Thursday, August 07, 2014

N67
We All Have Different Fortunes.

or: "What happens when you tell people you're an immigrant to Canada, and that you just might want to go overseas."

Written in:  Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Composition: Reacting to a Facebook post. 
Previous Post: O sige, Tagalugin ko na para walang away...


In my 17 years in Calgary, the longest I have spent away from this city was a year. Even then, I was still in the same province, so I don't really tend to count it as being truly "away". Instead, it is this four-and-a-half month stay in the Philippines between 2006 and 2007 which I count as truly being somewhere else. And even then, I still came back. 

Since I haven't done any serious relocating (yet!), I unfortunately don't have first hand experience about the true challenges of moving out of Canada. 

However, I have been thinking, entertaining, and even musing about it a lot, that I have come across a certain observation I would like to share with all y'alls: How the same unflattering perceptions about being an immigrant to Canada get reused, rehashed, and recycled into negatively viewing any plans about doing the opposite - of moving out of Canada.

Which "unflattering perceptions" are those you ask? Well, I kind of have written about them before...

Most recently, there is a previous post where I basically enumerated all the assumptions people tend to make about new immigrants to this place, and how cumulatively, I sometimes found it thoroughly annoying and perhaps even a bit degrading and insulting: About how there may not be racism, but there is still stereotyping; about how there may not be outright discrimination, but it is possible to be reduced to "you people" platitudes; and about how I feel that despite there being a great deal of underestimation of "my kind", they often come from people you least expect to say such outrageous things, and therefore often go unchecked and unchallenged. All these things are still present when the subject of my possibly leaving Canada is put forward.

Beyond writing about how I was made to feel when I was new, I have also spoken a great deal about issues concerning identity, ethnicity, citizenship, and other topics which arise after one has been here long enough: About how people tend to interchange those three; about how Filipinos privilege whiteness; how family, friends, and acquaintances from the "old country" are confused about how I seem to have divided my loyalties between the Philippines and Canada; and about how I, myself, am confused about why they are so confused! Once again, all these things are still present when the subject of my possibly leaving Canada is being discussed.

"I've lived here for most of my life! I think it follows that after all this time, I will have come to like it, love it, and even be loyal to it," so goes my typical rant. Indeed, I have written a great deal about my experiences of moving here in Canada. 


Though not a repeat of those two sentiments, this post will nonetheless synthesize both topics of "immigrant blues" and "identity, ethnicity, and citizenship" into one talking point about moving/relocating away FROM Canada.

In gist, the common reaction to an immigrant like myself planning to move away from Canada often goes like this: "You're already in Canada! How could you even think about moving back to where you came from? Isn't Canada good enough for you? More importantly, isn't that a step backwards?"


Continued:

Now, you might ask, "Why is this such a big deal, Randy? Why are you surprised that people are surprised about your moving away from Canada? Canada's such a great place! Who would dare entertain such a thought?"

Well...  white people do. All the time.

Sorry, but I'm just going to have to come out and say it: White people without any discernible "foreign" accent don't tend to have their motives questioned, should they ever plan to move away from Canada. If anything, I have this prejudice where I suspect white North Americans commend their kind for either permanently relocating or temporarily visiting foreign lands. For them, it can either be seen as "romantic" (eg. whenever visiting places like France and Italy), "heroic" (eg. whenever visiting the Developing World), perhaps even "adventurous" (eg. whenever visiting off-the-beaten-path backpacker destinations), or maybe even "educational" (eg. when visiting Japan for all the things "westerners" consider weird and unique to Japan).

For the most part, the bewilderment as to why on Earth someone who's already living in Canada would wish to move elsewhere is usually reserved for those who are perceived to be of foreign/recent immigrant origins, eg: those with accents, those who are visible minorities, those who are proud of a foreign heritage, or any combination of these. I for one, have all three strikes!

And so, let us now deconstruct why that confusion, amazement, perhaps even slight bemusement, at the thought of moving away from Canada (after presumably having moved here from elsewhere) kind of, sort of, somewhat gets on my nerves whenever I hear it enough times. 

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-MgjwWp-k3vk/RzvEp-HSifI/AAAAAAAAAHQ/eApVEKO23Pw/s1600/IMG_0017.JPG

"How could you even think about moving back to where you came from?"

