MIF and Diaspora
By Rudy Arizala
Posted: Sept. 10, 2004
The Philippines provides about 35% of the world´s requirement for the skill-hungry economies. The Filipino workers are, therefore, worth billions of American dollars in foreign aid to developed countries which availed of Philippine skilled workers. Filipinos, aside from being hardworking, are committed "to God and to democracy."
Since the "diaspora" (dispersal) of Filipino workers to various parts of the world, the little town of Infanta nestled at the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains at the Eastern part of Luzon along the Pacifica Coast, has contributed and still contributing workers abroad. According to latest statistics the total number of Filipino workers abroad now number between 7 and 8 million.
The Infanta of today is different from the Infanta of yesterday. The changing panorama and lifestyle from rural tropical sleepy town of mostly bamboo and nipa huts; dusty brown pathways during hot summer months and muddy clay-dark pathways during the wet season; groups of idle, jobless men hanging around at street corners and barbershops are now replaced by busy humdrum of economic and social activities.
Infanta today is now an urbanized busy town with asphalt and concrete streets; bright electric lights from street lamp posts; a two-story concrete public market; roofed open-air basketball court cum meeting hall; two radio stations; modern plaza, municipal building cathedral; a college, as well as high school and elementary education buildings. They are indications of social, economic and cultural progress.
Factors of Change
The factors of change are the "diaspora" of Filipino workers abroad; the electrification of the town and its barangays; the construction of barangay roads connecting even far-flung areas to the town proper; the widening and asphalting of the Infanta-Famy road across the Sierra Madre mountains and the construction of a concrete bridge across the Agus River which connects Infanta to a nearby town of Gen. Nakar. Together with these improvements of the means of communications and transport is the modernization of farming and fishing methods as well as awareness of ecological balance and protection of the environment.
With respect to the "diaspora" of many inhabitants from Infanta, it played and is still playing a great role in the right kind of development for the town and its people.
Many "Infantahins" (natives or people from Infanta), as early as the 1970´s have joined the millions of other Filipinos who left their homes in the Philippines in search of "greener pastures" abroad armed simply with faith, courage and determination to use whatever skills they possess. And because of strong family ties, love and care for their families and friends, they send religiously money or funds (remittances) from their earnings abroad to their families and relatives left behind in Infanta.
Their priority is the education of their children. They firmly believe in "investment in education." Thus, many children or youth of Infanta were able to go to school from elementary grades to high school and even up to college or university level.
Next to education, they invest their hard-earned money in small business; improvements of their farming and fishing methods; in local industries; and improvement of their homes. Now, almost every home in Infanta has running water, sanitary toilets and other amenities in life leading to improved diet and health care.
Due to the remittances of Infanta´s OFW´s living or working abroad, aside from the above improvement in lifestyles and education, banking institutions flourished in Infanta. And because of the banking system, credit facilities improved and so also business grow and thrive beyond the expectation of the people.
Through the experiences and contacts with the outside world of the OFW´s, they imbibed new culture and practices which are essential in the maintenance and protection of natural resources and environment of their hometown. And because of the material wealth and cultural development learned from abroad and applied to their hometown, Infanta continues to progress in the right direction.
Of course aside from remittances and new improved ideas of living, OFW´s from Infanta decided in 1996, to organize the Metro Infanta Foundation (MIF, for short) the main objective of which is "to promote unity and solidarity through educating its members and providing forum of discussions, and identifying and addressing issues and concerns in their native homeland, especially in the Metro Infanta area." Through the MIF, they give generous donations to charities to help improve the life of their less fortunate "kababayans" left behind. For example by giving assistance in the reconstruction of chapels, churches, schools; and providing supply of potable water to school children and health facilities. Those in the medical / nursing professions abroad, send to Infanta periodic "Medical Missions"
Since its establishment, the Metro Infanta Foundation has collected more than US $161,000 in donations and has distributed more that US $125,000 in grants. In addition, the Foundation has facilitated another US $125,000 in grants from various funding sources. In 2003 alone, the MIF distributed US $14,932.50 in grants to education, humanitarian and religious causes.
And last but not the least, being aware that good governance need funds for the implementation of economic and social progress, they are aware that paying taxes willingly and promptly is part of improving the lot and general welfare of the people.
These material progress are accompanied by the religiosity of the people including the OFW´s wherever they may be. They keep and maintain their religious faith and practices as a way of life. Thus, their progress is deeply rooted in moral values. And most important of all, in Love of God and of their fellow-beings, a commitment "to God and to democracy". That despite their being away or having abandoned their hometown in search of "greener pastures", they still keep their ties with their place of birth.
According to Mr. Thomas L. Friedman, a Pulitzer Prize awardee and foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times, in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree: "The challenge in the era of globalization. . . is to find a healthy balance between preserving a sense of identity, home and community and doing what it takes to survive within the globalization system."
Globalization, due to the speed of modern means of communications and transport, tend to eliminate all cultural and natural barriers including territorial boundaries. And, therefore, the self-identity of a people. But the expatriates from Infanta are able to preserve their sense of identity with their country of origin or hometown and at the same time find a "healthy balance" with globalization, because wherever they may be, they take along with them although not necessarily Mr. Friedman´s "Olive Tree" but their "Bamboo Tree," the tree of life of Filipinos.