The preceding blog on Migration, entitled “The New Wave of Immigrants in the U.S.” briefly discussed on why people emigrate. People move freely, transport out their families to other countries and look for better opportunities, if and when given the chance. It is their inherent right to travel to any place either for leisure or for exploration purposes, be it for business, employment or to build a new home.
When people decide to move out to a new place, what they have in mind is a positive stance, that everything will fall into place, that it will make their lives in the future much better and easier than the previous one. In the long run, once they become successful, they would feel even much better as they could be a “source of pride” not only to their new home but to their home country as well.
Filipino immigrants can aptly be the epitome of a global immigrant; they represent what modern day migration is all about. Filipinos are almost everywhere in all four corners of the globe, from extremely hot Arabian deserts in the Middle East to extremely cold and all year round frozen land of Siberia in the Northern Hemisphere. They are the immigrants who are the most highly dispersed in terms of manpower complement: professionals, technical, health workers, skilled and low-skilled. They are the most flexible people and can easily come to grips with living in a foreign country. Filipinos are hardworking, innovative and persistent, although some may have “sticky feet” but most of them would want to reach what they have aimed for.
Based on latest available statistics from the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, there are approximately 10.5 million Filipino immigrants in more than 210 different countries, mainly in North America (United States and Canada), Middle East and South East Asia, Europe and Australia. Forty seven (47%) of them are permanent migrants, forty (40%) are temporary migrants while thirteen (13%) are irregular or undocumented.
In terms of their contributions to their home country’s economy, latest World Bank data revealed that the Philippines placed 3rd among the top recipients of remittances (from Filipino immigrants around the globe) amounting to US $26 billion, next to India and China.
Apart from the said economic contribution, there are other potentials and gains to unlock from Filipino migration. The Filipinos, for instance, who are living and working abroad serve as “Ambassadors” of their homelands while working hard to earn for their day to day living. A major portion of their hard-earned dollars redound to the economy of their adopted country, e.g. savings and daily expenditures. They are able to promote their homeland’s tourism, culture and tradition, and the people’s unique hospitality. They are also able to transfer technology gained from their home lands, bring new perspectives and skills into the new place.
In the United States, Filipinos are currently the second largest Asian community (about 3.4 million immigrants plus 1 million undocumented) based on the report of the U.S. Census Bureau, and majority of them are situated in the West Coast, particularly California, although, there is a growing Filipino community in the East Coast particularly in New York and New Jersey. The total figure of 4.4 million Filipinos in the U.S. is incredibly just a million lower than that of the total population of Singapore (5.3 million) and of Norway(5.1 million)!
NewYork City (NYC) has the most diverse neighborhood in the U.S. While the Chinese and Indians occupy the top immigrants post, the Filipino community are likewise vocal and visible in community organizations and events. Some Filipino individuals are making waves in NYC due to their contributions and nature of work. The Philippine Consul General (ConGen Mario L. De Leon, Jr.), himself, was elected as the President of the Society of Foreign Consuls to New York. In the academe, the investigative journalist (Sheila Coronel ) recently assumed her new post as the academic dean at the Columbia Journalism School in New York, previously she was a Director in the same University. Of course, there are some Filipinos who are already an icon of success, the likes of Loida Nicolas-Lewis (a millionaire, businesswoman, civic leader, philanthropist and a staunch supporter of the Obama Administration and recently one of the Board of Trustees of the Migration Policy Institute) and Monique Lhuillier (an entrepreneur and a renowned fashion designer).
A New Face of a U.S. Immigrant There are lots of young “new faces” of Filipino immigrants in NYC who are starting to “make ripples” in a brook, so to speak, particularly in music and arts. They may be in groups or individually but definitely they own certain qualities that would help them rise from the ranks. Filipinos love music and music loves them too! But there are people who are simply more gifted with angelic voices which serve as their competitive edge over the rest.
Kay “Tata” Habana is one of the Filipinos who is gifted with a sheer talent in singing. Her best assets are her rich and dusky soprano voice and a striking physical beauty from her tri-racial roots being a Filipino, Canadian and Spaniard at the same time. But her positive and cordial attitude make her stand out among the rest, with no airs but just a humble “Pinay” heart.
