Monday, December 29, 2008

Stand Up or Turn a Blind Eye

Reaction to an Anonymous Comment

(In this blog we respect everyone’s opinions and comments. This is a marketplace of ideas. Now, let me react to a comment under the “Fun Polls” thread that was posted by an anonymous writer on December 28, 2008 3:03 PM. We are also pasting the full comment at the end of this article.)

At the surface, Anonymous seems to have good arguments, but looking closely at his/her assertions, I can say that many of the points raised miss the point if not flawed altogether. Primarily, I want to react on the following assertion of Anonymous:

"I am sure if the agency were owned by Americans, we will not react the same way we react now. Because the agency is owned by a former Filipino citizen, you thought that Filipino values including an act of charity and benevolence should be in the picture. Business is business. I hope we know that. Contract is contract. It is a mutual agreement."

I do not agree that if the agency is owned by Americans, I, as well as many others will not react the same way. The concept of fairness, justice, and respect for fellow humans are universal and the nationality of the owner of the business is not an issue here. In fact, most likely I will react more strongly if the abuses are being done by a foreigner because there will be a racist undertone.

You say, “Business is business”. Exactly! That is exactly our point here. Now, why are Lulu and her supporters (like you) are saying “Be thankful that you were brought here.” That viewpoint is not business-like. In business circles it is the agency that should be thankful to the clients because we are the ones who is giving life to the business. And is it not that Lulu and her cohorts are the ones using the Filipino value of “utang na loob” (“debt of gratitude”) in always pointing out that lets just keep quite and swallow the injustices and just be thankful?

We, as clients, paid, in fact overpaid, our placement fees for the services of the agency and it is the agency’s end of the agreement to bring us here, there should be no “utang na loob” factor here if we are to assert a purely service provider-client relationship.

Then you say “Contract is contract”. Again I say: Exactly! The contract stipulates 10% fee and we were made to pay 20%. The contract stipulates fees to be paid monthly and we were made to pay upfront. And is there a stipulation in the contract that the agency will represent us in lease agreements and that we cannot move to a new house within one year? Is it in the contract that we should not communicate and socialize with the Filipino community? Further there are some provisions in the contract that are contestable that could be voided. For your information, a contract as a mutual agreement can only be enforced if it is not contrary to law. (We now have lawyers working on this.)

And why are you talking about our need for professionalism and you do not even mention the way Lulu snarls and shouts at us. Is that the type of professionalism you are trying to market? Have you experienced being shouted at and threatened by Lulu Navarro? Maybe not. But many of us have. We have been very professional at voicing our concerns with Lulu and the agency but we are met with intimidations and shouts and threats like “Gusto nyo ibalik ko kayo sa Pilipinas!” (“Do you want me to return you to the Philippines!”) Now you will say that we are the ones who lack professionalism?

Further, contrary to your claim that we are using the Filipino values of charity and benevolence, we are in fact NOT. We are not asking for charity from Lulu Navarro or benevolence on the part of the agency. We simply want to be treated fairly and professionally as clients. Come to think of it, you are the one who is espousing the flawed Filipino values of “pagtitiis” and “pagtitimpi” (enduring suffering or abuse) amidst tyranny; and as discussed above the insulting version of “utang na loob” (“debt of gratitude”).

We are not trying to find “instant comfort” as you suggests. Most of us come from modest backgrounds too and we know what “paghihirap” (“hardship”) means. I agree there are more Filipinos who underwent greater hardships. But that is not a reason that we will turn a blind eye on oppression. There is no logic in that assertion – just because others experienced more hardships therefore its ok for us to be subjected to abuses. Clearly, our difference is that you opt to close your eyes to abuse and oppression; and we opt to stand up for our rights just as any freedom-loving, justice-seeking person would do.

Now, are you in effect condoning the illegal and corrupt activities of Lulu Navarro (a convicted felon who by the way is not new to such kinds of illegal activities) such as non-issuance of official receipts, overcharging of fees, misrepresenting us in apartment leases, earning kickbacks in apartment rent, opening our SS numbers without our consent, etc. etc.?

Also, we would like to inform you that while we are in this struggle, we do not neglect our work, which is to teach. We very well know that we should strive to become better teachers and show our employers that we are indeed worth every penny that we receive. In fact, it’s hard to separate teaching from this struggle. As teachers we mold children. And how can we mold them to be strong, freedom-loving citizens if we ourselves cannot stand up against tyranny. How can we teach them the bravery of Martin Luther King, the resolve of Mahatma Gandhi, the literary advocacies of Mark Twain, if we don’t even internalized their messages?

Lastly, please do not equate standing up for your rights, exposing corruption and expressing opinions as “living in gossip, complaints and animosity” or simply as “dramas.” Do not equate standing up against injustices as something negative or something to be ashamed of. The bedrock of this very country is in fact the struggles of a nation for equality, freedom, fairness and justice. Don’t you ever forget that…

Gurong Sulong

A Comment from an Anonymous Teacher
(as posted under the "Fun Polls" thread)

I have been reading this blog for the past days. I am one of the teachers being deployed to the US by the Universal Placement and the Pars Placement. Yes, it is true that the first few years are extremely challenging but I will become smooth in years to come.

We, teachers have arrived in the US with H1-B visa, meaning our stay is only temporary unless we will be petitioned by our employer to live and work permanently. We might lose our job any moment (I hope not). No one is ever sure who will have his job tomorrow. Some brag that we are competent teachers that the school districts will not give us up. Very funny and assuming!!! I thought it was rather a boast in its greatest sense. We are not citizens of the United States. We are petitioned only to fill in the gap on teacher shortage. Now that recession has been gobbling the country, many citizens have been interested in the job. I have a lot of friends employed in teaching and non-teaching jobs who are also in the brink of losing their jobs. Remember guys, that frugality is the name of the game in the US nowadays. Also remember, the doctrine FIRST-IN -FIRST OUT. It is already happening in California.

