Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Cultivating New Local Futures: Remittance Economies and Land-Use Patterns in Ifugao, Philippines

Academic journal article Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

Cultivating New Local Futures: Remittance Economies and Land-Use Patterns in Ifugao, Philippines

Article excerpt

Circular migration for contract work overseas is recreating translocalities from what were previously imagined as isolated, peripheral communities. (1) Migration changes these local communities not just through flows of remittances and investments, but also at the level of locally imagined futures. This article presents an ethnographic case study of one such community in the rural Philippines, an indigenous (2) village in Ifugao Province now linked into novel global networks by female circular migrants. Here, struggles over new versions of locality and tradition arise with female migration for contract domestic work, resulting in transformation of the local landscape.

Exploring contests over local futures in this setting, the study will use a qualitative approach to argue that agriculture is not a separate local economic realm or domain of representation but is intimately linked, through household economics and individual performances, with local interests in global flows of meaning and bodies. In choosing to work abroad, female overseas contract worker (OCW) migrants also produce transformations in local agricultural systems. As recipients of cash remittances, single fathers envision new local futures in ways that may overdetermine their absent wives' preferences. (3) Through an exploration of these remittances and the context of their investment, the study ties the work of female migrants to the land-use decisions of their households. Describing how these decisions fit into the complex and multi-sited Ifugao agricultural system provides a view of how the local interpretations and impacts of female circular migration recreate local landscapes, both real and imaginary.

First, a caveat for the reader: the argument in this article is staged through ethnographic data describing these links between landscape and economy at a particular point in time (1996-7). The accompanying statistics are descriptive and are provided to contextualise this ethnographic data for the reader. (4) The links described between crops and migration are conjunctural, while the modifications of local landscapes reported are clearly multi-causal. That the linkages between crops and gender and migration are not sustained over time does not mean that at one particular moment they were not influential. The sketch of these linkages provided here contributes to the literature on local places and globalisation, landscape and gender, but this description in no way precludes the potential that people may in the future continue to do the same things, i.e., convert fields and plant beans, but for different reasons.

Femininity and local tradition in Ifugao

'Kanta ti Ina' (Mother's song)

   Agrugi ti agsapa
   Awan pulos inana
   Tuloy-tuloy inggana
   Ti init ket bumabab
   Ti aldaw ko napunno
   Nadumaduma trabaho
   Agbirok sida, agluto
   Agsakdo ken agbayyo
   Agsagana ti balon
   Mapan ak iti talon
   Ituloy ti bunubon
   Isimpa irigayson
   Tiempo panagkakape
   Kwarta ti biroken mi
   Para mantika, inti
   Asin, sabon, piliti
   Anak dumakadakkelen
   Masapul panunoten
   Pag-alaan kwarta manen
   Pag-iskwela palpasen
   Uray anya ikasta
   Agkurang-kuran latta
   Daytoy ti gasat ngata?
   Kastoy kadi ingga-inggana?

   Beginning in the early morning
   No rest ever
   Continuing until
   The sun descends
   My day is full
   Of various tasks
   Looking for viand, cooking
   Fetching water and pounding rice
   Preparing food to take
   I go to the ricefields
   Continue transplanting
   Fix the irrigation
   Coffee season
   Money is what we're looking for
   For cooking oil, sugar
   Salt, soap and transportation money
   The children are getting big
   I must think about
   Where to get money again
   So that they may finish school
   No matter what I do
   Things are still lacking
   Is this fate?
   Will it be this way forever?

In the farming communities of the Philippines, as the lyrics of the song suggest, women's 'domestic' labour traditionally spreads beyond the house and into the agricultural landscape. …

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