Saturday, July 26, 2014

10 Reasons Why Philippines Is Better Than USA

After 2 years of living in New York City I realized that there still things that I can proudly say Philippines is better than USA. I am grateful for the opportunities of working in New York City. every time we drive through Brooklyn Bridge and see the view of Manhattan's sky scrapper at night I am still in awe. I always tell my husband that its still feels like a dream that you live in this beautiful city. Just like Alicia Keys song "Concrete jungles where dream are made of". It feels surreal.

I work as Special Education Teacher for kids 3-5 years old. I am also studying at Hunter College taking graduate program in Applied Behavior Analysis. I am trying to have an on-line clothing business. I am married to a hardworking, smart, and funny financial controller from Bangladesh. What more could I could I ask for. Some people might say we're living the "American Dream". 

Living in America is difficult for everyone. Whether you are an immigrant or citizen of this country it is a continuous struggle to survive in New York City. These are just my personal observations and experiences. Some articles are based from news and documentaries. I do not mean to offend American people and the government. 

1. Fresh Produce



vegetable stand in Philippines
image from http://thumb9.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/1127003/151222142/



New York city is one of the most diverse city in the world. You can find fruits and vegetables from different parts of the world. New york also produce their own crops. But because of the weather there are some fruits and vegetables that you have to import from other countries or other state. It would take days or months to move the produce from big farms to your local store or groceries. You would always hear from news that there's a recall of fruits because of possible bacteria contamination. 

In Philippines, we buy our fruits and vegetables from our local market. It is still a common practice that people grow their own food from their backyard and sell to their neighbors. I remember buying Malunggay leaves from our neighbor Aling Bibing. My mother used to have a small store and we sell fruits and vegetable. There are local farmers who sell their vegetables to us sometimes we buy from wholesaler in Balintawak or Divisoria. For 20 years of experience in buying and selling fresh produce in Philippines we never encountered that there was a bacteria contamination. There are some fruits that are imported from other countries and other provinces too but for everyday needs you can always choose to buy locally produce fruits and vegetables. 
Farmer's Market in Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn
image fromhttp://media.abesmarket.com/media/scoop/article/grand_army_plaza_market_10_1.jpg

Here in New York City when you say locally produce or organic it usually more expensive. You can buy it from farmer's market in the city. The one closest to my place is the Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park. They usually have Saturday market. Locally produce fruits and vegetables are available. Also, they have live music, food trucks, artists, pastries all in one place. But because of New York's weather farmer's market is only available during warmer months. During winter season you can go to your corner store of big supermarket. 


2. Fast Food


Jollibee in Queens, NYC


In Philippines fast food is very competitive industry. American restaurants are every where. When I was in college I used to work as a crew in Jollibee and KFC. I knew the value of customer service and cleanliness in food business. When I came to NYC I noticed the huge difference in fast food. In Philippines, almost every fast food have a place for kids to play. The bathrooms are squeaky clean. There is a special lane for senior citizen and people with disabilities. In my observation the fast food restaurants here have rarely place for kids to play actually I haven't seen one yet. Unless you go to Chuck 'E Cheese where their primary customers are kids. The bathrooms in fast food restaurants here are generally clean but I know this place close to my work where you have to ask a cashier for a key to use the bathroom or you have to drop a quarter if your not a customer. There is no express lane for senior citizen or people with disabilities. Maybe in some restaurant there are but not from what I usually see. 

