Friday, May 06, 2011

Plight of Filipino Migrants

The Plight of Filipino Migrants

It is a sad commentary that we are no longer shocked with the fast growing number of our countrymen who are leaving the Philippines, land of their birth. It bespeaks of an attitude that has become accustomed, if not calloused, to the alarming reality; that the phenomenon does not cause us anymore uneasiness or feeling of guilt. In the midst of this seeming indifference, I would dare to state the fact that there are now nine million migrants, if not more, or thereabouts. They are not mere faceless individuals, but warm bodies with human feelings, Filipino emotions, and basic needs that constantly call our attention. They are living persons who need food and the necessities of life to keep themselves in one piece; rational beings who can foresee the need to provide for the uncertainties of the future, responsible family men and women who in search for a better future for their children, they set out of this country that they love, and settle in a foreign land which they think could give them a better prospect for themselves and their family; human persons who are endowed with rights and obligations, particularly the right to a decent environment that guarantees the protection of their human dignity. They have to be cared for bodily, psychologically, and spiritually.

The Church in the Philippines has not been remiss in its obligation to extend its Pastoral Care to Filipino Migrants. It is aware of its task to look into the temporal and spiritual needs of its faithful. It is after all its response to the rights of the migrants as well as all the faithful which the Code enunciated, to wit: “Christ’s faithful have the right to be assisted by their Pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church, especially by the word of God and the Sacraments” (Canon 213). They may be far from its reach, but the obligation remains in the conscience of the Philippine Church. Foremost in its mind is what is demanded in the Salvation History – God provided laws and guidelines regarding refugees. When God commanded the Chosen People to be hospitable to foreigners and strangers, as stated in Leviticus 19: 34, God reminded them of the reason for the legal provision, that is, “because you yourselves were foreigners in strange land.” CBCP sees this text as a framework for its pastoral care for Filipino migrants, that is, our people are strangers in foreign lands. It has to look after their pastoral needs, their well-being, peace of mind, growth in spiritual life, and their appreciation of their dignity as human beings and as children of God. The Church in the Philippines has task to constantly remind them and support them that no matter how menial their kind of work is, they remain children of God and bearers of human dignity. It is for this heavy responsibility that CBCP has to found the Commission for the Pastoral Care for Migrants, and to demand from it a regular report and evaluation of its mission. But nine million Filipino migrants is a number so staggering that the Commission is in a quandary on how to effectively and efficiently meet the demands and expectations of the Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

One of the greatest pains of our migrant workers is the loss of the sense of self-pride. They pine to get it back, but no amount of money that they receive can buy it back. The Church understands the depth of man’s pain when he is deprived of such self-worth. Hence, in its work for Christian justice and charity, its priority is help the concerned individual migrants get back their dignity. Hence, the words of John XXIII echoed: “Individual human beings are the foundation, the cause and the end of every social l institution” (Pacem in Terris, 31). Then he added: “Every man has the right to life, to bodily integrity, and to the means which are suitable for the proper development of life; these are primarily food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care, and finally the necessary social services” (ibid, 32). For, every person is precious, people are more important than things, and the value of every institution is whether or not it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

Our migrant workers, nine million of them, have dignity to uphold, human pride to protect, better quality of lives to pine for, meaning of life to savor, spirituality to hang on to, so that they can stand up as human persons and as children of God in foreign places.