Monday, August 15, 2011

Saudization means fewer overseas work opportunities for Filipinos

(This blog has been published in last August 11:

Through the years, much has been written about the misfortunes that plagued overseas Filipino workers. Countless OFWs have been abused physically and sexually. Many were forced to work in extremely inhumane circumstances under cruel employers (who probably regard their workers as a material possession). For sure, maltreatment of OFWs happen anywhere in the world, but the stories of abuse coming from those who worked in Middle Eastern nations are more common – and more disturbing[1]. Nevertheless, nothing can stop Filipinos from seeking overseas employment.

With over a million Filipinos currently employed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia[2], the recently implemented Nitaqat system (or “Saudization” of the work force) is certainly not good news for the Philippine economy. Our nation’s labor export policy has been in place for over three decades now, having been initiated by then President Ferdinand Marcos[3]. This scheme has mitigated the country’s perpetual unemployment problem. According to the latest labor figures, there are 11.3 million Filipinos who are unemployed[4]. OFWs had also kept the economy afloat through the billions of dollars in cash remittance they’ve sent back home annually[5].

The realities cannot be denied. Even those who have graduated with honors from the Philippines’ best universities are having a hard time finding a job. Many eventually settle for the first job offer that comes their way – never mind if the compensation package is not at all attractive (or if the work has nothing to do with what one has specialized in). As economists always point out, underemployment is preferable to unemployment. It is also a fact that salaries earned by those who opt to work locally pale in comparison to what one can possibly earn in other countries.

Contrary to insinuations that the Saudization policy was implemented merely as a revenge for the recent investigations conducted by the Philippine Congress regarding the abuse of OFWs in the Middle East, the scheme was actually put into place because the oil kingdom is also experiencing worsening unemployment. Arab News reported last month that as much as 10% of the entire population does not have jobs. Among females, unemployment could be as high as 30%, the paper added[6].

The recently implemented “Saudization” of the work force is certainly not good news for the Philippines.

The Saudi government appears all set to implement the said policy strictly, giving companies just a few months to increase the number of Saudis in their workforce, lest they be dealt with “punitive measures.” The government of KSA has set a fixed percentage of Saudi employees depending on the industry. “Red” companies, for instance, are also not allowed to renew work visas for their foreign employees. Thus, OFWs who initially planned to have a brief vacation to the Philippines will probably no longer be allowed to come back.

With the global financial crisis still lingering and with no end in sight, the job security of people who work overseas are in jeopardy. For example, since the unemployment in America remains high at 9.2% (or anout 14 million Americans)[7], the government has made it harder for immigrants (whether legitimate or undocumented) to find work. American politicians, meanwhile, never fail to demonize in their speeches companies who outsource their operations overseas. Americans, after all, always rail about people who “take” away their jobs.

Given these realities, it is totally understandable for affluent nations to prioritize their own people when it comes to giving jobs. Labor export-dependent countries like the Philippines have no other option but to start adapting to this unfavorable situation. Reliance on foreign countries to solve a nation’s unemployment woes is not sustainable. This cannot go on forever.

[1] Robles, Raissa. Saudis consider maids as part of their furniture. (Personal blog). Accessed July 21, 2011.

[2] _____________. Commission on Filipinos Overseas. Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos. Philippine Overseas Employment Agency website ( Retrieved July 21, 2011.

[3] O’Neil, Kevin. Labor Export as Government Policy: The Case of the Philippines. Migration Policy Institute website. Retrieved March 14, 2011.

[4] ________. SWS: Unemployment up, now affects 11.3M Filipinos. GMA News Online. Retrieved May 29, 2011. (Report published May 23, 2011)

[5] Olchondra, Riza. “Remittances to fuel economic growth.” Philippine Daily Inquirer website. Retrieved March 14, 2011.

[6] _______. Labor Ministry outlines Saudization percentage. Arab News. Accessed July 20, 2011.

[7] _______. Employment Situation Summary. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed July 21, 2011.

If parents and teachers won't educate children about sex, who will?

Avoiding any discussion of sex at home and in the classroom creates a huge void of information that has to be filled. Curious minds will never stop asking about sex, and who will be there to answer those questions? School children spend most of their time with peers, and given this situation, uninformed buddies will most likely be their primary source of information about sex. No wonder misconceptions about sex linger on! We certainly don’t want kids moving into their teenage years (and early adulthood) badly uninformed about such a delicate topic. It’s not right to proceed into a battle suffering from cluelessness.

I still remember how my classmates in Grade 5, particularly the boys, went berserk when our Science teacher jokingly said that “ang mga walang bulbol ay hindi magkakaanak.” We were then discussing about the human reproductive system, and if my memory serves me right, that is the only time sex was discussed in class during my years in Manila’s Juan Luna Elementary School. I was only 10 years old then, and I neither knew what bulbol is, nor did I ask anyone about it. I did not ask my classmates, since I’m scared they will laugh at my ignorance. I also did not ask my mother about it because I find it too embarrassing (my mom is a very devout Catholic, which explains why she named me after two saints). I only learned about what bulbol is when I was in high school.

