My sister will be graduating from her nursing course this coming April 2008. The family is indeed happy for her and I am too. I left my NGO work of 10 years to become a member of the family’s trade that of being a migrant worker, an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). Tatay (father) used to be a seaman. Two of my brothers followed his foot steps.And most of our relatives are also migrant workers. I joined them for more than six years now.
I thought of writing this blog entry as dedication to my sister and to all other brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and other family members who have supported or supporting a nursing student to take a second look, a further or even a forward looking look on the nursing profession.
I just realized that the number of nursing students and graduates must really reflect the million OFWs. For in my sister’s case she has 3 married brothers who are OFW and a newly US-immigrated married brother supporting her studies. And add to that, a maternal uncle who is a migrant worker in Saudi Arabia whom the family depend for emergency loans. And in worst cases when finance is short mother would go to our cousins and other relatives for help.
It is said that in Africa it takes a community to raise a child. In the Philippines, it takes the whole family clan to support a nursing student. Well it might be the same for other courses with the commercialization of education, but nursing is so popular and lucrative that it is making the educational landscape of the Philippines as a nursing school for global nurses.
I learned that even some mainland-Chinese nursing students are doing their training here in the Philippines. What used to be vocational or technical schools have now been accredited to run their own nursing programs. Exclusive catholic schools for women are now also into this business. Most of the state universities in the regions have nursing as one of the most competitive courses. Night classes and Saturday classes are very in-demand for professionals wanting a career change to become nurses.
A Japanese friend, then, doing a research for her fellowship study pointed out to me that the health care in the region is deteriorating. Most of the provincial health centers and hospitals that have been all along ill-equipped are now facing far bigger challenge with most of its health workers leaving to work abroad. I could surmise that some of their licensed doctors have to take nursing again for them to get jobs abroad easier. Or some of those trained health workers take further training as physical therapist which is also very viable job.
With this condition, I remember the wisdom for which primary health care project was then promoted. Way back in college, one of our professors asked us to visit the exhibition of Medical Action Group (MAG) in one of Manila’s malls. MAG was promoting their primary health care project with the use of herbal medicines (no generic medicine then) and oriental medicine such as acupuncture, ventusa, etc.
So with the exodus of health workers the more reason these kind of NGO services should flourish. Although in the past when MAG trained health workers would go to remote communities and areas not served by the government they get branded as communist supporters. Some are even killed performing their Hippocratic Oath.
But I wonder if primary health care would be effective to lifestyle diseases of some prone OFW families. With affluence comes the inevitable lifestyle change that leads most often than not into some undesirable consequences and at worst unhealthy habits. So the most that a family could get from their nurse kin is financial support or some advise, not their direct help or service. They are left behind with the care of other health care professionals whom they will afford to pay at an exorbitant fees.
So who are left behind? Only those who can't bear to leave their families and are so dedicated with their profession and in serving the community they love, to them I salute you! I hope soon more of your kind will grow to attend to the need of the country and in the same way may your sacrifices and dedication be recognized fully.
Neither can anyone blame those who opt to go abroad. But how I lament especially those great minds among them who preferred the science of nursing over the science of governance. Perhaps it is the science that heals and nurture that is more appealing to them than the science of politics that corrupts its practitioners and in the process destroys a nation.
They would rather earn a hard earn and decent income abroad than amass wealth from scams and bribery or what they euphemistically call as moderate greed. Only in the Philippines is corruption likened to a sporting event, there are corruptions compared to an intramural game (small-time theft) and there are those compared to a national game (big-time-million-dollars thievery).
So in the playing field of governance the cheat, ruthless and merciless are encourage to rule the nation. And most of the bright and beautiful minds prefer not to involve and engage themselves in a cycle that has metastasized into an incurable and deadly regime. Only a grim prognosis could be considered with this present social dilemma.
As pointed out by Bloomberg's Wiliam Pesek in his commentary “People should never be an economy’s main export”, he said that when governments become dependent on remittances its politicians are not encouraged to create well-paid jobs and the local industries neglected. So they have more time to attend to their personal and vested interests and let the migrant workers earn for the government what they proudly claim as 7.5% economic growth that help stave off the impact of 7.8 % unemployment rate, ranked third highest in Asia-Pacific.
But the medical profession is witness to case histories of miracles. I have faith. Common good will prevail over a family and its cronies depraved enterprises.
I can’t blame my sister should she decide to work abroad and later on immigrate. She has different interests and priorities like any other youth of her generation. Although she's aware of my stand on issues I never saw her engaged or involved on the causes dear to me or the least join a rally.
Her college graduation is just a phase. The succeeding hurdle is passing several board exams to make her competitive in a very tough competition. But since the demand is high for her profession, finding job will not be that difficult provided she pass all those qualifying licensure exams.
The family won't still be able to claim 'nakakahinga ng maluwag' (breathing freely). Only when she's 'naghahnap-buhay' (employed) will we all be able to be more relaxed. By then I hope to get back and continue my NGO work in the country. And then ask for my sister’s help in return to sponsor me for my graduate studies. An arrangement I made with her so she will be more conscientious in her studies and my tease for her not to have any 'utang-na-loob' (sense of indebtedness) to me.
My stay here in Korea is a constant envy on how this nation was able to develop so fast. Their nurses also played a very significant role as remittance earners in the past. Koreans industriousness coupled with their strong desire for freedom and democracy where they were able to bring to prison two of their dictator-presidents (a desired Philippine scenario), indeed it is Asia’s miracle economy.
Introducing my country at UNESCO’s Cross-Cultural Awareness Program for elementary and middle schools, banana is the most familiar object they know about the Philippines (indeed, my Banana Republic country). Filipinas married to Koreans and their biracial children, the rest of us migrant workers here and other nationalities continue to make an impact in making their culture more multiculturally sensitive from its homogeneous nature. A challenge most Koreans have to deal with.
In the 1970's Tatay was then called OCW (Overseas Contract Worker), 25 years later, we, his children became OFW. Soon his youngest and only daughter will join our league of OFWs. Nothing has changed as to the economic condition of our family, we remain a struggling middle class. A reflection of the state of Philippine economy that continues to export its workforce. This practice is not sustainable and viable solution for real development, much more in allowing the continued rule of the corrupt administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Below are several useful resources and links I gathered from the net:
Particularly the slide presentation made by HEAD contains relevant statistics, scandals and scenarios of the profession.
PRC Result and Stat as of June 2007 (Note the number of takers versus passers and other stats)
A very active forum on nursing
Philippine Daily Inquirer's special section on nursing
Saturday, March 01, 2008
( Duke University Press)