For the most part, when entertaining a big move, I don't actually often muse about moving away from Canada per-se, but rather just simply getting out of this fair city of Calgary, or perhaps even the province of Alberta. Just like any other Calgarian, the quirks of this city - and province - sometimes drive me insane. From the bland corporate monoculture where everyone seems to work for oil, to city planning that seems to have no plan but "sprawl", to the rig pigs that drive like assholes on the road with their lifted coal burners, to how this province still incessantly complains about how it is underrepresented in Federal Politics all while having a PM that is from here and who actually represents big oil... and so on and so forth... These are actually the observations of someone who has lived here for a long time - these are the complaints of a true Calgarian.

What will ultimately drive me away from this place is not because I am an immigrant who is still "pining for home", but because I have been here long enough. I have been a Calgarian for 17 years, and maybe, just maybe, a change would do me good.

Yet even without specifying where I'd like to go - even when only simply musing about how I'd like to leave Calgary - people fill in the blanks with "so you're going back to the Philippines? That's where you're from, right?"

On its own, it really is a benign assumption. I once was from the Philippines, so that's the easy conclusion, right?

I guess.

When I was new here, I was indeed very bitter because as a kid I didn't have a say on the matter - I didn't have a choice but to move here. It just happened to me. Now, had I saved up and relocated myself back to the Philippines during that window of up to two years when I was new to Canada and still bitter about the whole matter, then yes, it would have been on the basis of everything I have been protesting here - that I was "going back", that I "missed it", and that I most definitely was a Filipino "going home" to the Philippines, with all the baggage and emotional ramifications of that wording.

But all that happened 16 to 17 years ago. Whatever reasons I may have had back then, are completely different from the motivations I may have now.

With all the time I have spent here, I now consider myself to be from here! As I've pointed out elsewhere (here, here and here), I've been in Calgary long enough (too long?) that this really is truly "home". My loyalties are here. My network is here. My family is here. Even a large part of my identity is now firmly rooted here!

There is simply nothing for me to go back to in the Philippines.

Nothing!

Even if you factor in the fact that I still have extended family in the Philippines and perhaps a large number of childhood friends still living there, you gotta ask, how much does all that really count for? I've been gone from that place for nearly two decades, save for two Christmas holidays. If anything, relocating there would take away the novelty of having a family member "from abroad". My special visits would turn into a not-as-special long term stay.

Besides, in the grand scheme of things, I could equally name Vancouver, LA, Seattle, Tampa, NY, and especially Honolulu as a place where I have family and some childhood friends. Because Filipinos have spread all over the world, I basically know people all over the world. Now, that doesn't mean I'm close to all of them. However, that is exactly the point: With respect to making a move to a place where I already know people, the Philippine Capital of Manila (and the Greater Manila Area in general) is in no way all that unique. Coupled with how forebodingly overcrowded that megacity is for someone used to Calgary's slower pace and wide open spaces, I don't actually place it as the highest on my list of "possible places to move to".  

At its core, assuming that going back to "where I came from" is the only option I have, strongly suggests global citizenship and worldliness aren't traits to be expected of me. It's really annoying.

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"[But] you're already in Canada!"

On its own, this sentiment/question isn't really all that annoying. It does not underestimate me as a person nor does it insult my background in general. Nonetheless, it is still an assumption of a monoculture - that Canada, all throughout its vast expanse, is consistent all the way through. Well, I for one think that no country is a monoculture. Highly diverse, proudly multi-culti Canada is definitely no exception.

Now, Canada has a lot going for it. It is prosperous, it is peaceful, inoffensive, always apologizing, renowned all over the world for being "nice", and unlike our neighbours to the south, not often perceived as having enemies abroad. It's also highly progressive, very cosmopolitan, and always about social justice. But that doesn't mean we're pushovers, as we're known for kicking ass and taking names. Canada also often ranks highly when it comes to measures of quality of living.

What can I say? I love Canada.

But oftentimes, such Canadian traits - which applies to both nation and people - often stem from a national aggregate. It is the sum total of all of Canada.

So what then if you live in a place where there is an abundance of traits contrary to those things you might call as things which make Canada so great? Well, it kind of sucks, no doubt! Imagine living in a depressed area of Canada, all while being told that this place is very rich. Imagine living in a place that is highly impersonal and everyone is out there to make money, all while being told that Canada is so friendly and welcoming, it's just like one big family gathering. You'd probably think, "Holy shit, I've been lied to!"