Expectedly, reproductive system was once again discussed during our biology class in Ramon Magsaysay High School - Manila. However, the emphasis was more on how germ (sex) cells multiply. In other words, the discussion was highly technical. Practical topics related to the subject were shunned. In the textbook we used as reference (a book simply titled Biology by Carmelita Capco), there’s actually a lesson both natural and artificial family methods, but unfortunately, those were never discussed in class. I just hope my former classmates took the time to read that part.

During my high school junior year, my teacher in MAPEH (Music, Arts, Physical education, and Health) reiterated in our class that “sex is sacred.” Knowing her age and her religiosity, those views are understandable. However, she also shared in our class a totally wrong view of masturbation (even if she is an MA holder). She liked it to the extraction of coconut milk (paggata)! She warned us males: “Huwag kayong gata nang gata!” According to her, repeatedly doing so would adversely affect the quality of the gata (an obvious reference to sperm) in the long run. I highly doubt though if any of my classmates took her seriously.

Scientifically speaking, her remarks have no scientific basis. There has never been any study that links masturbation to physical disabilities among newborns. It does not even cause harm to anyone who does it. In fact, Newsweek even came out with a piece late last year saying that “the act” ( can even help in procreation. Evidently, the negative views about it has been molded by conservative dogmas on sexuality. This makes me wonder: should teachers be allowed to inject their religious beliefs into class discussions?

Given these anecdotes, one cannot really rely on schools to get sufficient knowledge about sex. How do you bridge the gap, then? More importantly, whose responsibility is it to give sex education? Lest it is still not clear to my readers, I totally believe that sex is really necessary in our lives. I think parents have the primary responsibility to do that. Parents, ideally, can talk to their children about such sensitive matters without malice. I am assuming that parents themselves are well-informed about sex, and honestly, this is something no one can assure.

Parents must know how to approach their kids about the subject. Sex is a very important and indispensable part of our lives, and it must be talked about. I don’t know why others consider it a taboo. Another question is, at what age should parents start discussing the subject to their kids? A nun I asked about it told me that it should be done at the “appropriate time.” But how do you determine that? For me, it depends on a child’s level of maturity. As I wrote earlier, my Mom never talked to me about sex, aside from warning me repeatedly (when I’m in my late teenage years) to avoid any “disgrasya.” I heeded her.

Leaving sex education up to teachers is no easy task, too. First, the course curricula of the subjects involved (MAPEH, EPP, Science, and Home Economics) must be updated. Times are changing fast, and teachers should not limit their discussion on the parts of reproductive system and how cell division happens. They must also talk about how significant sex is on human lives. The goal here is to make students understand the implications of sex in their lives. After letting students know the basics of the reproductive system, the teacher can start exploring the more relevant aspects of it. I know others might find the views I am espousing here as disturbing. As they say, if there are ideas that promote change and progress, there are also thoughts that promote backwardness.

Friday, August 12, 2011

"Why are there too many premarital pregnancies in Pinas?"

Two weeks ago, I criticized the local media for failing to provide a deeper context to the Andi Eigenmann-Albie Casiño brouhaha. I am referring to the ever-increasing incidence of premarital pregnancies in the Philippines. I shunned the term “teenage pregnancies” because I want to be more inclusive. I am not about to moralize the issue. We must take note that there are some women who wants to have a child without being married. I am in no way suggesting that premarital sex is wrong – because I believe that it is not. I am also not against having many children. Aspiring for a huge family isn’t bad, but when you know that you don’t have the means to give your would-be children quality lives, then you are being irresponsible.

After I promoted that blog about Andi Eigenmann on a Facebook group to which I am a member, a user started a discussion thread titled “Why are there too many premarital pregnancies in the Pinas (slang term for the Philippines)?” In the virtual world, one can talk about topics like this without the fear of being reprimanded by a conservative society. The thread participants (whom I cannot name since I don’t have their permission to do so) gave thought-provoking answers. I, for one, said that the inadequacy of sex education in the country plus the negligence who engage in these activities may be the root cause of the problem.I am referring to the apparent
repression of knowledge about sexuality.

A few minutes later, someone rebutted: “Sex education means using logic. Many of those with premarital pregnancies - even if they know better choose to ignore logic and indulge the EMO side of themselves (sic).” Used usually in a negative light, “emo” is the shortened version of “emotional.” Or in Filipino, this is what we say: “Nagpapadala sa emosyon.” Another user summarized this as the “love-is-blind” and “libog” (literally, sexual urge) factors. Someone, however, blamed the premarital pregnancies on pornography. He said that it gives the impression that sex is all fun while totally disregarding “what really happens if you **** (censored) somebody without protection.”

