Filipinos: The OFW, the Modern Day Slave

12 05 2010

Filipinos are synonymously being referred to as Transnationals with 3,000 Filipinos leaving their homeland, the Philippines a year.  That’s equivalent to more than one million Filipinos leaving the country a year.

Why do they leave?

Majority of Filipinos who leave the Philippines are not tourists, rather they leave the country to seek opportunities.  Very few opportunities for employment exist in the Philippines.  7 out of 10 students who graduate are unemployed.  3 out of 10 generally compete with the rest of the labor market and previous unemployed out-of-school students.  Most do not get a job related to their field of study.  When the intellectuals and workers can’t find jobs in their homeland, they seek work outside.

Modern Day Heroes

The former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says its a sacrifice that must be recognized as Modern Day Heroes.  The Filipino migrants are known as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).  The Philippine economy is held together by the hard work of these migrants.  Yet, these very same migrants are taxed heavily for the application and testing process prior to leaving, they are taxed in the airport, and their remittances are taxed as well.    More often then naught, they have been modern day slaves.

Many migrant Filipinos also suffer from discrimination and violence from being abroad on top of being homesick.  Pinays get sexually molested.  The U.S. military is partially to blame for some of those incidents. Adam Corolla’s comments about the Philippines’ doesn’t exactly help.  In the Mid-East, some Filipinos are enslaved inside of their employers house.  Sometimes the Filipino gets executed without the help of the consulate general.

With the rise of Ethnic Tensions in the United States since 9/11 to current day Juan Crow laws (see Arizona’s recent anti-immigration, anti Ethnic Studies ban) should Filipinos really leave their country in midst of danger?

Indeed these Modern Day Heroes should be recognized as the former president mentioned, how can we protect them from the dangers of a foreign land?

What is Solution?

The Philippines owes it to their people to nationalize their job industries to provide quality jobs.  There are so many brilliant and hard working people forced to leave to provide for their families, this doesn’t have to be the case.  The newly elect, President Aquino should use his mandate to win the hearts of the people.

There are so many raw and natural resources that the Filipino people can enjoy.  The dams have enough power to power the whole Philippines so why charge ridiculous power rates.  At times, the power bill at the Philippines is more expensive then the ones here in the United States.  With so many poor people, who can afford it?  Drop the profits?  Profits only benefit the manager.  Spread the cost savings to the people or use that money to invest in better infrastructures and jobs instead of paying the executives.  Invest in solar clean power.  This one is a no brainer, when there are droughts, solar power should replace the energy lost from the energy garner from dams.

Roads needs to start from the farthest communities inward.  These are the most poverish areas that suffer the most.  Education needs to also be nationalize as well as the language.  The former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, made english the national language.  Okay, this isn’t America and it shouldn’t be a colony of America.  The people have their right to speak their native dialect with a national language being developed (Filipino).

Last but not least, the majority of the Filipino Population are land tillers, Peasants, but they’re landless.  They work the land and pay land owner’s “rent”.  Sometimes rent can be as high as 50% of all your work.  Today, we know that as stealing.  The President elect, Noy Noy promised to go after thieves.  He’s going to have a tough time  bringing down his own family who are responsible for the Hacienda Lucieta Massacre in 1995.  Once land is redistributed out, the feudal practices of the past should fade away with time as culture starts changing.  Migrants won’t be forced to leave and society will progress


Justice for Melissa Roxas

3 08 2009

Justice for Melissa RoxasWhile I was in Abra, Melissa Roxas, unbeknownst to me, was abducted and tortured.

She recently surfaced and is now taking legal actions to defend all human right victims in the Philippines.

Her story is not an isolated, many suffer just as she has and many more will if no one comes out to speak about it.


Melissa Roxas amongst the People

1 08 2009
Melissa Roxas (Photo courtesy from Habi Arts)

Melissa Roxas (Photo courtesy of Habi Arts)

It has been 2 weeks since coming back from the Philippines and a lot has happen since (both good and bad).

