Monday, April 18, 2011

Identify Yourself

When it comes to identification, if you are a foreigner residing in the Philippines, your passport  and or even your I-card will only get you so far. For many transactions, a local and more widely known form of i.d. is required.  A very common one of course is a Philippine drivers license. But many aliens, myself  and my wife include, don't drive here (as is the case for most Filipinos as well)

An alternative document is the postal identity card.  As the name implies, this document enables the bearer to conduct business at the post office here (also known as Philpost) with a minimum of hassle . But more than that, the postal identity card is accepted throughout the country as valid i.d. for transacting not only  government-related matters but  commercial purposes as well, such as banking and supposedly is even accepted as valid i.d. internationally.

However, whether one is an alien or a Philippines citizen, obtaining  postal identity card involves a great deal of red tape. The following documents are required:
  • A completed application form (original and duplicate)
  • 3 photos (size 2" x 2")
  • barangay clearance
  • cedula (community tax certificate)
  • your passport (or for Philippine citizens a notarized copy of your birth certificate)
  • P350 (for a rush job, it's P550). 
Also, when getting a postal identity card, go to the main post office branch in your town or city as smaller branches may not be equipped for providing this service.

Postal identity cards are valid for three years. Mine expires at the end of this month, so today I trekked to the Quezon City Main Post Office to renew it. There was no else waiting for that service, but nevertheless I was impressed by the efficiency with which the clerk completed the task, especially considering her equipment for filling in the data fields on the card: a typewriter that looks as if it was already old when I was born (Such is the state of the art at many government offices.)

I must say that this experience in dealing with Philpost was quite different from previous encounters. But even if it hadn't been that easy,  at least it's a task  that I will no longer have to think about, especially whether or  not I will be met with a co-operative attitude. To paraphrase Forrest Gump, dealing with officialdom in the Philippines is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Is This Trip Really Necessary?

The three Filipinos who were recently executed in China on drug trafficking charges and their OFW (overseas Filipino worker) counterparts who leave the Philippines to work abroad legitimately have one thing in common. They avail of opportunities (and risks) to make more money in jobs overseas than they could at home in order to benefit their families, especially  their children, even if means taking positions below their socioeconomic stations, such as teachers hiring out as maids and for stretches of time that may last months, even years and in which they are often are subjected to degrading and abusive working conditions, especially  in such countries as Saudi Arabia which has recently stopped accepting Filipino domestic helpers rather than comply with rules from the Philippine government intended to protect them.

Even when the Philippine government rescues and repatriates victimized OFWs, many of them turn around and take new positions in the countries where they were mistreated.  In war-torn Libya  where their very lives are in jeopardy, many Filipinos are staying on due to enticements such as double pay.  The bigger picture fact that if they wind up killed or disabled in such a dangerous environment, it will mean the end of providing for their families doesn't seem to enter their minds.

Importantly, however, the money that OFW's remit home contributes tremendously  to the Philippine economy as a whole, even to the point of propping it up. In 2010, this amount totaled almost $19 billion (which is well over half of a trillion pesos!). In anyone's book that is a chunk of change.

Considering the closeness of most Filipino families, for OFW's to leave their loved ones behind sounds like a  noble sacrifice. However a close examination of this phenomenon shows that the plight that causes them to take this step is really one of their own making and hence usually avoidable.  This is because couples here have children without taking the responsibility  to stop and think about what they are doing.  As a result they wind up with larger families than they can afford.   Behind this lack of family planning is pressure from the Catholic Church to reproduce as many children as possible, along with the fatalistic cultural trait of bahala na, which loosely translated means "God will provide" or "What will be will be".

The problem is that when families crunch the budget numbers, they usually find that God hasn't provided after all (nor has the Church), which means that one—or sometimes even both—of the parents will have to step up to the plate and seek employment overseas to make ends meet.  The frequent negative results of such separation are predictable even when the OFW faithfully remits funds back home:  Infidelity and desertion by one or both partners, discipline problems and resentment issues from the children, and recipients' eventual  over-dependence and misuse of the money provided by the absent family member.

Often those who leave their families behind to work abroad were themselves children of overseas Filipino workers and know full well  the emotional and psychological toll such separations entail. But they nevertheless repeat the pattern. Couldn't they see what was coming before they started having kids or did they deliberately ignore the inevitable consequences of their actions?

As for OFW's contribution to the national economy it is  their absence from the local workforce and their pumping of the previously mentioned trillions of pesos into the country  furnishes a crutch and perpetuates a system that allows the Philippine government to avoid dealing with root causes of poverty such as overpopulation and corruption, and to indefinitely defer taking meaningful steps to reform the Philippine economy into one that provides decent paying jobs locally for all workers so that no one would ever again have to leave the country to earn a living.