A woman, for her part, wrote: “If I get pregnant, it’s because it’s MY CHOICE and not because naghahabol ako ng lalake (figuratively, “I’m running after a man”) or I want to tie him down or all other stupid reasons people tell themselves. Better be a single mother than married and miserable.” This, I dare say, is an unconventional view in a predominantly Catholic country like the Philippines. We are used to seeing stereotypical shotgun marriages, where woman are forced to marry someone (and vice versa) because nagkabuntisan na. For a long time, it was thought that entering a shotgun marriage is much better than being called a disgrasyada. Evidently, those long-held views are now being challenged.

Some participants, meanwhile, related their personal experiences (since I talked about in the blog how almost each one of us knows someone who got pregnant before marriage). “A sister on mine was one. There are lots more among relatives. It has become common occurrence in our lives,” one shared, obviously echoing my points. Another one shared what a close relative experienced: “Her father had the clear mind not to allow them to marry UNTIL the boyfriend finished his college degree. They let her born the child unmarried and separated from the boyfriend. The whole family took turns in caring for the baby. After the boyfriend finished college, they got married and lived together.”

Needless to say, there is no single explanation behind the rising incidence of premarital pregnancies in the country. Being educated about the consequences of unprotected sex is one thing. Keeping those lessons in mind is a whole different matter. Everything depends on a person’s free will and self-discipline. But, the question remains, just how much information about sex can be learned in school? More on that in a future post.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Andi Eigenmann and the rising number of premarital pregnancies in the country

By Mark Pere Madrona

The interview with a crying Jaclyn Jose on ABS-CBN last June 29 sent shockwaves throughout this showbiz-crazed nation. Jose confirmed to the whole world that her 21-year-old daughter, young actress Andi Eigenmann, is indeed four months pregnant. Jose made the revelation amidst swirling tabloid blind items about the pregnancy.

Almost immediately, everyone (especially “netizens”) was speculating about who impregnated Eigenmann. Is it her ex boyfriend Albie Casino? Is it her current flame Jake Ejercito? Others, meanwhile, are talking about what effect this event would have in Eigenmann’s budding career.

According to reports, her mother network has lined up a number of future projects for her. Even while Eigenmann and her mother has remained tight-lipped on the pregnancy, her father, actor Mark Gil, has said nasty words about the father of her daughter’s baby. We all know that the media thrives on covering controversial personalities and intrigues, mainly because the public delights in watching that. Since the reportage has been centered on these individuals, we hear nothing about the deeper (and more relevant) story underneath the entire brouhaha.

To say that premarital pregnancies are becoming common nowadays may be an understatement. Almost all of us probably have a relative, a one-time schoolmate, or a neighbor who became pregnant before marriage. In some instances, the ones involved here are still on their teenage years. Having lost contact with most of my elementary batch mates for years, I was so surprised to see that some of my female classmates are already mothers. I learned about it through their Facebook accounts, where they uploaded pictures of their babies. At first, I naively thought those kids were either their younger siblings or pamangkins!

I’ve also had more than two unwed close relatives who became pregnant. For example, my cousin Theresa (not her real name) was only 15 when she got pregnant almost four years ago. We were playmates during our childhood days, though I am two years older than her. The father of her child works as a car shop painter near their house in Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City. Other than his daily pay, he does not get any other benefits from his employer. I even doubt if that shop is formally registered to do business.

According to a 2004 report by the World Health Organization (WHO), “the number of young adults engaging in premarital sex (PMS) has steadily increased over the years.” They cited the findings of the Young Adult Fertility Survey III (published in 2002) which stated that 40% of Filipinos between ages 20-24 have experienced PMS at least once. It was concluded that “the percentage of sexually active young adults increases with age,” and that males and urban adolescents in general are more likely to engage in PMS.

Despite the high incidence of sexual activity among young people, the same WHO literature review noted that a mere 20% of women aged 15 to 49 did not know when they are fertile during their monthly cycle (as revealed by the 2000 Family Planning Survey). And though 94.4% of unmarried girls aged 15-19 are aware of at least one contraceptive method, only 0.1% of them had actually used it (as per the 1998 National Demographic Survey).

These figures will surely be disconcerting for many, but one has to keep in mind that the numbers stated here are already obsolete. Getting more recent (and hence more realistic) statistics about these matters are very tough. Doing such an extensive study will surely be costly. Who will shoulder the expenses?

It will also be hard to put it into place since some sectors will surely vehemently oppose the initiative from the start. Lastly, how can you be sure that you are getting honest answers when you ask someone about his/her sexual behavior? It may be hard to quantify the increasing prevalence of premarital pregnancies in our society right now, but as stated earlier, it is not hard to put a human face into it.

One can only speculate as to the reason behind the rise in premarital pregnancies in the country. More often than not, such cases are unplanned by either of the parents. And while having a child is not bad per se, the problem comes when a couple is totally unprepared for the baby’s needs. So, the question now is, how do you reduce unintended premarital pregnancies? More on that in my next post.

* The figures cited above were obtained from Sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and youths in the Philippines: A review of literature and projects, 1995-2003, published by the World Health Organization – West Pacific region. This 153-page material can be downloaded for free at