Let me start with a story about an American who was abducted in the Philippines.  Melissa Roxas, a Filipino American (fil-am) went on a medical mission taking community health surveys in Tarlac in the Luzon Region.  While there, she was abducted by several Military Personal (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and kept in a secret detention area where she was tortured and accused for being a Communist and NPA (New People’s Army).

It all started when Melissa Roxas was taking a break from taking health surveys at a friendly house when a sudden banging stirred Melissa and her two friends, John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo.  When Melissa went to check who it was, there were approximately 15 men in ski masks with high powered rifle in hand.

In a short while, the front and back door were forced opened with demands that everyone drop flat on the ground.  Melissa refused while everyone else obeyed.  She continued to ask, “why are you doing this?” all while the ski-masked men were taping her mouth shut.  Melissa was punched repeatedly and forced into a white van where she was then taken to her torture chamber.  Read more here.

While I do not know Melissa personally, I know her through her work for we share the same passion.  We both know that when we see sick people, that it is not just because they have a cough, a fever, or a headache; It is more so that they have symptoms of a greater disease.  The fact of the matter is, the government of the Philippines is a failed institution.  It places feudal landlords in power through rigged elections.   Read the rest of this entry »

Ti Daga ket Biag at Chuwassi para sa Surfacing James Balao

19 04 2009

My bus to Baguio departs soon.. I will be taking orders if you would like to get your hands on the rare indigenous materials that presents music and reading with cultural integrity.  Kultural work, you know you’re all about it!  Get at me soon!  

TEFAG: album and book launching and a gathering to call for the surfacing of James Balao.

Ti Daga Ket Biga (Land is Life)

Ti Daga Ket Biga (Land is Life)


Ti Daga ket Biag (Land is life) is a 232-page compilation of selected papers from three Cordillera multi-sectoral land congresses in 1983, 1994, and 2001. According to Joanna D. Carino, CPA Advisory Council mmber, Ti Daga Ket Biag represents the longstanding “effort being put in by the peoples’ movement in the Cordillera in trying to clarify and to help in the eventual resolution of various land issues in the region.”


Chuwassi Album Cover

Chuwassi Album Cover

Chuwassi focuses on the contribution of indigenous people caring for the environment. The album has 12 original compositions, with each highlighting various angles of the cordillera peoples’ efforts to conserve their mountain eco system. Like earler albums, Chuwassi showcases contemporary Cordillera music, which expresses the issues that face the Cordillera people today, advocates and asserts the cultural integrity and self determination, in a package that focuses the spotlight on a rich and colorful musical heritage

People Power Tour

14 04 2009

People Power Tour

Filipino American emcee Geologic (Blue Scholars), and fellow organizer/emcee Kiwi, embarked on the Stop the Killings tour (2007), to address the human rights violations and raise funds for the families of victims in the Philippines. Now in 2009, with a new partnership, the two emcees have formed the People Power tour with a mission to bring awareness to the plight of the Filipino people through critical, class-conscious music. Both Kiwi and Geo are active Filipino community organizers in their respective cities, drawing connections between the struggles of Filipinos in the US and their compatriots back home. They share the view that art is not only a reflection of the world, but a tool, which can help shape a just future society. From the rapidly gentrifying street-corner to the Ivory Tower of academia, Kiwi and Geo bring forth a message of resistance and self-determination in the tradition of pro-people Hip Hop music.



Two of the West Coast’s premier Filipino emcees, Geologic aka Prometheus Brown of Seattle’s Blue Scholars and San Francisco’s Kiwi (by way of Los Angeles), formerly of Native Guns are teaming up again to rally youth and students nationwide to raise awareness about the worsening social, political and economic conditions in the Philippines under president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s (GMA) current administration. Read the rest of this entry »

Canadian Intern Inspired by the Search for James

12 10 2008

This is a letter written by Canadian intern for CHRA (Cordillera Human Rights Alliance) Nicole Smith who beautifully expresses her feelings in the past days looking for James, another human rights organizer and co-founder of the CPA (Cordillera Peoples’ Alliance). I hope you find this piece an inspiration to take part in our continuing search. Mabuti na lang may mga bisitang tulad niya: tumutulong.

