Despite the fact that many Filipinos want to migrate to Canada, USA, Australia or elsewhere in search of a better life, Filipinos are very warm to immigrants in the country. This is according to Gallup International Voice of the People where the Philippines has 87% favor rate regarding migrating foreigners.
Personally, I feel good if a Malaysian or Fijian would settle in the Philippines because it dispels my fear that my country is not a good place for foreigners to settle. Just a few days ago, I saw a gruesome murder of a Japanese tourist in Malalag, Davao del Sur and it casts a warning to incoming tourists who might fall into the same fate. (Sidebar: I saw my Computer Engineering batchmate Deozar Almasa, now a polic inspector, interviewed on TV)
Coupled with high regard for foreigners (the Filipino way of colonial mentality is still alive and kicking), we have the inclination to like them because many of us think they are better than us (not just whiter skin nor better English twang).
I would agree on what these foreigners feel for my country. Every time I go to the Philippines for vacation, I am almost tempted to do a spending splurge because cost of living is low (please do not misinterpret this as “prices are affordable”; to a foreigner or someone who worked abroad, prices of food or transportation is cheaper here). That is why when Thailand introduced “Thailand Elite” country club style of luring big spending retirees, I thought the Philippines should do the same. The Philippines is haven to retirement package seekers because of its low cost of living, something retirees look for to spend their chest of retirement benefits.
Inspite of this, the Philippines is not as diverse as Singapore or Hong Kong or Dubai where foreign nationals compose a significant percentage in population. Understandably, the negative impression of the country’s bureaucracy, corruption and government inefficiency played a role to keep foreigners at bay.
This fact does not seem to prevent other migrant groups from pursuing their desire to be in the Philippines. Look at the Chinese migrants from Fujian province of China many years ago. They now have become a cornerstone of the country’s business structure, owning banks, airlines, shirt factories and huge shopping malls.
Malaysians, Israelis and Vietnamese follow the Filipinos’ warmness towards migrants. Obviously, Canada embraces the idea of immigration to fill their vast landscape with people who deserve the Canadian way of good life. There it will not be surprising (or shall I say culture shocking) to board a cab driven by an Iranian or attended by a Filipina nurse for medication.
What surprised me was Thailand who holds the highest xenophobic (the feeling of animosity towards foreigners) rate in Asia. I see a lot of Americans, Europeans and Japanese in Thailand (probably most of them were tourists but I also know many foreigners live there). I wasn’t too surprised anymore when I imagined Thailand’s geographic location. Bounded by war-torn Cambodia, Laos and Burma, Thais could feel their progress is hampered by migration of these citizens from neighboring countries, often fleeing the junta government, civil war and simply for a better life.
Turkey, Taiwan and Hong Kong are among those places whose citizens do not regard highly the foreign migrants in their territory. I would agree for Hong Kong. Discrimination is present (I assume it is present for any society).
But the news about the Filipino openness to having a neighbor with different color of skin or speak another language is encouraging. I can imagine that this foreigner will be taken cared of very well (showing around or cooking food for him, hopefully not asking for payment later).
When I was a kid, I had a classmate who is an American (or was he British) named Edward Miller. In school he is taunted by children as “Amerkanong Hilaw” (half-baked American because of his complexion). But I also thought he enjoyed our company then because he often gets the attention he deserves not just in taunting but for any other needs he may raise.