An observation from an acquaintance. Many Filipino businessmen, he said, find that they already had an “in” with their counterparts from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. That young businessmen from the Middle East felt an affinity with Filipinos. Magaan ang loob.
The reason? These businesspeople from the Middle East grew up with Filipina nannies. Because of their carework, said this acquaintance, Filipina women are in such positions of influence over the next generation of businesspeople from the Middle East. Pinoy entrepreneurs, he said, could use trade on this predisposed goodwill as capital.
The gender dynamics of Filipino labor migration shifted around the 1980s. More women were recruited for domestic work, a trend that continues today. An estimated 70 percent of the 3,000 Filipinos who leave the country each day due to labor migration are women.
I had already known Filipina mothers work as nannies and caregivers, even as they leave their own children behind. That these women’s labor feed the remittances that keep the Philippine economy afloat. And that all these benefits to the country, to the private sector, have come at great personal cost to women who spent years away from their own children.
But it still makes me sad and angry to note that decades later, long after their children had grown up without their presence, these women’s labor and sacrifice continues to generate wealth. But not for them.