Tuesday, April 29, 2008


From vacation that is. 5 days in Melbourne and 3 in Sydney. Glad to be back on the Gee. A couple more weeks and I'll be flying back home to Manila. Wahooooooo!!!!!!!!!

Will post some pictures soon. Tired. Bone tired.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Serendipity of the Surreal

I know that we make conscious decisions, for life to be something we make and not the other way around. But sometimes random things, events and people converge in our lives in such a way that makes us wonder, how in the world could it not have been designed by fate?

It just so happens that I am in (still) Australia. And that I am in the Gold Coast. And that I randomly chatted up my friend H. at a bus stop last January. That she also happens to be a postgrad student in my uni. And that she's a practicing journalist. And that we became fast friends. And that she's specialising in media ethics. And that Brian Gorrell is living in a farm near Byron Bay. And that she wanted to do a couple of news articles on him. And that one day was free for us to go see him.

Random? I don't think so.

It felt so surreal, meeting the man behind the blog. Mediated spaces are different from real life. We tend to not realise that there is a real person behind the images and the text. They become caricatures - disembodied from reality. But Brian Gorrell is real.

He was kind enough to pick us up at the bus station at Byron Bay (an hour and a half away from the G.Coast). We drove for 40 minutes to his little hideaway up in the mountains. H asked me to hold the recorder for her, while she asked Brian questions. He spoke almost non-stop from the time we got into his car to his home. 4 hours. I don't know how he wasn't exhausted afterwards. So many emotions - he laughed, he cried, he cracked jokes.

I sat, stood up, nodded my head, asked a couple of questions, smoked a couple of ciggies. 4 hours. I was exhausted afterwards. I thought, this man is both fragile and incredibly strong at the same time. He didn't censor himself. He said what he thought. And quick. Witty. Incredibly articulate for someone who only finished 8th grade. He seemed sensitive and in touch with his emotions. Also very receptive of his audience (i.e. me and H). I thought, he sensed what he thought we wanted to hear.

Whatever he alleges on his blog, whether his ex did indeed steal that money from him, I cannot tell. What I can say is that this was a man so deeply hurt - he burned. Incendiary. And seemed genuinely, righteously angry.

I know people read Brian for various reasons. For those doing so merely to be entertained, I suggest you stop. Brian Gorrell is a real person. The people he talks about in his blog are real. Beyond your flickering computer screen are real lives enmeshed in one huge mess.

I felt incredibly sad when we left. Over sushi, I asked Brian if he feared for his life. He said no. Perhaps fearlessness comes from knowing you have nothing left to lose. I thought, this was a man who learned early on to embrace life with such gusto, prudence probably wasn't in his vocabulary. It showed in his driving. It showed in the range of emotions that marked his face.

Those who say Brian doesn't need the money because he can afford wine or champagne or what, have no clue that a bottle of wine in Australia is the same price as a KFC meal. Pricier wines might cost the same as a box of pizza and a bottle of softdrink. His monthly pension of $1,100 is not much. To give you an idea of living costs, my monthly rent is $580. A month's grocery costs about $300. Those who may have been given an impression that he lived an ostentatious life because of those short video clips (i.e. the one where he gets up from the pool), have no clue that a bus driver in Australia can afford a home with a pool. 'Luxuries' in the Philippines aren't so here.

To Brian, I wish you well. Even though you may have chosen to take on big names back home, I believe you to be a worthy adversary. You have cojones THIS BIG. I'll give you that.

Keep up the fight mate. :)



Omg. H's article has come out. Randy Dillera?!?!? Bwahahaha. What a name. Tongue in cheek na tongue in cheek.....

Monday, April 14, 2008

No Brains to Drain?

In response to the Nashman (currently a PhD student in the UK), who says he doesn't believe there is brain drain for a country of 90 million. He says "No sooner have we left and there is another one better and brighter..."

Pasensya na ha.

