Through the generations, many of the Filipinos in Hawaii attained their dreams of greener pastures, and other Filipinos continue to go there in search of more decent opportunities. Their dreams, however, have been crumbling in the face of the financial crisis, which hit the US in 2008. They have not been spared from the effects of the crisis.
By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
HONOLULU — My mother, Zena Remollino Carpio (she remarried a few years after getting widowed in 2001), went to Hawaii in 2004 with the hope of eventually getting a better-paying job than those she had held in the Philippines in the years before that.
She quickly applied for permanent resident status, which would allow her not only to stay in the US indefinitely but also to work there. She fulfilled the required two-year minimum residency period while at the same time going through the legally complicated and financially draining process. A mix-up in the files at Immigrations jeopardized her status, and while she fortunately had back-up copies of her papers, she had to go all over again through the two-year minimum residency requirement and repeat all the necessary processes.
She was eventually granted the status of a permanent resident in July 2008, and was ecstatic about the prospects of finally being able to look for a job.
Unfortunately, by that time, the financial crisis was already upon the US, and Hawaii – which is thousands of miles away from the mainland – was not spared. She did find a job, as a secretary in a small law office, but her employer could only hire her part-time (she goes to work Thursdays and Fridays).
My mother is not alone in her plight; there are others who are in worse straits.
My aunt, Flordeliza Frias, used to earn considerably from caregiving jobs she took on. After the financial crisis set in, however, the jobs have been few and far between. Three months ago she was again employed as a caregiver, but the two people she was referred to proved to be a difficult lot.
Fortunately, she had inherited her late husband’s social security pension, and could live on it without having to work.
My mother’s neighbor in Honolulu, Luming, lost her $20/hour caregiving job along with her co-caregivers shortly after the financial crisis set in and their patient’s family decided they could no longer afford their services.
Luming now works for the Hawaii state government, in a program that employs senior citizens. The job, however, is just temporary, and pays only $7.25 an hour while allowing them to work for no more than 18 hours a week.
Veneranda, who is in her early 70s and is a common friend of my mother and my aunt, worked for a Japanese-American family along with two other caregivers, who are both Filipinos. After the financial crisis fell upon the US, the family fired all of them.
Since the Hawaiian sugar plantations started recruiting farm workers from the Ilocos Region and Negros in 1906 and 1909, respectively, Filipinos searching for a better life have continuously migrated to Hawaii. Today, Filipinos in Hawaii number an estimated 175,147 out of a total population of 1.29 million, based on the American Community Survey of 2008, and make up one of the largest Asian ethno-racial groups on the island.
Through the generations, many of the Filipinos in Hawaii attained their dreams of greener pastures, and other Filipinos continue to go there in search of more decent opportunities.
Their dreams, however, have been crumbling in the face of the financial crisis, which hit the US in 2008. They have not been spared from the effects of the crisis.
“Filipinos here are affected mostly through layoffs,” said Felipe Tan, who works for the city and county government of Honolulu, in a recent interview.
“There are still jobs available out there, but they are far too difficult and draining for the amount they pay,” my mother said. “And believe me when I tell you that over here, for the money you get paid, you will be squeezed for the last ounce of whatever you could sweat out.”
Those who have been “lucky” enough not to lose their jobs have been affected in other ways, like salary cuts. “Salaries are getting cut by an average of 8-10 percent,” said Cora Avinante, an immigrations lawyer, in an interview. Avinante added that Filipinos are among the workers and employees in Hawaii who are increasingly finding their work hours reduced.
In 2001, US financial institutions offered low interest rates for home mortgage loans; even those with low income or virtually no collateral were encouraged to apply for home loans. Their loans, which became known as “subprime mortgages,” accumulated in US financial institutions, starting in 2001. To spread the risk exposure of banks for these subprime mortgages, these were “securitized” in which home mortgage loan packages were combined with others, packaged and sold as bonds and securities called collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). These were guaranteed in credit default swaps by insurance companies and sold to other banks, financial investment houses and companies in the US that deal in speculative investments for high returns.
But since the last quarter of 2006, borrowers – especially those with subprime mortgages – increasingly failed to pay their amortizations. This caused a ripple effect on the banks and investment houses holding both the mortgages and the CDOs, as well as those which issued CDS, leading to a series of bankruptcies of banks and investment houses which were touted as “too big to fail.” The US financial crisis led to company closures and the subsequent losses of jobs. (Bulatlat.com)