Global Filipinos: Migrants' Lives in the Virtual Village

Global Filipinos: Migrants' Lives in the Virtual Village

Global Filipinos: Migrants' Lives in the Virtual Village

Global Filipinos: Migrants' Lives in the Virtual Village

Synopsis

Contract workers from the Philippines make up one of the world's largest movements of temporary labor migrants. Deirdre McKay follows Filipino migrants from one rural community to work sites overseas and then home again. Focusing on the experiences of individuals, McKay interrogates current approaches to globalization, multi-sited research, subjectivity, and the village itself. She shows that rather than weakening village ties, temporary labor migration gives the village a new global dimension created in and through the relationships, imaginations, and faith of its members in its potential as a site for a better future.

Excerpt

A LONG LINE OF people marched up a winding road toward the summit of the hill. In the lead were gray-haired older women. Bare-chested and wearing bark-cloth skirts, they carried baskets of sweet potatoes on their heads. The women walked behind a placard reading “The Stone Age.” Their bare feet felt their way gracefully around the potholes in the road. Men wearing red loincloths followed closely behind, brandishing spears and shields. Limbs glistening, they stamped the ground, raising small puffs of dust, and the breeze carried the distinctive odor of their Johnson’s Baby Oil toward me. The men carried a sign labeling them “The Spanish Era.” Next came ranks of women and men marching together under the banner “Modern Times.” These people carried smaller signs proclaiming them to be farmers, teachers, health workers, a mothers’ group, churches, youth groups, and, finally, senior citizens. Their roles were also evident from their accessories—clipboards, books, rosaries, stethoscopes, hoes—and all wore rubber flip-flops or boots on their feet. Among them, the farmers’ contingent sported battered straw hats that contrasted with sparkling-clean white T-shirts labeled “Bay-Gro” (a brand of fertilizer) and “Pigrolac” (a hog feed). Finally, behind the farmers a phalanx of men in dark suit jackets marched into view. They carried imitation-leather satchels with paper labels reading “OCW” affixed to the sides. These letters, standing for “overseas contract worker,” designated the men as international labor migrants. As they moved off, the heels of their well-polished dress shoes flashed in the sun. The next group then appeared, with slightly different costumes and accessories, again elaborating on a story that transformed them from a primitive prehistory through anticolonial warfare, agricultural development, and, finally, overseas migration. In this parade a number of different villages were competing with one another, vying to see whose performers could best tell this story of progress.

It was April 1996, and I was staying in Haliap, a village in rural Ifugao Province, in the Cordillera mountains of the northern Philippines. I had come out to support my parading neighbors in their efforts to win the competition. Haliap exemplified the kind of marginal place that was being drawn into the global labor market as a migrant-sending area in the mid-1990s Philippines. Located on a resource-rich frontier and itself the product of a long history of stillcontested colonial displacements, the village remains a prime target for efforts . . .

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