From Globalization to National Liberation
(Essays of Three Decades) by: E. San Juan Jr.
Reviewed by Ms. Divina Delgado
IV – 18 BSE History
AY. 2011 – 2012
The Filipino Diaspora
Given the pronounced economic and social inequalities across the various countries of the world, one would expect floods of migrants from the worse-off to the better-off places. Diaspora talks of the immigration or the process of leaving of a person from one place to another, wherein culture wars are being conducted by other means through the transport and exchange of bodies of color in the international bazaars. And the scaling of bodies proceeds according to corporeal differences. Since the seventies, Filipinos bodies have been the no. 1 Filipino export and their corpses are becoming serious item in the import ledger. However these overseas cohort are glorified as “modern heroes”, “mga bagong bayani”, the most famous of whom are Flor Contempacion who was falsely accused and hanged in Singapore, and Sarah Balabagan, flogged in Saudi Arabia for defending herself against her rapist-employer. Signifiers of lack, female Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) from poverty-stricken regions in the Philippines are presumably longing for a plenitude symbolized by a stable, prosperous homeland/family that, according to postcolonial code of belief, is forever deferred if not evacuated. Yet these maids (euphemized as domestic helpers) possess faculties of resourcefulness, stoic boldness, and ingenuity. Despite this, it is alleged that Western experts are needed for them to acquire self-reflexive agency, to know that their very presence in such lands as Kuwait, Milan, Los Angeles, Taipei, Singapore and London and the cultural politics they spontaneously create are “complexly mediated and transformed by memory, fantasy and desire. In general, as informed critics have argued, imperial globalization and the anarchy of the “free market” are responsible for the dislocations in dependent societies. Capital accumulation is the matrix of unequal power between metropolis and colonies.
The historical reality of uneven sociopolitical development in a US colonial and , later in a neocolonial society like the Philippines is evident in the systematic Americanization of schooling, mass media, sports, music and diverse channels of mass communication. To dismiss the broader history of Filipino OFWs in favor of more trivial pursuits reenacts a Western superiority that has already created and is responsible for many of the social, economic, and political woes that continue to plague the country. What are intriguing are the dynamics of symbolic violence and the naturalization of social constructs and beliefs which are dramatized in the plot and figures of diasporic happenings.
As a point of departure for future inquiry, we might situate the Filipino diaspora within a larger global and historical configuration (San Juan 1998:2002). Like the words “hybridity”, border closing, ambivalence, subaltern, transculturation, ethnocide and so on, the term “diaspora” has now become chic in polite conversations and genteel colloquia. According to Milton Esman, “diaspora” is a term refers to “a minority ethnic group of migrant origin which maintains sentimental or material links with its land of origin”, either because of social exclusion, internal cohesion and the other geopolitical factors these communities are never assimilated into the host society. By consensus, Filipinos have become the newest diasporic community in the whole world. United Nations statistics indicate that Filipino make up the newest migrant assemblage in the world, mostly female domestic helper and semiskilled person. The Filipino diaspora, however, is different. Since the homeland has long been colonized by Western Power (Spain, United State) and remains neocolonized despite formal and informal independence, Filipino identification is not with fully defined nations, but with regions, localities and communities of language and traditions.
To sum it all up, San Juan venture the following theses for further discussion:
A. First, given that the Philippine habitat has never stick together as a genuinely independent nation – national autonomy continues to escape the nation-people in a neocolonial set-up – Filipinos are dispersed from family or kinship webs in villages, towns or provincial regions first and loosely from an unclear, even “refeudalized”, nation-state.
B. Second, what are the myths enabling a cathexis of the homeland? They derive from assorted childhood memories and folklore together with customary practices surrounding municipal and religious celebration; at best, there may be signs of a residual effective tie to national heroes like Rizal, Bonifacio, and the latter-day celebrities like singers, movie stars, athletes and so on. Indigenous food, dances and music can be acquired as commodities whose presence temporarily heals the trauma of removal; family reunification can also be resolve the physic damage of loss of status or alienation.
C. Third thesis: Alienation and racist violence experienced in host country is what unite Filipinos, a shared history for colonial and racial subordination, marginalization, and struggles for cultural survival through hybrid forms of resistance and political rebellion. This is what may replace the non-existent nation/homeland, absent the liberation of the Filipino nation-state.
D. Fourth thesis: Some Filipinos in their old age may desire eventual return only when they are economically secure.
E. Fifth thesis: Ongoing support for nationalist struggles at home is sporadic and intermittent during times of retrenchment and revitalized apartheid.
F. Sixth thesis: in this time of emergency, the Filipino collective identity is in crisis, undergoing a protracted ordeal of formation and elaboration.
Slavery has become redomesticated in the age of reconfigured mercantilism; the vampires of the past continue to haunt the cyber precinct of finance capital and its futurist hallucinations. The trajectory of the Filipino diaspora remains unpredictable (San Juan). Ultimately, the rebirth of Filipino agency in the era of globalized terror depends not only on the fate of the struggle for autonomy and popular-democratic sovereignty in the Philippines where returnees still practice, though with increasing trepidation interrupted by fits of amnesia, the speech-acts are durable performances of common struggle, collective sharing and reciprocal esteem. Indeed, this essay, itself may be just a wayward apostrophe to a vanished dream world – a liberated homeland, a phantasmagoric refuge – evoking the promised land and archaic golden ages of myths and legends.