A pawn for a promising Filipino future
by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano
SAN FRANCISCO -- Inside a hall at the University of San Francisco where a roundtable on migrant philanthropy was held, people were surprised that something was underneath their chairs. Two pieces of paper, in fact, per chair and some 60 chairs had those pieces of paper underneath.
Those were some 135 printouts of the websites and lists of Filipino migrant organizations identified to be giving back donations and development aid to the motherland. The center of the world's migrant philanthropy basin, the US, had the most number of course, given the number of Filipino groups here helping the homeland. But something struck them.
The Faroese Philippine Services (see www.children.ph) is based in Europe and is in the Faroe Islands. "There are Filipinos there?" asked Consul-General Rowena Sanchez. Yes there are (some deployed as contract workers), and Faroe Islands is above Scotland and in between Iceland and Norway. FPS supports education programs of public schools in Aurora and Nueva Vizacaya provinces.
The US and Faroe Islands were among 46 countries worldwide identified by the Institute for Migration and Development Issues (IMDI) as sources of Filipino migrant philanthropy. Maybe donors here in the US have been supporting migrant philanthropy projects of Mexicans, Indians, and Chinese. But they are overlooking the Philippines -the world's most distributed migrant philanthropy phenomenon- and that's a source of pride for Filipinos, especially for Filipinos abroad. Even TNTs ("tago ng tago" or migrants "always in hiding") give back home.
The giving culture is Filipino, and while abroad, the giving starts with the family (hey, the balikbayan boxes are coming in) and then is extended to their birthplaces, to their favorite charities, to identified poor kids and families, among others.
In the flashiness of a November 11 fashion show here by Philippine International Aid (www.phil-aid.org), identified vulnerable children in Metro Manila have been getting the help of PIA and its donors. "Who wants to sponsor this child?" the fashion show emcee asked -and many were raising their hands left and right.
Migrant philanthropy also repatriates Filipino values. That's why there is a group named Pinokyos Welfare in Singapore, to address the needs of children so that they do not grow up as "liars" (thus, being like Pinokyo) while their mothers are overseas taking care of other kids. Admittedly, the officers and members of Pinokyos Welfare in Singapore are struggling at the moment over some issues as an organization, but many can attest their continued desire that Sunday days-off will continue to be "Pinokyo day".
Filipino migrants' hometowns are, to some of them, lifeless and need renewed socio-economic vigor. So we have groups like Save-a-Tahanan Inc. that has been funding community organizing and local development projects in five provinces; the Metro Infanta Foundation that has been funneling development resources for Infanta, Quezon; the Butuan City Charities Foundation of Southern California that has been handing over US$1 million in development and livelihood aid for Butuan City; and the Greater American Siquijorian Association which, despite what others think as "only" US$2,000 in annual gifts, is investing in human capital development for Siquijorian kids through youth leadership and education support. There are just too many groups like these to mention worldwide.
For others, the passion to give can't just be stopped and they try not to stop it. So from Germany, cultural performances and benefit events by Philippine Maharlika Folklore Tanzgruppe Kaiserslautern e.V. (in Pfinztal-Wöschbach, www.maharlika.de) and the Deutsch-Philippinische Freudnschaftsgruppe (in Burgkirchen) have been raising funds through special events for nonprofits and public schools in the country. And if you ask Feed the Hungry (www.feedthehungryphil.org), they have reached 77 of 80 provinces, and its members won't stop the passion.
And it is about vision for others. The vision for a brighter future was seen in Padada, Davao del Sur, and Vriendschap voor de Filippijnen in Knokke, Belgium is a young five-year-old group envisioning sustained education-related projects in that Davao del Sur municipality. Another vision is co-development, and that's why Cebu City and the Dutch city of Haarlemermeer have been sisters: through this sisterhood, and the facilitation of Verenigin Haarlemmermeer-Cebu, over a million Euros in development aid have reached Cebu City.
Mind you, these are small groups (one member of these groups labels them as "mom-and-pop" groups, despite decades of development track records). Not much are helping them to make their philanthropy efficient and effective despite the transnational spread of this giving. While I am not against the splendid work of Gawad Kalinga, Ayala Foundation USA, ABS-CBN Foundation International, and many big ones, small migrant donor groups (and others that I may have not enumerated here, like migrant donor groups from Nigeria, Hong Kong and Macao) deserve attention, support and collaborative endeavors.
Migrant groups may be small donors, but if you lump them all together, they are the country's biggest donors. More development actors from abroad, and that's more hope for the country. And at least a thousand migrant organizations worldwide are supporting development projects in the Philippines.
Migrant philanthropy, to quote Inquirer columnist Juan Mercado, is innovative. And many of them have yet to operate like the non-government organizations in the Philippines. So what more if they are provided with the donor assistance services, in ways that understand their conditions as migrants? And what more if they are working together with trusted development organizations, especially in the countryside?
Filipino migrant philanthropy is "the future of Philippine philanthropy," says Rory Tolentino and Tina Pavia of the Asia-Pacific Philanthropy Consortium. Not only do these migrant donors have the accumulated resources and values, but migrant philanthropy holds a promise to hopefully make the Philippines realize a transition to modernity, as Randy David would say. If we give overseas Filipinos more support and encouragement, and we at home reciprocate that with support to their issues and needs as overseas Filipinos, I won't be surprised if the Philippines will see immediately the fullest potential of migrant philanthropy actualize quickly a promising Philippine future.
Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Jeremaiah M. Opiniano of the Institute for Migration and Development Issues (www.filipinodiaspoiragiving.org) is in San Francisco, USA as a Yuchengco Media Fellow at the University of San Francisco-Center for the Pacific Rim. He is representing the OFW Journalism Consortium [www.ofwjournalism.net] during a three-month media fellowship that is focused on writing about overseas Filipinos.)
The above article was also published in the Nov. 14, 2006 edition of the Sun Star.