In my case though, things aren't that heavy. Like I said, whenever I entertain moving out of Calgary, it is often from annoyances that many other Calgarians already share.

There is, however, one aspect of the "Canadian Dream" which I seem to be unable to share in at this point in my life, and I strictly attribute this to myself and how this place is structured economically. My skillset and education (Broadcasting diploma + degree in Development studies) just aren't in demand in here. Now, I don't blame anyone or anything specifically for it - it is neither Calgary nor Alberta's fault - but you cannot blame me either for wanting to leave. Because I don't think I made the wrong choices, just that I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time. We can't all be oilmen. In fact, not a day goes by that I don't kick myself for not having moved away sooner. Instead, here I am with a two-and-a-half year plan that I'm not sure if I can stick with.

Most days, I just want want to leave... NOW!

And again, going back to my previous talking point: it doesn't have to be the city of Manila in the Philippines (or more broadly, Metro Manila or "Greater Manila Area"), it could be any other city in the world.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-k35gs4YG50U/U-QwH_gStOI/AAAAAAAABCA/4AZk8dYCZ7M/s1600/IMG_1601.JPG

"Isn't Canada good enough for you?"

But then again, so what if I do go back to the Philippines? What's so bad about that? Just because Canada is a great country, does it necessarily mean it's for everyone? We all have different fortunes, and maybe other people's luck - if there be such a thing - lie elsewhere, outside of Canada's borders. Nothing wrong with that. It's not Canada's fault. It's not my fault. It's just the way things are. It's just the way the Universe has conspired against me and my continued living in this place. To suggest that we all are supposed to have a great time here, regardless of our own individual circumstances, is an assumption rooted in both arrogance and blind nationalism.

You don't often think of Canadians as being arrogant and nationalistic, but it's there. Just a bit understated, less loud, and definitely not overt. And just like any other expression of national pride, it still can get hurt.

It's like breaking up.

Here I am saying, "It's not you, it's me", while those who question my motives for the breakup seem to be going, "But how could you break up with her!? She's all that and more! A lot of people are dying to be with her! And you're just going to leave her!? You're stupid...."

Maybe I am, because...

Stolen from Here.


"Isn't that a step backwards?"

Even though I've made the point that I tend to short-list cities, and NOT countries, whenever I feel like I've had enough of Calgary, I still can't view cities in isolation. I can't ignore that Metro Manila is in the Philippines. Dysfunctional, flawed, oligarchic, insecure, defenseless, poverty stricken, corruption ridden, sometimes racist, religiously dogmatic Philippines. It is a place where the infrastructure is either crumbling or a non-starter. A place where even the current crop of progressively nationalistic Filipinos think its greatest days are behind it, having peaked just before World War II, as most of them tend to think (here, here, here, here, here, here, here and maybe here)

So yes, I guess it is a step backwards. 

Still, I would like to provide a three-fold counterpoint to that.

First, let's talk about my own insecurities: Like I hinted before, I don't appreciate the disparity between how I am viewed whenever I speak of the possibility of moving to the Philippines, and how a North American-born person with no obvious links to that place is viewed when they go for a visit or a more permanent move. Somehow they are seen as heroic - as though to travel is to test their mettle, and the more remote and backwater the place they go to, the more heroic they seem. At its most benign, it can inspire humorous blog posts, at its  worst it can lead to the "White Saviour industrial complex".

On the other hand, I am perceived as though I am either duty-bound, nostalgic/pining for "home", or even regressing - as though I am giving up my newly acquired "western-ness" and "trading down" for some good ol' Filipino-ness. As you can tell, this view itself is a value judgement, a vote of non confidence on anything Filipino, what with the underlying assumption being that "anything Filipino must be inferior".

Though in some ways I did feel duty-bound to fulfill this extended trip of mine back in 2006-2007, that was then and this is now. Any future plans to go to the Philippines is a different matter altogether. I have already done my reconnecting and personal reckoning. I have no unfinished business there. New business is new business. 

Same with nostalgia. I have indulged in enough of that during this 2006-2007 trip of mine. Whatever fascination and enthusiasm I hold for the history of place is just that - a fascination that is the product of intense curiosity, sated by research and exploration. I know a lot of things about the Philippines, not because I'm Filipino (like I keep reiterating, I haven't been there permanently for 17 years), but because I seek them out. 