3. Manufacturing Industries


Marikina City
image from http://byahengmanila.weebly.com/marikina-city.html


Marikina produced 70% of Philippines shoes. Marikina is the shoe capital of the Philippines. Though Marikina shoe industry struggle to compete when popular brand name shoes moved their production to China we can still proudly say that workmanship of shoe making is still alive. Not just just in Marikina, Liliw Laguna, is also well known in making slippers made of locally produced materials. I remember the Alfobra slippers in Makati where my friend used to live. The slippers are very well made. I also had a Tribu slippers which I used when I was in college. It lasted for years. I was wannabe mountain climber back then.  There was a joke about these made in Philippines shoes. "Bulok na paa mo bago pa rin ang sapatos mo" 

However, in USA they struggle to bring back "Made in USA" shoes. The big box retail stores promised to support the local shoes industries. I don't know how much of these are true. There are still American shoe makers who still believe in producing locally made shoes but in reality people buy shoes first because of the brand name and second because of the price. Famous brand shoes spent millions for advertising and marketing while spending so little for the materials. 

Sad to say Filipinos still choose to buy American brand shoes that are made in China. Imagine how long the shoes travel from China to America to Philippines. 
A T’boli from Lake Sebu demonstrates how ‘t’nalak’ is made from abacawoven fiber. The age-old method is widely recognized as the ‘ikat’ process
T'boli weaver
image from: http://www.manilatimes.net/weaving-the-philippines-local-textures-and-fabrics/108502/

Different ethnic groups in Philippines weave and produce different fabrics made from local raw materials like abaca, pina and cotton. Weaving tradition has been transferred from generations. Filipino designers are well known internationally because of they were able to use indigenous materials to their creations. 

Unfortunately, textile industries in America is struggling to make 100% Made in America clothes. There are still some textile mills and companies despite the economic downturns are  keeping their commitment to preserve the industry. 


4. Journalism


I recall my younger sister Excel's thesis when she was in college in Polytechnic University of the Philippines. It was about the threat and killings of journalists in Philippines. Philippines is the 3rd most dangerous place for journalist according to the news. It is unfortunate for the journalist and their family that they have to risk their lives for freedom of speech. I believe that aside from the OFW, journalists should also be considered our modern day hero. In Philippines when there is injustice in government people go to the media outlet and ask for help. When there is national scandal involving government officials regular programming in TV will be suspended to give way to senate hearing or live coverage of any event. Journalists received death threat everyday but they still continue with their job. Their dedication and passion for press freedom is something that we should be proud of. 

It is just my personal opinion but I don't trust big news agency in America. I don't think that the news are balanced. Maybe I just watched to many documentary. I know one excellent American journalist named Jeremy Scahill. I watched his documentary "Dirty Wars" from Netflix. After that I stop watching news from TV. Also, the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News journalist and famous undocumented Filipino immigrant, Jose Antonio Vargas' "Define American" gave voice and face to 11 million undocumented immigrant in USA. I know there are millions of American journalist who are excellent on their work but they were not given opportunity. Technology have change the game in journalism. Now, ordinary people can produce their own film or documentary through blog and social media. We are given a chance to become journalist too. 


5. National Security


In 2013, Edward Snowden, former CIA contractor leaked the  information that the government is collecting data from Americans. When I heard about these news I was thinking so the schizophrenics are right the government are listening to our phone calls and there is always someone watching us. DSM-IV should be revised ( LOL ). I want to be clinical psychologist someday so its just a joke. Technology made our lives better. You can buy things on-line, get a degree on-line, find your husband on-line but things are not as easy as we think. Identify theft is one of the fastest growing crime in America. Since there is a threat in security there are companies who offer services to protect your identity. Americans are spending millions of dollars to these companies. Now, anything you post on-line can be used against you. It's pretty scary because when you become a victim of identify theft its not just your bank account that is at risk but also all your property, your credit score, everything. When hackers can hack people personal account they can also hack government's record and multinational companies information. 
cyber incidents statistics
graph from http://www.cybersecuritymarket.com/?p=24

One of the advantages of being a third world country like Philippines, majority of the people don't have credit card. Yes! consider this a blessing. When I was in Philippines I was trying so hard to get a credit card but I couldn't. Here in America when you become 18 years old its easier to get credit card. American before they finish college they already have credit card and college loan before they have a job.  I watched the documentary "Maxxed out". People committed suicide because of unpaid credit card debt. Majority of Filipino get their salary through check, ATM, or cash. But a common practice of Filipino we withdraw all our money on payday. Filipino buy things in cash. Yes there is a risk when your carrying cash but they can only take your cash not your entire identify. 

