by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
SAN JOSE, California, USA–CRISANTA Allas’s arm shot forward to stop the roll of an empty softdrink can –one of several garbage the 78-year-old Filipino picks up so she can send money to her daughter in Manila.
Allas, a staff of the Northside Community Center here, is one of several hundred elderly Filipinos coming out of retirement to perform odd jobs to sustain their role as the link to life by their loved ones across another continent.
There is something spiritual in what people like Allas does, so thinks Dr. Joaquin Gonzalez who is studying the link between immigration and the spirituality of Filipino-Americans.
The preliminary results of the ongoing study by Gonzalez, director of Philippine Studies at the University of San Francisco, reveals the connection between the value of giving and being Filipino in the heart of the country’s colonizers is less tenuous.
For Allas, however, sending money to her ailing daughter in the Philippines, home for her once, is a duty she silently performs.
“My daughter can’t walk, you know; she needs money,” Allas said adding this week would be the third time this year she would remit US$100 (P5,000 at US$1=P50) to the Philippines.
“I just don’t complain that I don’t have money,” Allas said trudging inside the 250-square meter social hall.
She spoke to the OFW Journalism Consortium while cleaning up after several of her compatriots mulled patriotism and pined for a brighter Philippines during the South Bay’s celebration last October 21 of the centennial of the Filipinos’ first arrival to the US in the 20th century.
Hunched back over plastic cups, half-eaten chicken sandwiches, and disposable straws, Allas could only sigh.
The irony escapes her.
But it doesn’t with Gonzalez who said he is keeping an open-mind since he has so far surveyed only 1,457 Filipino Catholics from the dioceses of San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco.
Looking into these Filipinos socio-economic condition, citizenship, employment, and religious activities, Gonzalez initially discovered that over half of those surveyed send at least $100 to $500 monthly to the Philippines.
These initial findings, presented during the Fil-Am immigration centennial forum at the University of San Francisco early last month, would be presented early next year.
GONZALEZ surveyed 342 respondents in San Jose, 391 in Oakland, and 717 in San Francisco. The three dioceses have 280,301 Filipino Catholics (including 76,060 in San Jose), says the American bishops’ migrants and refugees office.
Some 57 percent or 822 of the respondents said they send a minimum US$100 to a maximum $500 (P25,000) every month. Those who said they send a minimum US$500 up to US$1,000 (P50,000) a month formed 23 percent (340 respondents) of the total.
Gonzalez’s research stands to affirm the 2004 Asian Development Bank’s study Enhancing the Efficiency of Overseas Filipinos’ Remittances, which found that some 40 percent remit monthly, and that the average remittance amount was $342.
ADB surveyed 413 Filipinos in the San Francisco consular jurisdiction, as well as Filipinos in Singapore, vacationing overseas Filipinos, and families with dependents abroad.
ADB study team leader Ildefonso Bagasao, however, thinks that Filipinos in the US are different because many of them have reunited with their families here, unlike Filipinos in other countries who primarily fend for families back home in the Philippines.
These Filipinos are like Mara Mendoza and Consuelo Dacanay.
Mendoza, who works for a non-profit organization in San Jose, told the Consortium she sends US$100 to siblings in Manila “only when the need arises.”
Meanwhile, Dacanay sends home between US$100 to US$200 four times a year.
This, she said, she does religiously despite having lost a security-related job three years ago at the Mineta San Jose International Airport.
Gonzalez’s study is expected to bare the spiritual values behind such resilience.
Some 47 percent of Gonzalez’s respondents send their money through money transfer companies like Western Union and Filipino-run Bayanihan Cargo International Inc. and Luzon Brokerage Co. (LBC). The other 32 percent on the other hand send their money through bank channels.
The remaining 21 percent send money through courier channels like the US Postal System, FedEx and American Express, as well as through the Filipino immigrant practice of padala (personally entrusting of money to vacationing compatriots at no cost but at high risk).
SUPPORTING grandparents and parents is the reason some 24 percent of total respondents say why they send money to the Philippines.
Gonzalez’s study noted that other purposes of remittances include relatives’ health care needs (22 percent), housing mortgage, and school payments of direct children and nieces or grandchildren (18 percent each).
When May and October come along, a month each before classes in Philippine universities open, undocumented immigrant worker Wigberto (not his real name) sends $2,000 to fully pay the tuition and other fees of his five children, including three in college. Earnings from doing home service electrical work also enable the electrical engineer to send $1,000 monthly to his family in Angeles City, Pampanga province (northeast of Manila).
As for the respondents’ total annual earnings, 14 percent earn between $50,001 and $60,000; 13 percent take home $20,001 to $30,000; and 12 percent earn incomes in each of these ranges—$30,001 to $40,000 and $40,001 to $50,000.
These varied annual incomes are, for 75 percent of respondents, a product of one job. Some 15 percent of respondents have two jobs while 2 percent have three or more jobs.
Some 21 percent of respondents are in hotel, restaurant, and government service jobs; 20 percent are in legal, accounting and consultancy professions; and 13 percent are in marketing, retail and sales, engineering, information technology and electronics.
Dacanay receives a monthly pension of more than $800. All her eight professional children are employed.
Recently, she said, they sent $600 to Dacanay’s sister for the repair of her home destroyed when typhoon Xangsane entered the Philippines.
“My eight kids pitched in $50 each, and I gave $200,” Dacanay said.
For the former public school teacher, with or without a work here, sending –sharing, as she says–her money makes her “feel good and happy”.
While Gonzalez’s remittance datasets are what US- and Philippine-run companies have been looking for, the professor’s study would look at the motivation for the act of sending money.
The Philippines, colonized for more than a century by Spanish friars and soldiers, remains the only country in Asia with majority of its 87 million people following the beliefs and traditions of the State of Vatican.
OFW Journalism Consortium and the Yuchengco Media Fellows Program, University of San Francisco-Center for the Pacific Rim