Sunday, October 16, 2005

Beauty Bares the Nobility of the Nanny

The Filipina winner of the 2005 Miss International Beauty Pageant, PRECIOUS LARA QUIGAMAN was asked the following question in the finals:

Q: "What do you say to the people of the world who have typecast Filipinos as nannies?"

Her answer was as follows:
"I take no offence at being typecast as a nanny. But I am offended that educated people of the world have somehow denigrated the true sense and meaning of what a nanny is. Let me tell you what she is. She is someone who gives more than she takes. She is someone you trust to look after the very people most precious to you - your child, the elderly, yourself. She is the one who has made a living out of caring and loving other people. So to those who typecast Filipinos as nannies, thank you! It is a testament to the loving and caring culture of the Filipino people, and for that, I am forever proud, and grateful of my roots and culture."...Precious Lara Quigaman, Miss International 2005

(So what if it was rehearsed!) I hope this puts a stop to some of the resentful screeds from "nationalists" that appear from time to time, especially among the pundits of main stream media, deriding our emigrant workers as "toilet bowl cleaners of the world," or questioning the patriotism of doctors and other medical professionals who work abroad. Even when doctors work as nurses in other countries, it is still human beings whose lives they touch and heal.

We are often treated to much pious handwringing over the dwindling supply of trained workers and professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers, (though not nannies, for some reason!) Yet every outbound overseas Filipino worker (OFW) is really one problem solved to some extent, because each is one Filipino family that will likely not be starving or impoverished. If they stay, they cannot be productive. If they leave, their kith and kin will thrive.

So what's the loss? It's seems to me that so-called "brain-drain" is really a good way to "export" our way out of the most immediate problem of individual families surviving.

But what scarcities in local manpower are to be mourned, are caused by an educational system monopolized by so called free public schools that aren't really "free" and aren't particularly close to being "schools", but mere aging vats. We will be budgeting up to 120 billion pesos for DepEd next year, and still many public schools are forced to charge "fees" to cover necessary expenses and "administrative gaps" in the official support package.

I believe we need to re-examine the bases for the almost automatic call for more spending on public education because it has been a massive historic failure at doing the one thing it must do: educate the kids!

Consider this Report of the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) from 2003, which records the results in the third running of standardized tests on over 600,000 school age children from 50 countries and school systems.

The basic result is that out of all the countries in the world that participated in TIMSS, only two countries scored lower than the Philippines in Math: Morocco and Tunisia.

We did slightly better in Science, where we beat out four countries (wow): Botswanna, Saudi Arabia, Ghana and South Africa.

We did not improve over the results in 1999 and 1995 in this series of international tests coordinated by Boston College and the International Association of Educators. We have been consistent in our cellar dweller status. By the way, in 2003 6,000 Filipino students participated in the tests, which were administered here in the Philippines by the University of the Philippines NISMED.

I am not the first to point out these facts, although the administration understandably downplayed the 2003 TIMSS result, and the announced plan of Deped is to pull out of the next round of testing in 2007.

Yet we know that Filipinos living abroad have children who all excel in their schools and are the pride of their communities. The problem cannot be in our genes. It's got to be in what we allow our leaders and politicians to get away with.

There is no doubt that the public education system in the Philippines has been a massive historic failure, especially at the basic elementary and secondary education levels.

But it is not, in my humble opinion, because we lack for money allocated to the Deped. Rather, it is because we allocate about 94% of the budget for salaries to personnel (400,000 teachers, 100,000 bureaucrats, approximately). That leaves a measly 6% for capital investment and expenses; for the building of schools; buying of desks and instructional materials like textbooks and computers; and paying for electricity and water, both of which are said to be missing from many of the public schools.

So are we impoverished or just plain dumb?

Here is my analogy for this absurd situation in the public education-delivery system. Imagine you are running a package delivery service like Fedex or DHL. You go out and hire half a million truck drivers and you give them permanent lifetime contracts. But you do not pay for delivery trucks, airplanes, telephones, computers or any thing else that doesn't count votes in an election.

That is public education in the Philippines: a Fedex composed only of truck drivers.

In the world of private enterprise, which might be more palatably called "non-government businesses" such an absurdly organized delivery company as above, would never survive long enough to become a 120-billion peso a year money-losing proposition.

Now mind you, I've got nothing against spending every single centavo we can spare on education. I just don't want us spending it on government-run public education anymore. (And surely, it's time to free the public school teachers from indentured service to Comelec.)

I think it is time to reduce the role of government in education, maybe restrict the scope of its service to just elementary school, and allow private enterprise schools, including private religious schools to take on the challenge of educating a new generation of Filipinos for global competition.

But before you regurgitate the myth that private education is inherently more expensive than public education, I ask that you think again. And post a comment or two if you have some brilliant insight into how some future Filipina beauty finalist can be typecast as a doctor or nurse, poet or physicist, software engineer, writer, blogger, journalist or rocket scientist.

I just don't think public education is a very smart idea any more, if it squeezes out private enterprise and traps 88% of the youth in its aging vats.


Rank Merida said...

Welcome back. I was looking all over for you. I even asked Wretchard where in the woodwork did you go. He pretended not to know. I thought you were banished when our idol lost the election :-)

Rizalist said...

A Warm Welcome To You Rank! Nice of you to drop by. Yeah, that Wretchard. Did you see he's now a Board of Directors member of Pajamas Media with Michael Barone? John Marzan has a link to his picture on his Philippine Politics 04 site. He's in Australia though, I'm in the Archipelago, such as it is...

gari said...