Another good thing about being in Philippines we do not have national ID and our phones are prepaid. Yes! its a good thing. That is what you call freedom we have to enjoy it while we can. 

6. Social Justice


 image from: http://www.equalizerpost.com/2014/06/senators-enrileestrada-and.html

Before I don't believe in the Philippines justice system. Until the 3 senators were put into jail. I don't want to elaborate this topic. But the moment that that the 3 senators were in jail I am proud of the justice system. There would always be a corrupt politicians but there are millions of vigilant Filipinos who would want answers to where their tax go. The Filipino youth would march the street and demand for answers. Yes! Filipino youth love the technology and the lifestyle of the western countries but during the senate hearing and news coverage they would care of what is happening around them. When millions of citizens are watching the government would do their best to tell the people the truth and justice would prevail. 
Student Activist in Philippines
image fromhttps://www.google.com/search?q=PUP+student+activist+pork+barrel+scam

Moms Demand Action
image from http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/kin-sandy-hook-victims-join-rally-guns-bk-bridge-article-1.1830221

Unfortunately, I don't see this culture in America. There are activist of the street but most of them are direct victims of the case or they belong in certain communities. Maybe because of diversity when it doesn't affect their religion or their ethnic communities they would just go on with their lives. Or maybe I am a product of PUP (Polytechnic University of the Philippines ) where being outspoken and involve in current issues of the country is a culture in university. In America there are too many distractions like technology, fashion, reality TV, sports, or just plain busy with their own lives to care about the politics or social issues. When innocent children are killed in schools becomes a weekly news I don't see the youth on the street. I see mothers, educators, aspiring politicians but I rarely see the youth get involve in the issues.  

7. Housing 


My house


I can proudly say that I own housing apartment in Philippines when I was 26 years old, single and working as a public school teacher. Now only couple of years left I am almost fully paid with my housing loan.  Yes! It can be done. Low cost housing in Philippines should be avail by everybody. I was crazy that time I was only earning Php. 12,000 I have monthly payment of almost Php. 10,000. Somehow I survived.  I tried everything to earn extra money. Public school teacher in Philippines work only for 6 hours. I was working 6am-12n as public school teacher. Then I have Kindergarten class in the afternoon which gave me extra Php. 2,000 monthly and Alternative Learning System teacher at night for Php. 1,500 a month. But these extra job don't pay on time so I have to loan from sharks. It's a common teachers' joke "I went to loan don". It was crazy I was dead tired from work but still I was able to finish my Masters Degree. Now I'm here in NYC hopefully I can finish paying up my loan. But yes I have a house on my name. It's never gonna be easy but its all worth it. 

In New York City if you want to have a house you need at least $ 20,000 - $ 50,000 down payment in cash. You need excellent credit score somewhere over 800. Your combine household income should be more than $ 100,000 annually depends on your expenses and number of dependents. You have to be pre-approved by banks. And you need to attend seminar.  Yes, its next to impossible for minimum wage earner to own a house. The average cost of single family house is somewhere $ 200,000 its upper-fixer in bad neighborhood to a decent house in a good neighborhood for about $ 500,000 and above. Don't even think of living in Manhattan studio apartment could cost $2,000 a month plus maintenance fee of about $500. Most New Yorkers would choose to rent a house farther from the city but close to train station. 

When my people ask me why we don't have kids yet this is my crazy answer. We can't afford it. My husband and I are both professionals and still we both need a second job if we want to have a house and support our family back home. Having a baby is not in the picture yet. 

