this is a common phrase used here in geneva among the filipino community. it means "walang papel" or succinctly, "no paper." many filipino migrant workers here are undocumented or do not have residence permits. from the rough 5,000 in geneva, maybe 70 percent are undocumented.
they live in fear from the men in uniforms that routinely check bus passes. they fear the winter raids. most of all, they fear the denouncement of their fellow countrymen. because of this, kababayans (compatriots) often ignore the other which is contrary to filipino inherent values. so many instances have happened that a filipino was "raided" because of some petty argument that arose. anger subsumed the other and the reasons why both of them worked and cleaned toilets didn't matter anymore. a trampled ego or unbridled pride was enough to wreak havoc and make the other lose his/her job plunging his/her family into more poverty. it was poverty that sent them out in the first place. but all is forgotten when anger is there.
it makes my heart cry to hear of these stories. traveling from country to country, seeing the plight of my countrymen, it has been a privilege to share in their lives. i am also an OFW (overseas filipino worker). but my life is arguably better than most.
one of my friends now, who i used to go hiking with in the lush mountains of our alma mater is cleaning houses and scrubbing toilets in a country that once colonized us for almost 400 years. it is still a decent living. but poverty has driven my countrymen out of our homeland. when will this diaspora end?
the philippines blessed with 7,101 islands have made some lives unlivable for some. a golden age ended with the power hungry politicians so eager to fill their pockets with government money.
so many filipinos seeking greener pastures are willing to give up the prestige of a degree to clean houses in a far away land. they risk being deported from switzerland to put food on the table for their families back home.
never had i seen such determination. not even when i was in the states, where the undocumented lived in relative comfort.
when i first left my country in 1990, i left that picture of poverty, the tenement style BLISS housing project that Imelda Marcos had constructed. i left some playmates whose joy was to fiddle with the passenger jeep parked in the then brown earth. i left the insult of my tattered clothes. i left the public school whose teachers made students come over their houses to do extra credit work to check school papers.
i saw what the american dream was. blessed filipinos who had gotten out during marcos' time or even earlier and when doctors and nurses were in demand, had resurrected their impoverished lives from the ashes and lived in enviable comfort.
big houses with manicured lawns, swimming pools and billiard rooms, erected from the sweat of the 18-hour shifts of some toxic hospital ward. they had reaped the rewards of their labor.
some forgot what it was like to be poor and began to look down on the less fortunate often renouncing charity because they had risen from their perceived own sweat.
others still did not fail to recognize the help they got and passed on the good work by helping others in need.
it is sorrowful to see suffering of broken homes because of economic dictates. why can't we provide for our people in our country?
i sit here now in geneva and i remember the countless parties in the states of the filipino organizations. i recount the bloodied suicide attempt of a kababayan who just slashed her wrist because of a love triangle in abu dhabi. i reminisce the lashes on the back of sarah balabagan, who was punished by shari'a law for murdering her rapist/employer. i remember the blood of an abortion on our carpet. i recall the denial of fear in iraq's abundant oil-wealth as filipinos witnessed the transition of dictatorship to eventual hostage-taking.
this is all in the name of putting food on the table and making the lives of filipino families better.
statistics show that 1 out of 10 in the philippines has an OFW. that is 10 million filipinos seeking their fortunes elsewhere. it is millions of families separated, a mother and father that children never knew and came to symbolize only a source of monthly stipends to buy the latest phone. the children sometimes follow when there are legal means. others stave off homesickness and go as long as 11 years without going home to their families. the phone card business thrives because of phone calls that substitute for hugs and kisses.
walang p. can invariably equate walang pera (no money). such a sad reality but reality is never really the rose-colored fantasy we all hold dear in our hearts. we just like to hope and wish it was.