this is why i was gone for a week last month:
every year, one of the regular projects of our office takes teams to embark on a community education campaign all over the philippines. our cause: migration and human trafficking.
this year, i was assigned to head the group going to camiguin and misamis oriental. coming from an agency at the forefront of migration issues and migrant concerns, we have seen the continued increase in the number of filipinos going out of the country in search of greener pastures. statistics prove that about 10% of our population are already overseas with the figures of those going back uncertain. as soon as migrants themselves have settled in their destination countries, they drag family member after family member to come live with them. as we move around from town to town, city to city, conducting symposiums in schools and universities, having pulong-pulong with local government officials and officers of municipal and city halls, meeting with parishioners, guesting in radio stations, and basically “talking” to prospective migrants, we often emphasize that we did not travel all the way from manila to dissuade them nor encourage them to go abroad. instead, our ultimate goal is to provide them with the necessary information so that they can eventually come up with informed choices. it’s a sad reality that many of our fellow filipinos are sometimes carried away by their need and desire to provide better lives for their family by entering into deals with unscrupulous individuals, whether knowingly or unknowingly, just so they could get out of the country. filipinos have this bahala na attitude, especially when they feel their situation is hopeless. kapit sa patalim, in the vernacular. it sometimes drives us crazy the way they risk their lives, their livelihood (by selling tracts of lands, carabaos, vehicles na pampasada, etc.) so that they can cough up enough money, only to be duped by illegal recruiters and traffickers. it is bad enough that there are absolutely evil individuals and groups that prey on the desperation and poverty of other people. worse still, many do submit themselves to these operations, albeit halfheartedly, bearing in mind that their families need money so that mouths can be fed and roofs put above their heads. they are promised wonderful jobs, comfortable quarters, enough rest, etc. only to be prostituted, become organ donors against their will, made into slaves, abused, chained, and other fates too horrendous to speak and think about.
and i haven’t even started on those marrying foreigners for the sake of convenience or opportunity to travel and eventually look for work. many succeed, finding love amidst all odds but many fall into the same fate i’ve mentioned above. it’s just a pity.
so we lay down the facts. make them see for themselves how it is in the “outside” world. explaining to them what happens to victims of illegal recruiters and trafficking offenders. we know and accept that sometimes, it is for naught. that many have already made up their minds. but as this is part of our advocacy, that we reach out to the grassroots and somehow “enlighten” people or at least make them aware of their surroundings and the issues that come with migration. this is the reason we target students because soon enough they will be finding jobs; the reason we come to talk with local officials, barangay captains and employees of city and municipal halls because they are the ones greatly in touch with their constituents, that they may be on the lookout for illegal activities in their areas; the reason we let ourselves be available to local radio stations so that many more will hear our plea to be vigilant and cautious, to not let themselves be victims, to weigh things more carefully.