-Anjo (my journalist friend)

I first met Nicole Smith (ironic name in the P.I because of the Justice 4 Nicole case), when we were both staying at the NCCP (National Council of Churches in the Philippines).  She stayed in the direct opposite room of me for some days.  One day I had my door open and she peaked in just to say hi but Charles and I were having a private conversation.  However, one day I was able to sit down with her and have a good solid conversation.  She comes from Canada and decided to intern with the CHRA because of her dedication to Human Rights.  I am glad that international solidarity remains strong not just in the philippines but all over the world.  


September 2008

    *National Council of Churches in the Philippines
     879 Epifanio de los Santos Avenue
     West Triangle, Quezon City 1104


I am asking all of you to read this message and to help in any way that you can. For the last week and a half my office has been in the midst of an urgent campaign. Ten days ago, on September 17, a member of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance(CPA), my host organization, was forcibly disappeared. These have been the hardest 10 days of my internship and a very difficult time in my office.

James Balao left his house around 7:00 a.m. on September 17 and no one has been able to contact him since. James was a dedicated, full-time people’s advocate and Indigenous human rights advocate. In the last four months, James and his family have been reporting heavy surveillance on both of their family residences and on their persons during daily activities. It is believed that his assertion and defence of the rights of the poorest segments of Filipino society have made him a target of the state’s counter-insurgency operations. Oplan Bantay Laya, the counter-insurgency policy of the government of the Philippines, tags legal people’s organizations and advocates as supporters or members of the armed communist rebel group to legitimize state harassment and violence, intended in reality to silence democratic government opposition. The disappearance of James Balao is the 199th enforced disappearance in the country since the policy was instated in 2001.

I work for the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), the human rights branch of the CPA, and as such we have taken on the lead in the campaign to find James. Many people in my office have worked with James, and the stress on his former coworkers and friends has been the heaviest. We initially met with his family, searched military and police camps in our region, and filed complaints with regional, national, and international human rights bodies. Our campaign is now focused on publically calling for the state security forces to surface James, through press conferences, newspaper ads, demonstrations, and a signature campaign. We are hopeful that James will be surfaced alive if enough immediate pressure is exerted on the Philippine government and state security forces.

As an intern new to the stark reality of human rights work, I am struggling to hold myself together as days go by without any information as to the whereabouts or fate of James. I have no reference for understanding this situation or for participating in its resolution. I am focusing on being present and hope that the work I can do helps ease the stress of those leading this campaign. Nothing I learned in school or by growing up in Canada could have prepared me to process the emotions I am feeling right now. In my office we are wading daily through frustration, hopelessness, and anger deeper then any I have ever experienced. Looking into the tired, desperate eyes of his family I realize now how difficult my chosen career is going to be. But seeing the impunity with which James has been disappeared, and knowing that his fate will either be torture and imprisonment or death, my dedication to working in human rights has been solidified. So has my belief that all people must make a stand against governments, like the Philippines’, committing state terrorism against people who advocate for social justice.


We are urgently calling for support for the SURFACE JAMES BALAO! campaign. We specifically seek your support signing our online petition that we will later forward to the Philippine government and its agencies. We also ask you to read the Take Action and send letters of concern to the Philippine government and its agencies. The more international attention that is garnered by this case, the more likely it is that the government of the Philippines will listen to the call to surface James that is coming from its own citizens. International attention to the enforced disappearance of James Balao may also dissuade this same human rights violation from being committed against other people’s advocates. In addition to this support, statements or letters of solidarity to the Balao family, CPA, and CHRA are very welcome and very helpful.

This case is urgent and your immediate assistance is needed if James Balao is going to be surfaced alive. Thank you for your time and for your support in the SURFACE JAMES BALAO! campaign.

In solidarity,


Nicole Smith is a United Church of Canada global mission personnel serving with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. The work of this global partner and the work of overseas personnel is made possible through your gifts to the Mission and Service Fund of The United Church of Canada.