that a time of “grave national danger, no American citizen ought to have a net income, after he has paid his taxes, of more than $25,000 a year. Discrepancies between low personal incomes and very high incomes should be lessened.”

The limit FDR proposed would be about $300,000 in current dollars. His proposal was called “a blatant piece of demagoguery” by the New York Herald Tribune. Of course, FDR was simply stating, which most Americans at that time believed, was what needed to be said. That during a time of national crisis, the rich needed to pay more in taxes, a great deal more.

Sixty years later, President George W. Bush would object to FDR’s notion of taxing the rich a little more. Instead, Bush would propose a $674 billion tax cut, with 32 percent of that cut going to America’s richest 1 percent. Bush would have the audacity to insist that in a national crisis of a war against terror, America’s wealthiest citizens should pay not more in taxes, but, a great deal less.

In his book, Greed and Good: Understanding and Overcoming the Inequality that Limits Our Lives, Sam Pizzigati has documented an encyclopedic narrative of the gross inequalities rotting the American dream. A veteran labour journalist, Pizzigati makes a compelling case that increasing inequality contributes to rising unhappiness, corruption of professions like law and medicine, environmental destruction, less innovative businesses, slower economic growth, a fraying social fabric and much more.

Pizzigati argues that a just society must not only “level up” the poor but also “level down” the rich, capping their incomes at ten times the minimum wage. That would create a real incentive for the elite to raise the wages of most workers in order for them to increase their own incomes, and it could have a wide range of benefits and give a free reign to motivations other than greed.

Professor Bliss’s idea to tax the über-rich therefore makes sense because it would reduce the deficit and social resentment, and is a sound strategy that is grounded in intelligent populism.

Perhaps, Canada’s federal and provincial governments should seriously heed the suggestion of TD Bank CEO Ed Clark that he and many of his colleagues would be in favour of having their taxes raised. In addition to spending restraint, taxing the wealthy, instead of raising sales taxes such as the HST in a period of economic downturn, seems to be a more intelligent and equitable option.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Self-bashing – a Filipino pastime

Bashing is a prejudicial or unkind attack on a person, group or even a subject matter. Originally understood as a form of physical assault, bashing now includes verbal or critical assault. It is worse when aimed towards your own group and perpetrated by one of your own, which we may classify as a form of masochistic bashing.

Take the following three examples.

Someone wrote to his chat group the following message: “It is crazy how newcomers, a few days after landing, are advised by their relatives to apply for work preparing coffee and handing out donuts at the nearest Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons, it seems, is the first rung on the Canadian career ladder for many Filipinos. Unfortunately, this ladder goes nowhere and the longer the newcomer stays there, the more difficult it is for him to later on switch to a new ladder.”

A publisher of a Filipino community newspaper in Toronto wrote: “Does anybody in the PPCO (Philippine Press Club of Ontario), or the whole PPCO itself, or any individual, or group in our Filipino/Canadian community for that matter, honestly say they possess the necessary muscle or clout to move the government officials to act on the workers’ abuses? Personally, I do not think so. The PPCO itself could not convince other Filipino/Canadian publications to join it.”

The president of a Filipino alumni association in Toronto, in his opening remarks to the participants of a job seminar, said: “There is more to Filipinos here in Canada than care giving. This is not to demean the care giving community or to debase the service they provide. On the contrary, I salute the hard working dedicated people who in many ways support both the Canadian economy and that of our homeland. But care giving is not where the Filipino community begins and ends.”

Perhaps, the intention underlying these remarks was not really meant to downgrade Filipinos. But looking at how the message was constructed, no matter how noble the intention of the writer or speaker, the message is clearly derisive and denigrating.

Let us set aside the emotional injury that those messages bring upon us. After all, there was no intention to do harm. What we cannot ignore or gloss over is the shallowness of the messages, their lack of understanding of the historical and socio-economic implications of the meaning they were trying to deliver.

For more than 60 years, Canada’s efforts to maintain its economic growth have spurred a big demand for migrant labour as its last resource. While globalization has contributed to a process of industrialization and urbanization in the South (or in the developing countries), it has also caused a deterioration of living standards and the destruction of the traditional means of subsistence. Migration to the developed countries is a by-product of the resulting poverty, which provides destination countries with a pool of cheap labour.

In the meantime, the economic and political elites of labour-exporting countries benefit as pressure for structural change is somewhat relieved by the remittances sent home to help family members by overseas workers. Workers experience a push to migrate and a pull towards hopes of better conditions in advanced capitalist countries and their labour markets.