8. Parent's Involvement in  Education

I don't see much difference in the skills of teachers in public schools in teachers in Philippines and in NYC. I see that teachers are generally passionate about teaching and making sure that kids are learning. Though public schools in NYC are more advanced in technology it can't replace the creativity of the teacher. The big difference that I observed is the parents involvement in schools in Philippines. I work as itinerant teacher so I got the chance to observe how different public school works.
   
image from http://www.maine.gov/education/images/parent%20teacher.jpg

I observed that public school teachers here are doing their best to reach out to parents. The government is providing free related services for students with disability. Free evaluation, OT, PT, speech therapy, counseling, breakfast and lunch to all public school students. But there are still parents who are still afraid to get these services. I remember the parents of my students before they paid from their own pocket to have the evaluation and therapy for their child. They traveled to different government agencies to get free services. They wait for long hours in government owed facilities to have 30-minutes OT or PT. 

Here when kids first enter school and teacher noticed that the kid needs help they will start the paper work. There are social worker assigned to schools or family services coordinator that speaks their language to explain the process and get all the services that the kid needs and its free. All the parents have to do is to sign the paper and attend all the meetings to get the services. Maybe because the parents are in denial or don't have time to attend the meeting because of work. 

In Philippines when parents are working there is always somebody in the family that the teacher can talk to or somebody who would care like older siblings, aunt, grandmother or even neighbor can relay the teachers concern to the parents. Here usually its the parents, but when parents are busy there are also other family members who would take care of the kids. However, there are kids in foster care. It breaks my heart to see these kids living with uncaring foster families. In Philippines when parents are irresponsible the kids end up with other family members. Here when parents are irresponsible the kids suffer. The kids will most likely end up in foster family than their immediate relative. 

9. Health Services


Philippine General Hospital 
image from http://www.philippinesdailyphotos.com/

USA has the best technology and facilities when it comes to health services. If you are low-income family you can avail medicaid however if you earn more than the minimum wage you are no longer qualified for the the free medical insurance from government. You are lucky if your company have insurance but you still have to pay at least $200 every month. Every time you visit a doctor you have co-payment of at least $20-$50 per visit. If you need a surgery for example your insurance will pay $2,000 and more than that you have to pay from your pocket. The doctor should be from the network of your insurance company. If the doctor or the services is out of network you have to pay full price of the medical expenses. There are always payment plan or credit card. But it is so expensive to be sick in America. 

I remember I had a bike accident. I was stupid not to wear a helmet. I was still learning to ride a bike in the road. I accidentally hit another cyclist. It was not a major accident I had a small bruise on my head. One lady called 911.  After few minutes an ambulance came. My husband decided we will not go to the ambulance because its expensive. Ambulance and emergency room even if its minor injury would cost you more than $1,000 with insurance may $500. I was fine we just clean the would and rest. For life threatening cases 911 and EMT can save lives. You can worry about your bill later the most important is you and your family members lives. 

In Philippines most of the people would have PhilHealth it a government subsidized insurance. There is minimal monthly pay. Most of the bills are from out of pocket of the patient. But the good thing is there are government hospital and clinics available. The facilities are the worst you could imagine but the doctors and nurses are the best in the world. Government facilities are open to all citizen. Rich and poor people can go to public hospital. 

There was a dental clinic in my town where you can get dental services for free. Yes free! You just have to wake up early write your name and wait for your name to be called. You just pay for the anesthesia for minimal amount. 

Few months before I move to New York City. My mother had brain surgery. It was the most stressful moment of my life. The doctor said they need to remove the brain tumor immediately. We searched everywhere to find a doctor who could do the operation and the money that we need. Fortunately, we found Dr. Gerardo Legaspi of PGH. During the initial visit Dr. Legaspi asked us why we chose to go to him. I answered because we cannot afford private hospital. He jokingly said "Oh I thought because we are the best". I was ashamed of myself when I learned that Dr. Legaspi is the best neurosurgeon in the country even in Asia. He was a Harvard Medical School lecturer. My mother's surgery was successful. After few weeks we were not able to pay the full amount of medical expenses my father asked the doctor if we can be released on a promissory. Until now we still owe money to Dr. Legaspi. Dr. Legaspi is one of a kind doctors and there are more doctors like him who chose to serve the Filipino people despite of the tempting salary abroad. 

