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Saturday, February 04, 2006

For Filipinos working overseas, the simple goal of survival sometimes ends up being a lucrative blessing in disguise.

THE FILIPINOS who ventured overseas and made their way to Hawaii and then the U.S. mainland in the early 1900s were mostly farm workers and laborers with few skills and little in terms of education and chances for upward mobility. In contrast, many of OFWs in recent recent decades are college-educated inidividuals who gave up trying to leverage their professinal degress towards earning a decent living. Gor them, the only option was to seek employment abroad.

In the mid-'60s, amendments to the U.S. immigration law enbaled professionals from the Philippines, such as doctors, accountants and engineers, to easily secure green cards based on job offers. But the flood of immigration dried up job availabilities in America, except fo minimum wage service occupations.

Other overseas destination within Aisa, Australia, the Middle East and Europe, beckoned with the promise of jobs, but those that were available were mostly menial, although better paying than office positions in the Philippines. In Europe, for instance, it is estimated that over 80 percent of Filipino immigrants are domestics, yet they earn considerably more than junior executives in Makati (a business disctrict in the Philippines). Many are former school teachers, office workers and government employees with college degrees.

Once settled in their foreign enviornment , the more enterpreneurial of them decide that they can do better than wait at tables or take care of other people's housework. Others have no choice. Subjected to cruelty by employers or exploited by recruiters, they set out on their own, scramble to survive and, somehow, manage to achieve a measure of success.

In London, Consuelo Farochelin has been publicized in the mainstream press as a bon fide millionaire. She has, in fact, built up enough assets to deserve that description. She owns a commercial building in central London, plus residential units in the city, operates a grocery store and a cargo forwarding, money remittance and travel business and publishes a community newspaper.

What Farochelin is not embarassed to point out is that she began over two decasdes ago as a domestic. She did not think that her family's earnings in her native Pampanga were enough to keep body and soul together, so she left her brrod and sought employment in Europe. London was where she found it.

Typical of overseas Filipinos, she regularly saved up foodstuff, clothing and sundry items and packed them in a box to send home to her family. Noting this, her Filipino friends began asking to hitchhike in her box -- for free. She decided to make a business out of the service and soon became the "Balikbayan Box Queen" (Returning back to town)of London. Her enterpreneurial instincts spurred the business and her operations flourished and expanded.

In Bonn, Zeny Krug owns and manages a hotel with her German husband. Some 25 years ago, she had walked out of a job as a maid in the home of a Middle Eastern diplomat, after having been treated harshly. Despeate, she agreed to a pertnership of convenience with a German who operated a small bed and breakfast. Together, they grew the enterprise. In the process, they decided to wed.

Perhaps it is desperation that brings out the entepreneurial insitancts of a person. But is takes strength of character, brain and dissatisfaction with one's status in life, and a willingness to swear and strive to get our of the mire. These are qualities that are usually attributed to the Chinese. Many of the wealthy Chinese i the Philippines trace their beginnings to peddling in the streets or collecting recyclable bottles and newspapers, or their parents emigrated from China their lives in the Philippines as cooks, waiters and laundryment.

Dignity of labor is something that Filipinos learn to appreaciate abroad. Where, in the Philippines they would smirk at the idea of working as a bus driver or a garbage collector, they soon discover that theser are high-paying jobs in America.

Overseas, the need to survive makes any source of income acceptable. IN Florence, Italy, a Filipino owns operates and entertains in his own Karaoke bar. A couple in London set up a restaurant without any previous experience, except for the fact that the husband had worked as a waiter there. The wife was in the military in the Philippines. In Rome, outside the Philippine embassy, a woman sells balut and snacks on the sidewalk. She and her husband have been doing this for years. With their earnings, they have been able to send their children in the Philippines to college.

Asked where her latest child graduated, she declares with pride: "At La Salle."---

posted by infraternam meam @ 9:57 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
Home: Chicago, United States
About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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