Immigrant workers who have arrived in Canada in the past 20 years – mainly people of colour and from developing countries, have faced great disappointments. They brought with them high levels of education and training which under normal circumstances would lead to good-paying jobs. However, racial and other barriers in the labour market push new immigrants to the bottom, where they work in dead-end and menial jobs. Domestic workers like caregivers and nannies and farm workers are recruited through special immigration programs to perform specific kinds of work that Canadians are unwilling to do for the wages and work conditions they offered.

Thus, new immigrants are forced to accept survival jobs beneath their education and training, such as serving coffee and doughnuts at Tim Hortons or flipping burgers at McDonald’s. But to many of them, these survival jobs are only temporary in order to put food on the table and provide for their children. Eventually, many of them would transition to better-paying jobs. Some would also upgrade their education and skills to become more competitive in the labour market.

After successfully obtaining permanent residence, most Filipino women who came to Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program would eventually have also upgraded their labour skills and their education and found better-paying jobs. Caregiving to them is only a pathway to Canadian permanent residence, not a dream career.

One needs a better understanding of the historical background of foreign domestic work in Canada to appreciate the explosion in the number of Filipino caregivers who enter the country every year.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Canada used aboriginal women and black women slaves as domestic workers. By the turn of the century, Canada began recruiting domestic workers from abroad, at first, women from Great Britain, then later from poorer European countries. In the 1920s, mostly European women were recruited under the Servant-Turn-Mistress Program. Then followed by the Caribbean Domestic Scheme from 1955 to 1967. In 1981, Canada finally installed the Foreign Domestic Movement (FDM) program, which institutionalized the hiring of foreign women workers to do domestic and other household work. Canada replaced the FDM with the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) in 1992 and raised the educational eligibility to grade 12 in order to qualify as a domestic worker in Canada.

Canada Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney, in his speech before the Kababayan Community Centre in Toronto on December 12, 2009, described the vast majority of caregivers from the Philippines as “women of great compassion, who give of themselves.”

Kenny further said: “These (Filipino caregivers) are people who come to Canada to help families who need support taking care of the disabled, of elderly family relatives, of children. This need, as we have an aging population, will continue to grow because we will see more and more families who need to take care of seniors, who because of their own family structure, are unable to do so by themselves. Canada benefits hugely. Canada wins with the support and the help of caregivers.”

Kenney seems to have more respect for Filipinos than a real Filipino has for his own compatriots. The president of the Filipino alumni association should have refrained from expressing the first paragraph of his remarks if he did not intend to denigrate Filipino caregivers. Alternatively, for someone to say it’s crazy that Filipino newcomers would immediately jump at job openings at Tim Hortons, shows a lack of empathy for others who struggle looking for jobs.

But let’s not be deluded by Kenney’s kind words for our Filipino caregivers. The Live-in Caregiver program and whatever its limitations is not a Filipino issue but a Canadian issue. The LCP is Canada’s de-facto national childcare program that benefits only Canadians who can afford it. Kenny’s words may sound music to some but actually ring hollow. The LCP essentially perpetuates indentured slavery of our women workers, which in the long-term de-skills our women and other members of our community across generations. But that’s not a reason to degrade them.

The new Filipino immigrant in Canada does not only represent the graduates of a particular university or school in the Philippines. This is an exaggeration, if not inaccurate. All graduates from Philippine universities and colleges are treated the same by Canadian employers. No one is more intellectually gifted than the other.

Because our academic degrees and professional training in the Philippines are not accredited and recognized in Canada, our marketability in the labour market will be determined by our own circumstances, and perhaps by our personal drive to succeed. The profile of the Filipino newcomer in Canada may be younger, but not necessarily bolder or even better educated than most of us who have come earlier. To compete in the mainstream labour market, they, as we had in the past, must persevere and be always vigilant in helping remove barriers that keep minorities and newcomers from breaking the glass ceiling.

Putting ourselves down will not help us improve our lot in this foreign land. Let us not underestimate our local community press. In many ways the local press has contributed to the enlightenment of our community.

Our caregivers are deemed as heroes in the Philippines. Their dollar remittances have helped our local economy afloat. Yet, what have we contributed to our native land – we, so called “public scholars” and members of the cream of the crop, some of us who are still in a state of denial about their own struggles as immigrants?

We step on the shoulders of struggling generations who have come before us. To rise above the fray, we need not bash, but build on, the lowly beginnings that took some of us where we are now.