The Gift of Migration

 Dear kabatch, schoolmates, kabayan and friends :

IF it’s true that travel broadens our horizons, then it must likewise follow that migration, in whatever shape or form, broadens our perspective.

From the Bible’s Israelites brought into Egypt and later Babylon, to the global diaspora of Africans, Chinese and Eastern Europeans brought about by the slave trade, economic forces and war, migration has been so wedded to human history that it’s unthinkable to write the story of man without it.

Through force of circumstance, whether it be economics, wanderlust, advancement in career, or just a lucky throw of the dice that Life swings us, we find ourselves on strange shores beholding equally strange people and even stranger cultures.

And since human nature resists change, we hold off assimilating the quirks and peculiarities of our hosts, lest we forget our own. Not even the prospect of one day adopting their homeland as our own can make us abandon the blueprint that molded us from birth and childhood.

A flatmate of ours has been working, like us, as an expatriate alone in a staff of locals. He has adapted deftly and is well-liked by most. On weekends though, he prizes the company of countrymen, hardly goes anywhere unless he sees the familiar sight ,sound and smell of pigment, dialect and boiled rice. Karaoke week in and week out, the singing never goes stale, as long as the lyrics are from back home.

The spirit to socialize with hosts and co-workers is there, to be sure. But it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and for him, there are too many awkward moments and silent gaps when he tries to make small talk and find common ground with his workmates and colleagues.

Again as part of human nature, the need to socialize with and reaffirm one’s community and identity with one’s compatriots is basic, and migrants are no different from everyone else. To reinforce the familiar, and celebrate what makes us a hardworking race — these are part and parcel of the assertion of identity.

The obvious question is : can these not co-exist with assimilation with and absorption of the elements of a hospitable host culture, especially one that nurtures, accepts, tolerates and acknowledges the role of the migrant and his culture?

Recently we were asked why it was that despite recession and stricter immigration policy, waves of nurses from the Philippines continued arriving, complemented by a healthy army of caregivers. The courteous answer would’ve been that good nursing schools and an orientation toward the value of the nursing profession were the main factors. But the reality went a little beyond that.

Worldwide, Filipinos are known to combine expert patient care, an attentive nature and warm bedside manner, all very desirable qualities in nursing technique. Of course this evidence is quite anecdotal and needs lot of stats to be proven conclusively.

Our own experience as a guest worker in an alien land is far from ideal. Granted a temporary work permit three summers ago, we gambled with the fickleness of both migrant and work policy of an overachieving 1st World economy, hoping that while we toiled in its factories, mills and workshops, we would someday be rewarded with permanent residency.

So far we haven’t had much luck : we’ve had to apply for new papers every year, as if we were off the boat and wet behind the ears. But when you’ve got a foot in the door and there aren’t too many options back home, you stay ready, good to go and your pump is primed…

Migration is a gift to many people and some are able to work it out to higher or lower degrees of fruition. It’s up to our energies and inspiration to reach our promised land.

Thanks for reading !


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