The Sisa Syndrome and the Filipino Colonial Mentality

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  • Topic: Philippines, Filipino American, Overseas Filipino
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  • Published : September 3, 2010
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The Sisa Syndrome and the Antidote to Our Depression
by Ricky Rivera

Dr. Jose Rizal in his novel Noli me Tangere tells of Sisa, a woman who fell into a very deep depression when she lost her two sons. Sisa went around town looking for them. She knows that a priest killed her two sons but she never saw how and never resolved to herself why. Many think that this is something of a fictionalized narrative of the status of our country during Rizal’s time. If you read and study why Rizal included this scene in his novel, you will definitely think that Sisa alludes to our country, an image he conjured to reflect the Motherland. And she was. Rizal really meant Sisa to be the true image of our country under colonization. It is worth remembering though that Sisa’s quest for her two sons continued until today. Later, in this short story, I will tell you why I think Rizal wrote about Sisa and its significance in our present situation.

I often ask myself why some Filipinos find it extremely hard

to stay in our country. According to the Bureau of Immigration, at least 3,000 Filipinos leave the Philippines every single day. That’s 90,000 month, a million a year, and 10 million in ten. Most of these Filipinos leave due to economic reasons. And every Filipino who leaves his homeland is one less Filipino who can help rebuild this country. A report says that “this country holds a snap election every day. Men and women vote with their feet daily to search for better futures abroad.” The Filipino diaspora is not a recent phenomenon. A study by the Philippine Migrant Society of Canada says that Filipinos started leaving the country for “greener pastures” in the early 1900s. A larger number of Filipino professionals moved to other countries in the 1950’s and continued to balloon up until the 1960’s. During Martial law, the Overseas Filipino Worker phenomenon started to increase, attracting not just Filipino professionals but skilled and unskilled workers. “The history of Filipino migration”, says the PMSC, “..is a product of extreme poverty, underdevelopment and joblessness in the country.” Labor migration is a socio-economic reality, one that even prosperous countries suffer from. What I am concerned here is the rising numbers of Filipinos who migrate and uproot every single member of their family to permanently live in other countries. A national survey by Pulse Asia in 2006, says three out of ten Filipinos dream of living abroad…permanently. Interest in living abroad is not just confined with adults. Filipino children surveyed by Pulse Asia shows 47% of Filipino children with

ages ranging from 10 to 12 say they wished to work abroad someday. Sixty percent of children of overseas foreign workers said they had plans to work abroad. As of December 2004, some 3.2 million Filipinos reside in different countries as permanent settlers while 3.6 million as temporary labor migrants. Another 1.3 million migrants are in different countries, mostly in unauthorized situation in the United States and Malaysia. A study shows an increasing trend of Filipinos, about 28%, leaving for abroad to marry. This explains why our Potential Net Migration Index (PNMI) is a negative 22%, similar with Iran and just a tad lower than Yemen (-23%) and El Salvador (-45), countries which are more politically distressed than us. What is it that attracts Filipinos to go someplace else to live? Why is it that Filipinos feel that their future lays elsewhere? What’s so different with the Philippines than, say, the United States? Many things, someone would definitely say. The United States is more prosperous than the Philippines. Americans have equal economic rights that allow the individual to live in prosperity and relative peace. Other countries have better laws, another Filipino says. Some would even say that governments in other countries are better than ours. Is this the truth? Are these really the true reasons why Filipinos leave? Compare our country with others,...
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