10. Family structure


My Family in Philippines


In Asian countries it is a common practice to take care of your parents, grandparents no matter how old or sick they are. Though is it still an issue with siblings on who will take care of their elderly parents. Filipino don't put their family member in nursing homes. Maybe there are some but rich families who choose to place their elderly in a nursing home but it is not a common practice.

In my community here in Brooklyn I noticed a lot of elderly people living on their own. They are still independent. I always saw them in the gym. When we ran Brooklyn Half Marathon there are a lot of elderly runners who can run faster than me. They take good care of themselves.  I love how these elderly Russian women dress up even when they are going to the corner store. However, elderly people are always the victims of robbery. These are just the things that I observe in my neighborhood. There are also some elderly people who need 24hrs medical assistance so their family decided to put them in nursing home. Nursing homes have good facilities, recreational activities, 24 hrs medical support team. However, I feel that they would be better of with their family. It just my personal opinion. 

Living in the city is stressful.You always have to compete with job. It's hard to find real friends that would really care for you. Depression is a common illness among younger people. In western society when you're 18 you can leave your house and be independent. Young adults would go to the city and try to live their dreams. 

In Philippines, the only time you leave you your house is when you get married. Sometimes even married family members still live under the same roof either because of poverty or because of comfort. Sometimes when couple are both working the grandparents or other relatives would take care of their kids. There are pros and cons of extended family structure. Culture and religion are also factors in deciding factor to live independently or with extended family.

Recently there was a new trend in America. College educated adults are going back to their family's house because of economic issues. Young adults would preferred to go back home because its hard to find full time job. Even with full time job they are stuck with college education loan. 

In America when parents are both working the kids will be in a daycare. But Day care is so expensive.  For single parents in America it is a struggle to be a successful parent and have a career.Minimum wage earner parents have difficulty to find affordable and child friendly child care services. Unlike in Philippines you can always find a household help that would take care of the kids and do your household chores.


 Toneth de Leon, Farah, Shipu, and Dina Dulot

Before I was complaining about this Filipino culture of taking care of your family even you have your own family. Then I realize you cannot be truly happy if your family is miserable. You cannot be considered successful if you failed in your marriage or your kids are in trouble.  Being away from your family will make you realize that you are lucky to have a family. Filipino in Philippines should be thankful that they are with their families. No matter how hard life is it is always easier when you have your family's love and support.

Filipinos in Philippines are always thinking that OFWs are rich because we work in America we earn dollars. But, if you always convert US dollars to Philippine Peso you would think its a lot of money. But we also spend money in dollars. After paying our debt in credit card, rent, responsibilities in Philippines there is almost nothing left to us. Even if we want to go home to visit our families we can't because we don't have enough savings. We chose to be away with our families because we want fulfill our dreams in America and help our families in Philippines. Working abroad is not a fairy tale. Some enjoy comfortable lives while some are victim of abuse.  I pray that someday Filipino don't have to choose between their job or their family. 

I remember in college we had a lecture in Sociology about ethnocentrism and xenocentrism. Ethnocentrism is a belief that one's own culture, lifestyle and products are better than others. While xenocentrism is the opposite of ethnocentrism. Filipinos are xenocentric. We love imported products, we wanted to have whiter skin, and dream of living in America. Maybe its time to appreciate our own culture and support our own products.

OFW around the world would travel miles to find the nearest Filipino or Asian store. My husband and I would go to Jollibee once a month to eat chickenjoy. Our days won't be complete without eating steamed rice or kanin. Maybe I am just homesick so I'm writing this article. Hopefully we can visit Philippines next year.  

Next time I will be writing things that I learn in American culture to be fair. To my fellow OFW I hope you enjoy reading my blog. Thank you for reading my my blog. Comments and suggestions are welcome. 

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