Ninety-eight years ago, our country won her freedom from the first foreign power that subjugated her, only to lose it to other foreign powers. During those long years of colonial rule, the Filipino provided cheap, if not, free labor to their alien masters.
Now, ninety-eight years later, the Philippines still supplies cheap labor to various countries all over the world. Before, however, those Filipinos who were mostly educationally deprived, did not have to migrate and pay exorbitant placement fees to do dirty and dangerous jobs. Now, these modern-day slaves, many of whom are college graduates or even professionals, pay excessively high fees to be able to work abroad in the hope of attaining a better life. But, alas, many end up having a bitter life or even a bitter end.
As we commemorate the event when our country was free from the shackles of the first colonial power, let us ask ourselves if we are really free from foreign domination. Are we free from economic bondage? If our answer is yes, then, the celebration of this event would not sound hollow. But we all know that we are not free from "foreign debt" and not even from "foreign death". Remember Flor Contemplacion and Delia Maga?
The ever-increasing number of Filipino migrant workers even from among the professionals who are unmindful of the absolutely exorbitant placement fees and of the risks and indignities they might have to face, indicate the sorry plight of our country.
While other countries export goods or products, we export "human resources". Have we placed our people in the same category as commodities? Tragic it might be, but we have to accept the fact that at present, our government cannot provide jobs or more jobs that give competitive pay so as to contain migration.
The risk that the migrant workers face cannot be over-emphasized. Not only do they grapple with the complexities of a totally different culture. They are subject to laws they may not be clear about and are at the mercy of the whims of their employers. Helpless and vulnerable to abuses by their foreign employers, they are the very people who need attention and protection from the government. The tremendous boost they give to our economy through their remittances compounds the obligation of the government to attend to their needs.
Calling them "modern-day heroes" is plain lip service if there is no concrete action taken to help them. If Flor Contemplacion's death is to have a meaning, the government must take serious comprehensive plans for the protection and walfare of the migrant workers.
Ever-aware of the plight of the migrant workers, the St. Christopher's Parish Pastoral Council, through the Migrants' Task Force does its share in helping alleviate their needs by extending them help with their problems.
From the experience of Filipinos
we reflect on the problem of Vietnamese workers