Kay left Canada to join her Aunt who was based in NYC in 2006, the year when the U.S. economy entered a recession. She came to New York after staying in Canada for a noble purpose: to take care of her sick Aunt who was afflicted with cancer at that time. Unfortunately, her Aunt passed away after a year. Although, it was difficult for her to move on in a fast-paced NYC life, she started scouting for jobs that would suit her profession in Journalism being a University graduate in Mass Communications in Canada. She accepted writing jobs once in a while on a part time basis but her love for singing is always at the top of her priority lists.
Due to her previous stellar performances in musical events while still in the Philippines and in Canada, her “golden voice coupled with the looks” was well discovered and recognized not only by her home countrymen but by non-Filipino crowd as well. She gets to be invited to sing in various cultural and religious related events not only in NYC but in other nearby tri-state areas, with the audience always being impressed by her outstanding performance, going home relaxed and happy! It was relatively easy for her to join the famous NY-based San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir of NY, Inc., she’s definitely a “plus” to the most talent-filled Filipino singing group in NYC.
While Kay has no formal education in music, her innate gift of exceptional musical talent oozes self-confidence whenever she prepares on stage for any performance. Kay is grateful to have been able to perform in the Big Apple’s best and world reknowned performance venues such as the Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall of the Lincoln Center. Her musical genre is varied from classical, pop, original Filipino music as in name it, she can do it! She is likewise active and visible in fund-raising events and charity shows, one of which was the Typhoon Yolanda victim’s fund-raising event. Recently, she was invited to sing in one of the United Nations events and from then on, she became a valued regular guest of the world’s largest international organization as she get to be invited again to perform in its upcoming gatherings.
In December last year, Kay was successful to launch her first debut concert at the Philippine Consulate Center, which was dubbed as “Christmas Klasik with Kay Habana”. She is also contemplating on working her first original music which will be released hopefully by yearend. When asked what does she do during her sparetime, I thought she loved to respond to the question as she had a lot to say. Just like me, she loved reading books of Robert Ludlum and a frequent visitor of Barnes and Noble and the NY’s Public Libraries. Her favorite pastimes are baking, cooking, designing and sewing and all these provide physical therapy to all her senses!
Aside from her singing career, her son “Kael” occupies a big space in her heart and would always be the first among her to do lists. “Kael” serves as her regular date especially during this summer season, in going to parks, on a “hot cocoa” talks, eating icecream, going to church and even reading the Bible.
Kay candidly quips when I asked her thoughts about Filipinos leaving their homecountry to work abroad: “As a FilAm in NYC, I see a lot of Filipinos who are very much like me. I mean, they are here because they want something better for their loved ones back home. Honestly though, I wasn’t one of those kids who dreamed of coming to America. I enjoyed life in the Philippines as a young kid, and I always felt too blessed. God just had a different plan for my life, though. But like these Pinoys living abroad, I share the same aspirations and goals. Being that I’m already here– it’s a gift, and it’s a matter of wanting to use this gift to serve only myself or the many others who need my help. I chose the latter. There’s no fulfillment in living for yourself. Never.”
What Kay mentioned in the last two sentences of the foregoing paragraph, i.e. choosing to use the “gift to serve” to others in need, already made her ! She definitely portrays an immigrant who is starting to make waves as far as her singing career is concerned but at the same time had already started sharing her time and talent to others. Her message could pose as a reminder for each and every migrant : That working doubly hard for yourself alone may not necessarily give you the comfort and happiness that you desire in life.
Regardless of status in life, one can always lend a hand, big or small, to fellow migrants especially those who are in dire need. To make waves, to make ripples, or to make a name in another country may be quite easy, but there is always an accompanying responsibility. It takes guts and a lot of things to do. Yes, you need to be functionally and technically well-equipped (e.g leadership skills, financial consideration, talent, etc.), sometimes luck too! But that is not all. Each and evey migrant can be real successful especially if he or she has the heart and the true desire to help others beyond perceived limits. When you are able to faithfully share your gifts and serve others with them, that is the true measure of success and the best gift you can give to God in return.
Note: Kay “Tata” Habana’s featured photo shown above was taken in NYC by Aries Custodio .