For instance, I'm a sucker for how old documentaries portray the Philippines, and only recently came across this film posted on YouTube:



This was not required viewing when I was in elementary school (gradeschool) there, in fact this was not even required viewing for my Parents' generation! Indeed, this was an American short film portraying the society my Grandparents lived in when they were teens, and my Great-Grandparents were middle aged. It's really actually quite obscure. Yet, I consciously seeked it out and found it online. It didn't require much effort, mind you - all I did was type a few keywords on YouTube. Nonetheless, it's an interest that has about the same equivalent throughout the world. How many Canadian guys my age trawl through the NFB archives looking for interesting historical footage? Probably not the majority.

Yet when people discover that I have this particular interest concerning Philippine history, that I have certain films and books in my collection, they tend to think, "how unsurprising. That's very Filipino of you."  ...little realizing that the last thing the average pop-culture loving Filipino dude my age will do is have these things in their personal library
.1


http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Ga7Jo9XczL8/U-OIkifAGHI/AAAAAAAABBQ/_AJ46HDQm3o/s1600/14223020897_4ef7c6b207_o.jpgOn the other hand, when white people have an interest in anything obscure and foreign to us here in Canada, it's somehow seen as more commendable - as though they're enriching their cultural understanding of the world, whereas I am perceived as just doing it merely because it's a "Filipino thing".

This is not a "Filipino thing". This is a "Randy thing". This is MY thing. I do it because I want to, not because I'm required to as a Filipino.

I'm trying to be a renaissance man here, and makes me so insecure that no one seems to acknowledge it! 

Similarly, if ever that I move back to the Philippines, then having been born in the Philippines has less to do with it than what everyone else might think. I am not going back to being a Filipino (and even then, so what?), but rather, I am starting a new life in the Philippines.


As a second counterpoint to the suggestion that perhaps moving to the Philippines is a step backwards or a regression of sorts...



Backward? I'll tell you what was a step backwards for us: MOVING TO CANADA! We didn't escape to Canada to flee poverty, war, famine, pestilence and death. We didn't dodge any dangers nor were we being persecuted. Instead, it was a perfectly logical and seemingly reasonable option to move for what we thought would be a "better life". How could it not be? We were moving from the third world to the first world! Everything's just better over here, right?

 But like I said in another post:
"Being newly landed independent immigrants here in Canada, my parents' extensive professional credentials weren't recognized. They - We - were quite literally on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Now, it isn't and it wasn't all that bad since I do believe Canada is very egalitarian. Nonetheless, I had to very quickly realign my own unique brand of Filipino Classism and Elitism. Witnessing my Mom and Dad work their way up from menial jobs, like cashier and machine shop lackey respectively, really shook my philosophy. I mean, my Mom worked for the Philippines' Central Bank for goodness' sake! My Dad was at the top of his game as an agricultural consultant in our province before we moved! He has a Master's Degree for god's sake!

Materially, we were pretty much free from want in the Philippines. Before we left, we had two cars and a sizable house just 30km or so from the Capital. NO mortgage and no debt whatsoever.

Yet they gave up all that to move here in Canada. Only to become employed in... practically the lowest of the low-paying jobs, rent a crummy apartment, and share one shitass Hyundai.

More than anyone in the family, more than my parents themselves, I felt as though the jobs they were doing here in Canada were below them, and the tradeoff not worth it at all.

That's one of the bigger reasons why I was very bitter and depressed when I was new to Canada. "
In gist, I am challenging the common perception, the common cliché, that as immigrants, we were probably very thankful to have gotten here in Canada, because it's a "step up". ...that were more than happy to have relocated to these here greener pastures. 

Hah! Greener pastures my ass.

When we were new, these pastures seemed to be filled with more bullshit than grass! In large part because I felt as though we were fed with hypocrisy, or at the very least, the good ol' bait and switch. 


In selecting independent immigrants, Canada favours those with higher education and more money. (Just check out the points system used to determine an applicant's eligibility: http://www.maxberger.ca/subcategories/immcatlinks/independent.php  

My parents did very well during the application. Yet once here, Canada wouldn't recognize their credentials!  They were basically treated as unskilled labour.2

That "better life" that most immigration stories promised seemed like a myth at the time.