Or mayber, both higher education needs to be rationalized in the same way that lara rationalize the way filipina are stereotyped as nannies...i don't believe that private education is much better than public education...i'd rather reduce the "politicking" in the education sector's management and bureaucracy rather than the goverment totally neglecting public should have been the duty of the government to make education accessible and the academicians to upgrade such...

anyway, just a thought for whatever its worth.

Just bloghopping and saw your blog from MLQ3.


Rizalist said...

Hi Gari. Glad to make your acquaintance. All comments are useful to me. I'm just one of the blind men on the elephant, so tell me what it feels like where you are, and what you see and hear. So we'll all know what to THINK.

Welcome to all the visitors from MLQ3's site! That's MANUEL L. QUEZON III, to you, (ahem). In the Blog Roll, shining-->

Thanks, Manolo!

Rizalist said...

An emailer asks if the TIMSS report reflects the state of private schools in the Philippines too.

Well in fact it does to the extent that the random sample of students who took the TIMSS test in the Philippines included private school students. But their numbers are proportional to their percentage in the actual population of 22 million kids in grade school and high school. But TIMSS measures the average score of a participating country or school district so the data does not actually discriminate that statistic. My guess is that the average private school students scored only slightly better than the average public school student, if at all. But that would not change the basic argument that a recalibration of the mix so to speak, specifically a retreat of the government from some portion of the education burden, might be a good idea.

kimosabe27 said...

Seen on a bumper sticker: Education is expensive? Try ignorance.

aa said...

We should all hail our 'nannies', our caregivers, our OFWs who do more than talk. We should give them the headline page for all their sacrifices and triumphs instead of to the trivialities, banalities and the garrulity of the more 'privileged' who set bad examples to the public. Also, we all should just eat the crab, and discard the mentality.

Rizalist said...

Wow you were up late reading Philippine Commentary last nite AA! But I see from your websites that you must've been up late reading a novel by F. Sionil Jose or poetry by Cirilo Bautista, yes? (I hope you will join NaNoWriMo) Good for you AA. Having literary idols means you've been bitten by a bug and this will be a lifelong occupation.

Besides, only fiction can tell the truth in a way that makes it seem like a memory, not a lesson in church or school.

Punzi said...

Welcome back, sir! We missed you.

Rizalist said...

Punzi! Good to see you here! I luvvv the Corner Blog. If I'm ever orphaned I want you to adopt me!

Rizalist said...

Punzi! Good to see you here on the site. If I'm ever orphaned I want you to adopt me. I luvvv the Corner Blog-->in the blogroll folks!

aa said...

Sir, how'd you know that? But the last CB book I read is not poetry, but his Galaw ng Asoge novel. Re: Nanowrimo, I hope they come up with NaShoWriMo (for short stories) or NaPoWriMo (for poetry).

I'd like to quote your last line for my blog. On the other hand, what about poetry? - you [used to] write poems. :)

Rizalist said...

Dear AA--
If you want SHORT STORIES please go right now and visit ZOETROPE. It's not what you might think. This is a huge site, owned by Francis Ford Coppola and has...well just go...

If you've never been to Zoetrope, you're in for a pleasant experience. I garontee!

Amadeo said...


one member in one email group asked the question whether such statements were actually made by Precious either at the finals or at some earlier interview.

Here are excerpts from a report filed by one Stephen Diaz, who was present during the finals:

“Philippines – The very fluent and spontaneous Precious Lara Quigaman spoke with full conviction, diverting her speech from what she submitted in the souvenir program. While in the program, she wrote something about terrorism and poverty, Lara improvised her speech and mentioned her desire to help children avail quality education. She concluded by convincing everyone that the children are our future. Her impromptu speech received a big applause from the audience.”

“After all the speeches were heard, the judges cast their votes and the emcee once again wanted to interview any English-speaking finalist. He picked Miss Dominican Republic who, despite delivering her speech in Spanish, admitted that she could actually speak English. She was asked about her chances and how she felt that she's in the Top 12. She said that she was confident with her speech, and she did her best so she was very happy and contented with her performance.”

”The emcee reached for Miss Philippines, probably he was so impressed with her speech that was delivered in flawless English. Miss Philippines said that she's happy about her inclusion in the top 12 and she thanked the judges for choosing her, with matching bow.”

Thus, no mention about the nanny question. But it could very well have been asked at an earlier interview. Lest people start judging this as some kind of urban legend, shouldn’t we maybe seek more verification regarding this?

BTW, LittleGreenFootballs had a very well-commented blog entry regarding the naming of Wretchard to the Pajamas Media board.

Rizalist said...

Hi there Amadeo! I was thinking about that very possibility myself and it wouldn't be the first time, nor the last, that I, and many others for that matter, would be KURYENTE'D by an email hoax!

Haha, good of you to point this out. Nice thing about blogging, we can always correct any error.

And if she didn't say it, well, maybe she should've!

Thanks for stopping by.

Jon Mariano said...

I live in Hong Kong and see many of our Filipino women work as nannies. In general, their work is not very difficult as a normal Filipino woman is used to chores at home. Likewise, the work they do and the contribution they give to society is well appreciated. They earn good money but with obvious drawbacks too like being away from their family and friends for lengths of time, caring for children not their own and hiring others to care for their own back home, hubbies finding comfort from other women, etc.

Personally, i think that what our "nanny exports" really lose is their self esteem, again mostly those who happen to be with bad employers. It becomes acceptable to be malreated, insulted, or harassed. It's okay to work 16 hours a day 6 days a week. Just so that they won't lose their jobs.

There are success stories too, but I really think that working as a nanny abroad is not a very good thing to do.

It is one thing to appreciate the qualities of a nanny, a governess or domestic helper, or whatever we call them but it is another to let them be as such most of their lives. Something must be done so that this irregularity is corrected.

Jon Mariano said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.