Thursday, December 06, 2007

Til snow falls on Manila: a chat on globalization and labor migration

Jenny: So how’s Manila now?

I met Jenny in California early this year through a Japanese girl, an accountant working for one of the big global accounting firms operating in Silicon Valley. Over dinner she told me she has several colleagues from the Philippines. She called several numbers and voila and I had an appointment the following day at Starbucks near our hotel in downtown San Jose. Jenny came in a runners’ outfit, clutching a book “The World Is Flat.” We walked around town for hours discussing Philippine politics, economy and globalization. We checked some bars and other things that the Valley of Hearts Desire could offer during the night and promised to keep in touch but we failed to reconnect after the Jefferson Fellowship. Her message through Yahoo Messenger the other day therefore was a pleasant surprise.

Jenny landed in Silicon Valley three years ago after a stint at one of the leading accounting firms in Manila. Her ticket was her accounting expertise and her mastery of the computer, SAP and other enterprise management software. Her parents moved to San Francisco fifteen years earlier but she didn’t follow because she was finishing a post-grad in economics at the University of the Philippines. And she loved the beaches. Until the big offer came.

Dave: Bubbling as ever. Politically, I mean

As usual. That’s my frustration there really. I thought GMA was better than Erap so I supported Edsa Dos. It turned out we simply replaced him with someone as corrupt. But oh, I miss the beaches, I love Boracay!

Dave: And then we just had this Trillanes caper…

Jenny: But hey, the Philippines, or at least the GDP figures, have been doing quite good lately!

You mean you are actually following the trends here?

Jenny: Yup! I’m a frustrated economist, remember? Haha!

There are new growth drivers: outsourcing, mining, food and beverage, electronics, telecommunications, and financial services. Past reforms seem to have started bearing fruits. Globalization seems to have become a stabilizing force.

Jenny: Been reading about these. And ah, I remember you mentioning about a paper on that at the University of Hawaii. Could you send me an electronic copy?

Dave: Sure, here’s the link:

Jenny: Thanks. Interesting analysis. Amazes me because our politics there has never been that conducive. I also heard about this “economics delinking from politics theory” from [Congressman] Salceda. Do you think he’s accurate?”

Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m trying to look at it myself. But the guy has some points.

Jenny: How did those people at the University of Hawaii reacted to your paper?

Dave: Mixed, but some are incredulous.

Jenny: Or even hostile, haha!

Dave: How did you figure that out, hehe?

“Haay, Dave!, I’ve met lots of migrant Pinoys here who think that way.

When I presented that paper, I thought they’d be happy to hear some positive news besides the usual negative ones that they get from media. Many of them were disappointed that I didn’t tell them the usual horror stories. Weird!

Jenny: Probably a psychological thing. Many of those, not all, who left the country decided on the conviction that the country is hopeless, so when they hear that things are improving a bit, it unnerves them, irritates them.

Really? Why?!

Jenny: They are used to hearing about all the negatives, and there are lots of them in media, and they are happy because those stories tend to support the reasons why they abandoned ship. Now here comes some positive news that to them seems to question the basis of their decision to leave. But yeah, it’s weird.

Dave: In fairness, they are well-meaning people. They do sincerely believe the only way out for the Philippines is for every one to migrate. So they use every opportunity to petition relatives and convince friends to migrate. A friend in New York once told me to take up nursing or become a mortician. Or I could be a plumber in Australia. Be practical, he said. Ha ha ha!

Jenny: Ay totoo yan! [That’s so true!] Ha ha ha!

Dave: After that talk, someone asked if I was telling them to return to the Philippines. ‘Of course not,' I answered. 'Why should you; the Philippines doesn’t have snow yet,’ and all the participants burst into laughter.

Jenny: Ha ha ha ha!


Unknown said...

Mr. Dave, you realized that that, according to CLFB, his ex-officemate at Barings, Cong. Salceda had a salary higher than the head of sales, for his research? I don't remember what his position was exactly when I met him at the Barings office at the Nauru building, Pacific something? Parang Research Head yata.

gbd said...

i hope the psychological element can be reversed. the country would be aided greatly if these capable men and women might come back and share their talents. the cool thing about mobility of talented labor is that they can work abroad and also at home.

Dave Llorito said...

those who have that kind of attitude are those who have changed passports. thinks have to improve a lot her before they would be lured to return. but im not really worried. there are just too many talents here despite the continuing diaspora of skilled professionals, that explains why wages even for the skilled ones are not really rising.

manuelbuencamino said...

the world is flat like a tilted pool table