Thankfully, things changed for the better for them. As I wrote elsewhere:
"I should probably note that my parents also prospered and prospered a great deal here. Typical immigrant story I guess: Start off low, but succeed through hard work, perseverance, and - perhaps most importantly - upgrading credentials and finding a well paying job.
'Upgrading'... Deep down, I even found that insulting. But at least it wasn't a long drawn out process where they had to take their University Degrees all over again. It was just a matter of making sure that they weren't completely faking their education or even literacy for that matter - something which, though unsaid, is generally assumed by Canada of its immigrants back in the day. None of your credentials counted. I've read academic papers on this; only very recently has Canada learned to make full use of its immigrant "Brain Gain" (the opposite of Brain Drain, where people with credentials emigrate out)."
So, while I concede that Canada is indeed a land of opportunity and a land built by immigrants - having praised this trait a great deal in a previous post - I can't ignore the fact that when we were new here, in no way did it feel like we had hit the jackpot, contrary to what the oft repeated "greener pasture", a "better life", or "better opportunities" clichés would have you think.

Yes, this is a place with plenty of upward mobility. But you know what? What good is upward mobility when the place sets you back and then sandbags you a great deal when you're new? Instead of simply "moving up" from where we were in the Philippines, we had to work really hard just to get out of what truly felt like a setback - only in our second decade here did things truly start feeling like an "improvement" from the life we left back "home".

"Welcome to Canada, well educated professional newcomer! Feel free to check out Canada's job opportunities, of which, none are accessible to you until we can prove that you aren't just shitting us. Because that's totally what your kind does - you cheat".

Yeah, thanks for the vote of confidence.

More than that, who needs upward mobility when you've already "made it" elsewhere? Because in my immature mind 17 years ago, migrating to Canada was for losers who can't hack it in the Philippines. Egalitarianism is the refuge of those at the bottom. And demands for income equality merely a common lament of the unskilled stuck in dead-end jobs.3


Lastly, as a final counterpoint to the "Isn't [moving to the Philippines] a step backwards?" comment, I would like to challenge the first world vs. third world dichotomy apparent in such a comment.

Remember when I said that the Philippines is,
"Dysfunctional, flawed, oligarchic, insecure, defenseless, poverty stricken, corruption ridden, sometimes racist, religiously dogmatic Philippines. It is a place where the infrastructure is either crumbling or a non-starter. A place where even the current crop of progressively nationalistic Filipinos think its greatest days are behind it, having peaked just before World War II, as most of them tend to think (here, here, here, here, here, here, here and maybe here)"  

Well, I just had to reiterate that to make sure that it's clear that I don't wear rose coloured glasses whenever viewing that place. I am realistic about it.

I only ask that you be realistic too.

While there ARE a lot of people who live in poverty over there, it cannot possibly function as a nation if everyone were poor! I cannot stress this enough: What makes it the third world / developing world / under-developed world is NOT because everyone is poor, but because there is a huge gap between rich and poor, and the middle class are practically in exodus.

That is, after all, how I found myself here.

Now, I don't actually think anyone - North American or my fellow Philippine-born friends - expect me to move into a slum area in the Philippines, should I ever decide to relocate there. However, there is a genuine concern that I will be settling for less, along with the assumption that I will be sacrificing the material advantages in Canada, all to consummate my romantic notions of the "motherland".

Actually, my motivations flip that assumption on its head. As in: It's the other way around, in my case. The Philippines is a place that seems to want my credentials and skillset, while Canada is a place that, although I love so much and will miss a great deal, seems to be pushing me away from herself at every turn.

Now, Canada has always punched above its weight - with weight meaning, population. It does very well economically, it has a well educated citizenry, standard of living is very high, and we are globally renowned for many things. All this with a mere 35 million people.

However, there are some things that even 35 million well educated, hardworking, adventurous, brave, innovative, and highly intelligent Canadians can't or won't do: Sustain a large local media industry. 

What about the Philippines then?

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-MmZJ0YzU_fI/U-TjPW5bseI/AAAAAAAABCQ/vyurw_Nk_cI/s1600/ALUPIHANG+DAGAT-75.jpg

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Well, for all that nation's faults, the media industry is actually the one thing that seems really truly robust, diverse, and thriving in the Philippines. It isn't without its troubles, yet somehow, it always seems to reinvent itself and come up with a few surprises.

