[ Strong opinions sometimes in this humble blog of ours, occasionally without even any research or facts to back them up, please feel free to interact or discuss with respectful language, mabuhay!]
ALMOST TO A FAULT (halos kasalanan na), Filipinos (“Pinoys”) are crowd pleasers, moderators, facilitators and coordinators. We are eager to please, loathe to disagree or argue, and doggedly try to take one for the team at all times, at risk of life and limb. Masyado tayong magaling makisama.
But do we sometimes go too far in playing the nice guy? Do we too often risk our dignity, self-respect and well-being in our desire to defer to our boss and peers, keep our head down and maintain good relations?
Put another way, how many times have you seen kabayan (countrymen or women) suffering from timidity, low self-esteem and an unusually high dose of self-deprecation?
I may be wrong, but the weight of tradition and culture bears heavily on typical Filipino behavior. Tradition dictates that we respect or defer to our seniors and elders (at home and at work), to “never outshine the master,” to avoid direct confrontation unless totally necessary, and all these combine to produce a typical Filipino prone to bullying and harrassment.
May I offer a few examples or reasons of the above?
ang Pinoy masyadong matiisin. Google Translate offers a few translations (“patient,” “stoic,” “long-suffering”) but none quite captures all the nuances and layers of meanings involved in matiisin. In a concrete example: If as a worker you were paid 35% to 40% less than your non-Filipino counterparts, bunked at least four to a room in crappy quarters, charged exorbitant rent and interest by landlords and lenders, and yet chose not to divulge such distressful circumstances to anyone in authority, that would be an outrage, but not for your fellow Filipinos in the same boat.
You might find it hard to believe this actually happened, but this was the finding among a significant number of Pinoy builders (carpenters, masons and scaffolders) in the ongoing Christchurch rebuild program in the southern part of New Zealand.
In many situations, in someone like me (a blogger) lies the responsibility to explain, give more details or at least shed some light on a situation I read about. But not here. Just read the story and everything is self-explanatory. Ginigisa sila sa sariling nilang mantika, and not one word of complaint will be heard from them.
Matiisin in this case might be seen as a virtue by our countrymen back home, but given the suffering, relative unfairness and lack of response by the NZ government, I’m not so sure. And remember, beyond the sacrifice of every Pinoy worker here, there are at least two more people (a spouse and a child) back home.
ang Pinoy madaling magtiwala ng kapwa Pinoy. Here’s another shocker. Imagine working at least 10-hour days with no breaks for six days a week (and getting paid for only 40 hours), living in a makeshift room in your employer’s garage (and paying $150 weekly for such spartan lodgings), and not getting paid the last 3-and-a-half months of your 18 month contract. Worse, you would be “reported to the police” and sent home if you didn’t perform well in your job.
And the reason you naively believed and abided in such work conditions ? Mainly because you were a guest worker in faraway New Zealand and, worse, you trusted that you would be taken care of by fellow Filipinos, who ultimately took advantage of your trusting nature.
You can read all about this shocking case of exploitation here.
ang Pinoy di marunong halagahan ang sariling kakayahan. All over the world, you hear of the excellent and world class quality of our Filipino nurses. Not only are our nurses hardworking, dedicated and treat their patients like family, nurses are skilled enough to specialize. We have Filipino surgical nurses, cardiology nurses, neurology nurses, pediatric nurses who are trusted by doctors and medical teams the world over, who have the technical and professional expertise well beyond their years.
And yet, inexplicably, these same Filipino nurses are being set aside to work almost exclusively in aged care wards and institutions in New Zealand. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but our nurses can do so much more. We are kind, compassionate, treat our wards and patients like family, but that is not enough reason to employ our nurses for aged care alone. It sounds like we are being underutilized and at worst, tolerates a mild form of racism.
Again, because Filipinos are grateful just to work in New Zealand, don’t complain until we are in the most desperate of circumstances, can’t assert ourselves the way other nationalities do, and are respectful, sometimes too respectful to our hosts, you will never hear anything about this form of inequity until someone takes a very close look at the situation.
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So there you have it, both direct and indirect exploitation of Filipino labor in what is supposed to be one of the best places in the world to work in, New Zealand. I still believe in the fairness and justice of the latter, but definitely these situations above are no longer just the exceptions to the rule.
Needless to say, these are gathered not just from stories and anecdotes from our kabayan and colleagues, but from actual newspaper reports, interviews and surveys. Please add any of the horror stories you know in the comments section below.
Mabuhay po tayong lahat, at mabuhay ang New Zealand!
Thanks for reading!