Guys, it is good to have Filipino values and maintain them. However, such values might not work here in the US. We are here to solve employers’ problems and not the other way around. I thought it would be good to view the situations with a positive and hopeful perspective. Let us face our situation with grace and with a marked degree of professionalism. People who live in gossip, complaints and animosity will not see the beauty of life being intertwined with challenges. People want instant comfort. That might not happen here in an instant. It takes a great deal of perseverance and positive outlook in life. Many Filipino in the US started with a lot worse situation than we have now. Years of perseverance and patience, they reaped their success in the end.

I remember the times when we lined up in the Philippines for interview for US teaching jobs. We were extremely nice. We signed the contract calmly. We knew it would cost us something. We knew what we would have to do the following year. Now, that the contract is in its execution, many of us are revolting. Why did we sign the contract in the first place? I assume that the contract is not the reason for your revolt; it is rather your loan in the Philippines and your personal obligation to your family. Do not attribute your financial difficulty to Universal Placement. Your financial difficulty is a product of your own decision. You did whatever had to be done. There are consequences in your own action.

I am sure if it the agency were owned by Americans, we will not react the same way we react now. Because the agency is owned by a former Filipino citizen, you thought that Filipino values including an act of charity and benevolence should be in the picture. Business is business. I hope we know that. Contract is contract. It is a mutual agreement.

I am very thankful to Lulu Navarro. I arrived in the US without a family and friends to start with. She found me a place to stay. It is not her job to look for housing but she did it because she knows that it is hard for us to find a place and have access to transportation initially. She is not a housing agency but she is going out of her way for us to continue with our life. It is challenging yes. Please forget about instant comfort as we are in an entirely new environment.

Whether or not housing is good, what matters is we are housed. It is a lot better than looking for apartments or houses ourselves. I am sure we cannot find one as we did not have our SS number and credit history to start with. Did we have money to pay upfront for deposits and similar charges? Lulu did this for all of us. Some people are just inherently negative. All they want is to take and take and not give or share. Let us learn to be appreciative too.

On the other hand, it is a fact that a number of us borrowed money from the financing agency in order to fly here. However, it is our choice to borrow. Never were we forced to borrow money from these financial institutions. It might have been suggested or recommended but it was never ever forced. I am in the same situation so I also experienced the same. All agencies in the Philippines have partnership with these financing institutions. I assume that the interests are big as they are loans without collateral.

I just hope that our employers will not get tired of our drama. It is our personal drama and I do not see any reason why employers have to be included in the casting of our own drama. Employers do not want dramas. We solve their dramas. I am not surprised when our employer will get rid of us because of dramas. Now, will you still boast that you are competent teachers and that you are teachers to die for? I doubt it. I hope that we will not be labeled as drama queens and drama king because of our own action. I hope not. The worst scenario to happen is losing our job, the domino effect is more terrible than you imagine. Think about your own actions guys. I suggest that you just work and impress your employer within your job description. Do not include them in your drama. We are Filipinos and our employers are not. Chances of cultural differences and misunderstanding are at a certain degree. Filipinos have their own thinking so do foreigners. I hope you will not lose your job and your family will suffer very badly as a result.

This is my opinion. Thank you very much.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fun Polls

We have been working so hard for the past months while Lourdes Navarro laughed all the way to the bank. We had a taste of a white Christmas last week but the fun just melted so fast and we realized we’re back to reality – the reality that it’s hard to have a merry Christmas if our pockets are empty that we can’t even send enough “pamasko” ("Christmas goodies") back home.

So we thought of creating something fun in this blog. Starting this week we will do a weekly survey and we will start with a fun poll.

The free party that was held last Saturday (Dec 13) was hyped up by Lulu and cohorts as if it will be a big Christmas bash, the same way Lulu hyped up her power to influence the school districts. In this week’s polls we want to get your inputs to describe your experience in the Christmas party that was nothing but disaster.

At any rate, we would like to greet everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Opinion Poll on Lulu’s Christmas Party

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Support From Filipino Community

We are happyto share below the statement emailed by the Filipino community in Baton Rouge. In behalf of the afffected teachers, we thank our compatriots for their encouragement and valuable support.


We, representing the members of the Filipino-American Association of Greater Baton Rouge (FAAGBR), want to voice out our strong support for the Filipino teachers in their struggle against the injustice and repression of the recruiting agency which brought them to the United States.

We believe that these professionals have been unjustly burdened with exorbitant fees. We are aware of the fact that many of these teachers could barely save up for themselves and their families because of the excessive fees that they have to cover every month for their loans.

What makes it more disturbing is that the agency curtails the personal freedom of these hard-working teachers. Being able to choose a comfortable place to reside is a freedom that we as Filipinos and Filipino-Americans value. However the agency prohibits them from exercising this right.

Further, we are also saddened that these Filipino teachers have experienced such horrible treatment from the agency’s owner. They have been threatened to be sent home to the Philippines if they don’t blindly follow the manipulative rules set down by this recruiter. They have been intimidated with lawsuits if they voice out their grievances.

That these professionals were even discouraged from socializing with the greater Filipino community in Baton Rouge, speaks volume of how this placement agency and its owner seeks to control them.

This is the United States, the land of the free and land of opportunities. These Filipino migrant teachers do not deserve this kind of treatment. These sincere and dynamic professionals should be able to pursue the opportunities they have without fear and intimidation.

Go on, be strong, stand up and follow your dreams in this great and free land! In your quest for fairness and justice, we offer you our moral support and whatever assistance that we may be able to give that would further your cause.

More power to all of you!

Filipino-American Association of Greater Baton Rouge (FAAGBR)