This is reflected in the music, television programming, and films they have available to them. I once remarked, while recounting channel surfing and looking at the box office page in the local rag, that "they show all the popular American shows, plus, they also have their own local shows too - so in essence, they have more available to them than us!".4, 5

Indeed, in both absolute and relative terms, the media industry in the Philippines is way bigger than Canada's. For this purpose, let us use the Film Industry: Philippine Cinema made $35.9 Million in 2011, while Canada's only made $27.9 Million. Philippine Cinema averaged 92 films between 2008 and 2009, while Canada made 72 in 2008. Canada's media industry is simply at a severe disadvantage when competing directly with the cultural imperial powerhouse that is the USA.

In fact, I have a tendency to regard those listed Canadian numbers as inflated, since there are a lot of Canadian-American co-productions. The Canadian film industry is also heavily subsidized, relying heavily on grants, tax exemptions, and other incentives. The Philippine movie industry, on the other hand, tends to finance its productions all from private local investments - Filipino initiatives fundraising Filipino money in order to fund Filipino ideas.6

While I have no such numbers for Radio, Print and Television, I have reason to believe the same comparison applies - more Filipinos (once again, in both absolute and relative terms) simply watch more of their local productions, read more of their local writings, and patronize more of their art. Canadians by comparison, tend to write off Canadian productions as inferior to both American and other Internationally released works.

Philippine Film Box Office records on the other hand, seem to indicate that the top grossing local films don't do all that bad against top grossing Foreign/International films released in the Philippines. In fact, even though Hollywood Blockbusters hold the national Philippine record for highest grossing films of all time, if you pick a year, say 2013, and add all the top grossing foreign films, and then compare that with the top grossing local films, they seem to be pretty much at par with how much they earn.


So what's in it for me? What career and job opportunities does that mean are available should I ever act on my desire to explore opportunities outside Canada and try my luck in the Philippine capital?

Well, to start with, there seem to be a lot more job openings within Metro Manila which seem suitable for someone with my skills and credentials. Note that to be fair, I am really only comparing job opportunities per region, namely National Capital Region in the Philippines vs. all of Alberta vs. all of British Columbia vs. all of Ontario vs. all of Quebec. This means that already, I'm cheating up Canada's chances by counting whole provinces. That is to say, being in Calgary right now, Edmonton cannot really be considered as the same city center - whereas Metro Manila is composed of multiple cities. It truly is a Megacity. And there is a very high concentration of media related jobs in that one place.


I'll be honest: Despite knowing all this, many things still put me at ill ease about the thought of moving there. Like I have been driving at all throughout this rant, it is a foreign land for me, as foreign as any other place in the world.

However, I do have a positive feeling that should I ever really pull the trigger, if in two years I do find myself over there, then I would be hard pressed not to find employment in the field that I have always wanted to work in...

Actually, that's a really low standard - just finding 'anything'. What I really want is to excel, be prosperous, be renowned, and be outstanding in my field! Which for this purpose, I have broadened to the umbrella term: Media. It could be print, TV, radio and film. It could range from advertising to journalism. I could perhaps do behind the camera/behind the mic/behind the keyboard work on both the technical and creative end of things.

Is that possible over there? Can I pull that dream off?


I guess I wouldn't really know until I try.

Ask me again in 2 years?



Future Post: White Privilege in the Philippines Part III


Related Posts: Discussing Citizenship Part II  
                            Discussing Citizenship
                            Trials and Tribulations Though Talented in Talking Tagalog
                            The true utility of Filipino Citizenship
                            O sige, Tagalugin ko na para walang away 
                            [A Really Long Story About What it was Like to be New to Calgary]
                            The Useless Kids of the Filipino Middle Class 
                            A Weekend in Manila: Breakfast and Lunch at Quezon City
                            

Further Reading: History of Philippine Cinema and the Film Industry
                              Filmbirth, History of Cinema

                              Situation and Direction of Philippine Independent Cinema
                              by Francis Sollano, for Film Culture 360

                              Cannes: Philippine Cinema Comes to the Fore
                              by Clarence Tsui, for Hollywood Reporter
                              





Notes:

1.) Have these things in their personal library: The average, middle class Filipino kid, or adolescent, or young adult, and adult is just like the average, middle class... anything. Consumers of pop culture, trendy gadgets, and the latest and greatest in casual wear. In fact, if anything, average Filipinos tend to be bigger slaves to consumerism than the average North American. Their reading/watching habits are no exception: Comic books for kids; juvenile and young adult reading for the young ones; and pithy self help and or the latest bestseller for adults.

