Visioning and Building the Filipino Nation in the UK: Working Together to Shape a Future
Introduction This paper is an attempt to present in broad stroke the framework which probably can serve as the basis for re-engineering a Filipino-based movement envisaged to engage in the politics and governance in the United Kingdom (UK). It tries to capture the conceptual underpinnings for an open political organisation that will endeavour to unify and rally Filipinos behind a programme of representation in duly constituted institutions of governance in the UK. It also envisions that an active participation and involvement of Filipinos and British-Filipinos in the affairs of the UK as well as the Philippines will deepen one’s national identity and heighten national political, economic, social, and cultural consciousness. Power in Numbers It is estimated that more than 11 million Filipinos are working or living outside of the Philippines, equivalent to about 11% of the total population of the country (Collymore 2003). In the 2006 World Bank Report, the Philippines is the world’s third largest diaspora population, next to China and India. The National Census Office (NSO) approximates that 9.5% of the total 1.52 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who worked abroad at any time during the period April to September 2006 are in Europe. In 2008, Filipinos in Europe grew to a staggering 29% from 7% a year before. Filipinos who worked as contract worker or assumed a permanent resident status including those who have acquired citizenship by naturalisation in the host country now constitute the eight largest overseas communities in Europe. Among the European countries, the UK is the top destination country for Filipinos. This is followed by Italy, Germany, France, and Austria. The UK and Austria are known for its Filipino nurses and caregivers; Italy, Greece, France, and Spain for private domestic workers; Germany for Filipinas who have married German husbands. Spain and Italy have the most number of Filipino temporary contract workers, the UK for permanent residents, and France and Belgium for undocumented migrants. In 2001, the UK Census recorded that 40,118 people are born in the Philippines. In 2007, 10,840 Filipinos gained British citizenship, the second largest number of any nation after India (Freelove Mensah 2008) compared to only 1,385 in 2001 (Dudley and Hesketh 2001). In a report by The Manila Times in September 2007, Filipinos are estimated to have grown to 200,000 in the UK (MT 2007). Llangco (2010) attributes the increase of Filipinos in the UK to the following: decrease in the number of irregular migrants; increase in the number of permanent residents; and increase in the number of temporary migrants. In 2009, Philippine Embassy officials in London surmised that Filipinos, regardless of categories, have shot up to no less than 250,000. The Vision of a Filipino Nation Given the magnitude of Filipinos in the UK, many have remained politically silent, inactive, or simply disinterested in the local and national affairs for varying reasons. Others may have limited resources, capabilities, or information on opportunities or in facts and data on how best they could get involved in the social and political environment in the country where they currently live in. In the same vein, British-Filipinos of various shades and categories (naturalised, 1.5 generation,[†] second generation or later) continue and have yet to wrestle with their identities and national loyalties given their acquired citizenship. Although citizenship and nationality are terms that are technically different but oftentimes erroneously interchanged, they conceptually contain one critical element – the sense of oneness and belongingness both politically and ethnically. It is a sense of collective national identity which is generally seen as a process occurring at a subjective level like morale, esprit de corps, or mood, except that it is far more complex and includes myth and epistemology. The identification of one’s interest to the interest of the nation and people is therefore paramount towards engendering actions that promote and defend the fundamental rights and welfare of one’s compatriots. National identity and national consciousness is not an inborn trait but a process that is honed, shaped, formed, and transformed through socialization. Regardless of one’s place of birth, it is socially constructed by peoples’ daily lives as they interact with soft and hard institutions of society – family, community, schools, organizations, and governments. A sense of one’s “Filipino-ness” involves a strong identification with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. Filipino nation, and expressed communally in defense and promotion of its culture, political rights, and economic welfare as a people. Against this backdrop, there exists a common notion that Filipinos have neither appreciated and recognised the importance of making themselves heard nor feel the significance of articulating their needs, demands, and interests in public policy fora, institutions of governance, and agencies or instrumentalities of government in the UK in spite of their economic contribution to the host country in terms of tax payments, expenses on consumer goods and services, engagement in trade, commerce, and small and medium scale business enterprises, and professional services. Evidently, Filipinos’ economic power and professional contribution to the development and growth of the UK economy has yet to be translated into political power. The latent and dormant power within the hands of the Filipinos remain to be exercised and manifested in the halls of state power – legislative, executive, judicial, and administrative branches of government as well as in national and local government units – and non-state institutions (i.e., non-governmental/civil society organizations [NGOs/CSOs], interest and pressure groups, academe, and media) which invariably exert influence over the design and implementation of state’s policies. It is conceived that through a robust and conscientious participation in the state’s political processes that Filipinos’ positive role to society is recognised, their rights and welfare as minorities, migrants, or citizens are protected, safeguarded, and advanced, and their culture, language, and ways-of-life are endured and defended against all forms of discrimination and marginalisation. For obvious reasons, ideals, aspirations, and interests of people, regardless of ethnicities, cannot be attended to appropriately and justifiably by proper authorities unless they are articulated and expressed by the people themselves. Filipinos’ problems, concerns, and intractable issues affecting them as a people in foreign lands cannot be addressed nor resolved if they continue to live and work in seclusion, silence, and alienation. Towards A Realisation: What is to be done? Arouse. At first instance, there is a need to re-kindle, inspire, and motivate our people to the exciting process of building the Filipino nation in the UK. Our national identity and consciousness as Filipinos has to be deepened and heightened. National identity offers personal renewal and dignity by becoming part of a political "super family", and enables the realisation of feelings of fraternity, especially through the use of symbols and ceremonies. National identity as a collective psychological state is a necessary condition in strengthening the state, either the UK or the Philippines. Hence, by developing a strong national identity we are also contributing to the development of a stable UK and Philippine state. The promotion, expansion, and intensification of our collective self-awareness could be realised through the frequency of discussions of identity questions in newspapers, magazines, television and radio broadcasts, and artistic statements of "who we are" in poetry, novels, films, operas, music, and comedies. Mobilise. The successful effort to arouse the minds and hearts of Filipinos including British-Filipinos of their “Filipino-ness,” will hopefully lead us to unify, rally, and mobilise our compatriots to actively participate in state and non-state political processes of the UK. We could take full advantage of the liberal democratic culture of the UK and the UK’s rational-legal political institutions and processes. The opportunities are vast in the UK where we could collectively achieve something to help not only ourselves but also our countrypeople in this country as well as our people in the Philippines. We need to mobilise the magnitude of Filipinos to get involved. Engagement can take many different forms in the fields of politics and governance, commerce and business, and education and culture. Organise. The gains we have achieved in arousing and mobilising Filipinos to break their silence and reclusion must have an organisational expression for the purpose of consolidating and securing the fruits of our labour. It is the process of arousing and mobilising Filipinos that leaders will emerge who will eventually serve as the nucleus of a movement that will be formed in the future. The select number of Filipinos who will constitute the leading force of the movement has to be imbued with a deep sense of national identity and national consciousness, a clear vision of Filipino ideals and aspirations, profound commitment to realise such ideals and aspirations, high political awareness, leadership qualities, organisational skills, ability to work with people from diverse backgrounds, various faiths and cultures, and competent in facilitating collaborative action in order to reach common goals. We have to remain focused on the future – our future – and make time beyond the scope of our hectic daily work on behalf of advancing the interest of Filipinos. All we have to do is work together. In the final analysis, the FUTURE LIES IN OUR HANDS! References Collymore, Yvette. June 2003. “Rapid Population Growth, Crowded Cities Present Challenges in the Philippines". Population Reference Bureau. http://www.prb.org/Articles/2003/RapidPopulationGrowthCrowdedCitiesPresentChallengesinthePhilippines.aspx. Retrieved 11 September 2009 Dudley, Jill and Hesketh, Krystina 2002. "Persons granted British citizenship, United Kingdom, 2001". Home Office Statistical Bulletin (Home Office) 06/02: 16. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs2/hosb602.pdf. Retrieved 9 September 2009. “Filipino Migration to Europe: Country Profiles,” http://www.philsol.nl/of/country-profiles.htm Retrieved 11 Sept ember 2009. Freelove Mensah, John. 2008. "Persons granted British citizenship, United Kingdom, 2007". Home Office Statistical Bulletin (Home Office) 05/08: 20. http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs08/hosb0508.pdf. Retrieved 9 September 2009. Llangco, Mark. 2010. “Filipinos in Britain: Mapping out Study.” University of Birmingham, UK. Manila Times. 2007. "Filipino baby boom in the United Kingdom". http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/sept/24/yehey/opinion/20070924opi4.html. Retrieved 10 September 2009. National Census Office. 2007. “One In Three Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) Is A Laborer Or Unskilled Worker,” http://www.census.gov.ph/data/pressrelease/2007/of06tx.html. Retrieved 09 September 2009. World Bank. 2006. Global Economic Prospects 2006. Washington, DC, USA: The World Bank. [*] Dr Buendia was a Teaching Fellow, Department of Politics and International Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. [†] Philippine-born youth who joined and lived with their natural-born Filipino parents in the UK before adolescence, say 12 (see Lllangco 2010).