• Can’t we be like Satya and Sundar ?


    We are the DH supplier to the world and we say that with real pride. From the royal palaces of the Middle East to the crowded flats in Hong Kong, our domestic helpers have provided the support structure for the normal functioning of the households and royal palaces. And, to an extent, their economies too.

    Just imagine a Hong Kong without our maids stabilizing middle-class households. The labor participation will dramatically drop, the economy would slow down, and the buoyancy of the former crown colony would be diminished.

    We are the “S and M, ” or service and maintenance crew, in most places in the Middle East. We maintain everything for them, from their hospitals (via our nurses and medical workers) to industrial electricians that run their giant boilers and power plants. While our construction workers come and go, depending on the timelines of construction projects, the small and medium-scale enterprises of the Middle East rely on Filipino technicians for seamless operation. Why, even the caretakers of their broiler houses and their egg-laying operations are mostly animal health graduates of our state universities.

    There is so much to be proud of about these nameless and faceless heroes of the Philippine economy.

    But is this enough for us? Or, should we aim to make our 21st century diasporas leap beyond maintaining households and boiler plants?

    From time to time, as we study the waves and trends of global migration, this questions pops out: Are we not yet ready to provide the Satyas and Sundars to the world? Can’t we achieve what they have accomplished? We are referring, of course, to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, and Sundar Pichai, newly-appointed Google CEO.

    Two of the most important jobs in the technology world are held by wunderkinds both born and trained in India. We are proud of them and the wondrous story of diversity that is their immediate impact at Silicon Valley. But then a stab of envy is also there, rooted on the question of why we can’t turn out the likes of Satya and Sundar.

    Why indeed?

    Like India, we live in a chaotic, flawed democracy. Like India, we live in a vastly unequal society. Like India, we have crammed, polluted and gridlocked metropolitan areas and struggling rural areas. Like us, the masa there are hooked on movie stars and Bollywood and TV melodramas. On the positive side, our young men and women, like young and ambitious Indians, take every available opportunity to work or study overseas, particularly the US.

    But in terms of upward mobility, our young men and women who leave to study or work overseas are just simply overwhelmed by the breathtaking accomplishments of Indians overseas, especially in Silicon Valley. Observing car traffic at Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and San Jose, you will see late model BMWs with stickers that proudly proclaim “ IIT-Madras” or “ IIT Kharagpur” or “ IIT Bombay.” It implies this message – that Indian engineers thrive in this Valley.

    You don’t see “UP Diliman” or “La Salle Taft.” Or one of the supposed good Philippine tertiary schools.

    You see all of these and you want to weep. Why can’t the DH supplier to the world ramp up its expectations on our immensely talented human capital? What is holding us? What is beyond the mediocrity of our expectations?

    There are no academic papers and thorough research on the reasons behind the timid dreams- and underwhelming professional reach – of our diasporas. Why India can turn out the likes of Satya and Sundar with relative ease (its most significant export sector is the CEO, CIO and CTO export sector) and our talent just scale middle-level jobs, is not even considered an issue worth a policy debate. Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. No one seems to feel a stab of envy at the amazing accomplishments of the Satyas and Sundars of India. Or at the lofty status of Indian-born leaders at Wall Street and in the Fortune 100 companies.

    There is no environment to push the young Filipino to rule the field of brain applications, to be masters of the computing universe. More, our quests are in the hopeless fields. Like our hopeless hoop dreams.

    Recently, much of the nation was tuned in to the full media attention on Bobby Ray Park’s and his quest for a bench role in the NBA. As expected, nothing came out of it. Yet, his miserable performance in the NBA Summer League was breathlessly reported as a native’s quest to suit up in the world’s premier pro hoops league. The young man is not even a native.

    With Park’s NBA dreams now in tatters, the nation is now content with “Wish Ko Lang” hopes related to the UCLA career of Kobe Paras. For sure, it will entertain the Pinoy hoop fans for years.

    Over the last few days, the nation was transfixed to a hoops event in Taipei. Something akin to a national relief came after the country’s 3rd place finish.

    Is there a boxer worth the tag “Our Next Pacquiao”? Bring him on and the boxing fans will elevate him to near sainthood. He will be the toast of the town and the next role model for our kids. Why, he can even be president of our low-expecting republic.

    Meanwhile as we pursue our hoops and boxing dreams, India has been conquering and mastering the enclaves of the world where global-changers take place, where pursuits such as driverless cars and space travel are not moon shots but things that can be programmed and computed in due time.



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    1. Compare the RP population to India. We have about one tenth of their population so our performance is actually not bad when this is considered.

    2. Evelyn Tabungao on

      Marlen, I could not have said this better myself! Hoop dreams, or the next singing sensation ala Lea, or the next Pacman are foremost in Pinoy minds because of the lack of educational opportunities in the country.

      The government does little to nothing to help the smartest of the needy to higher education, which I feel should be free education all the way to graduation from college.

      There is something really profound and sinister in the whole concept called Philippines. It has something to do with keeping the millions of its population uneducated and ill-informed, while just enough is done to attract and ensure the inflow of money into the country in the form of investments to keep those in power very rich and powerful indeed.

      A revolution might be a necessity at this juncture. Salamat po.

    3. here’s one Filipina we can be proud of:

      Xyza Bacani, A Filipino photographer, was a maid in Hong Kong for almost a decade. Now she documents human- trafficking victims in New York. ( The New York Times, Tuesday 15 September 2015)

    4. What can explain India’s ascendancy and our mediocrity? Try religion. We worship a foreign god who was forced on us at the point of a sword. They worship their own. Hence from birth we are taught that anything foreign is superior which stops us from believing in ourselves. Everything starts in the mind.