---

2.) Treated as Unskilled Labour: I know what some people are thinking: "Serves them right, it's third world credentials anyway!"

Well, if you think that, then kindly go fuck yourself.
That's just one of the assumptions that infuriate me so much - the kind that assumes just because where I'm from is from the "third world" or the developing world, then there must be no world class institutions in the place!

My folks went to the premiere University in the Philippines (called the University of The Philippines, no less!) It's an educational system partly inherited from Colonial influences of both Spanish and American. 

---

3.) Made it elsewhere / who needs upward mobility? : For all the heroic portrayals of Filipinos working outside the Philippines, as well as those who have emigrated to foreign lands, it's hard to completely eliminate this unflattering assumption that those who leave are simply too weak to compete in the ultra competitive, dog eat dog world of Philippine society. A.k.a: Matira Matibay! or Only the Strong Survive!

Yet, I still found myself here in Canada. 

So, you could imagine the self-hating and self-loathing that ensued. I had become what I viewed unflatteringly!

Also, this bears repeating: In some strange twist, because left-leaning and well meaning Canadians and North Americans tend to ascribe a kind of down to earth humility to immigrants - Asians especially - they tend to be blind to the fact that I was staunchly proud, strong willed, hard headed to the point of arrogance, when I was new here! My parents were definitely nicer than I was, so I don't want to speak for them. But as for me? I was, back then, somewhat right leaning, uncharitable, and definitely self interested to the point of selfishness. Totally the opposite of what I am now, which is a nice guy who loves all of humanity - at least I'd like to think. 

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4.) They have more available to them than us! : Though I can't even begin to guesstimate the absolute numbers of how many potential media consumers there are in the Philippines, it's worth keeping in mind a few things: 

There are 100 million Filipinos in the Philippines. Subtract those in absolute poverty and you still have around 75 million people. Think about that: Seventy Five Million 

Now, of course not everyone will be a consumer - there will be kids and seniors who don't do the shopping. However, 62% of the population is often listed as being between 15-64 years old - an age bracket that I think is a good starting point in estimating who is economically active in the Philippines. Those 75 Million people above the poverty line are thus further reduced to 46.5 Million consumers. Think about that: Forty Six Million consumers. 

Ok, so maybe I went about getting that number incorrectly. I was, after all, combining two different statistical percentages - 62% of 100 million are between 15 and 64 years old, and 75% of 100 million are above the poverty line. It could very well be that a given age bracket has more people in poverty. Still, I believe that however you look at it, you still get a bigger number than the population for all of Canada.


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5.) They have more available to them than us!: Not that there's any hyperbole with that claim, but let me draw an analogy to a big ticket item that also happens to be an interest of mine: Cars.

 
Because of weird importation laws, in the Philippines, you can almost import anything, so long as it is Left Hand Drive. What you then have is a buyer's market where cars from all over the world can be found. European Hot hatches? Check. Italian exotics? Werd. German Luxo barges? Ja. American SUVs? For sure.  JDM subcompacts? Absolutely. Indestructible United Nations-grade Japanese SUVs? Totally!!!

Add to that the locally assembled cars specific to the South East Asian market, as produced by the big three of Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan, and what you have is a huge variety of vehicles for you to choose from. 

Canadian offerings in our market here are quite dull and boring by comparison. 

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6.) Inflated Canadian Numbers : You also have to think about how filmmaking expenditures are just less in the Philippines. Indeed, any expenditure is less over there, what with the lower cost of living. Suppose the Canadian and Philippine Numbers are at par, that doesn't mean they are on equal footing in terms of capability - less expensive location shooting, studio costs, and artists' fees in the Philippines means less film expenditures, which then means cheaper ticket prices at the box office. So, to get to the same earnings as the Canadian film industry, the Philippine industry has to work harder and churn out more productions.

The very fact that the Philippine industry earns more is actually quite telling how MASSIVE it truly is. It's a lot like Bollywood - those outside of the origin nation may not know about it, but the locals sure like it and like it a lot.

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