Just because there are 90 million bodies, probably over 100 million in two decades, does not necessarily increase the chances of there being better or brighter people. Babies need nourishment and education to stand a fighting chance. To get better and brighter people, you need to invest. Mahirap yatang maging matalino kung kang-kong lang ang kinakain mo araw-araw.

This study by PIDS shows the decrease in government spending on education. At the same time there are more and more kids moving from private schools to public schools because private education is getting more expensive. I should know. I have taught in public and private universities.

And according to former education Secretary Butch Abad:

Among 10-64 year old population, only 41% are HS grad or higher; 65% can read, write, compute and comprehend; 84% can read, write and compute but not comprehend, 89% can only read and write

9.16M (or 16% of population) are functionally illiterate: 98% of unschooled, 35% of elementary drop-outs, 29% of elementary graduates are illiterate youths and adults

1,000 children enter Grade 1: 312 drop-out before Grade 6 (2/5 between G1-3; 3/5 between G4-6)

Of 638 elementary graduates, 439 complete in 6 years; 249 complete in 9.6 years due to repetition

Of 638 elementary graduates, only 7 mastered all minimum competencies for elementary level

Only 23% of Grade 6 pupils are independent readers in English

High School diploma does not mean much: 44% not mastered English, 52% not mastered Math, 74% not mastered Sciences competencies

College diploma does not mean much: only 2-7% of college graduate applicants to ICT jobs are accepted

Even professional license does not mean much: 46% of practicing M.D.s in Visayas did not pass competency-based test - admitting patient, administering correct drugs or oxygen

So, tama ka. Wala nga'ng brain drain.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Remit, Vomit

More comforting reads for the weekend.

"We find that the data confirms the countercyclical nature of remittances, which is consistent with the model's implication that remittances are compensatory transfers. In addition, we also find that remittances are negatively associated with economic growth. This result is also consistent with our model, in which remittances are subject to significant moral hazard problems that increase the likelihood of poor economic performance. Together, these results imply that remittances do not act like a source of capital for economic development, at least for now, and moreoever that there are significant obstacles to transforming them into a signifant source of capital (Chami, Fullencamp & Jahjah 2003: 5)

Edited to add:

"The prospect of converting remittances to development capital is even more daunting if we think of immigrant remittances as returns to flows of human capital across national boundaries. Immigrant remittances can be thought of as dividends from human capital assets invested by the family in economies where their return is relatively high. In other words, sending members abroad may already represent the family's main investment project, which has a much higher return than investment opportunities at home, including human capital investment. If this is the main motivation behind migration, then it implies that remittances are intended to be a main source of family income and will be devoted primarily to consumption...The dependency on these transfer induces recipients to use remittances as a substitute for labour income, and to lower their work effort. (22)."

"Governments, too, may succumb to a moral hazard problem created by the receipt of remittances...remittances provide a major source of foreign exchange for many countries. In the absence of remittances, it is likely that many countries' exchange rates, and in turn their domestic economic policies, would come under (greater) pressure. But the receipt of large remittance flows removes or mitigates this pressure. Therefore, the government may be able to ignore imbalances in the domestic economy and avoid taking politically costly steps to address them. At worst, governments could intentionally pursue politically beneficial but economically unwise policies, in the expectation that remittance flows will continue to insulate the domestic economy from any negative consequences. Such policies would likely exacerbate the conditions that led to large-scale migration and remittance transfer, leading to heavier dependence on immigrant remittances and decreased effort on the part of domestic workers, firms and entrepreneurs (23)."

Chami R., Fullencamp C. & Jahjah S. (2003). "Are Immigrant Remittance Flows a Source of Capital for Development?" IMF Working Paper WP/03/189.


At the risk of sounding ingrata, I have always had the sneaking suspicion that the Australian government spending money on me is entirely for self-serving reasons. First, expenses incurred on moi counts as ODA, which relates to security concerns - i.e. you don't want basket cases for neighbours. Second, their investment on human capital undercuts handing ODA to corrupt governments. They put their money directly on me. Third, and this is the insidious part, their scholarship programs have 'harvested' the best and brightest the region has to offer. Some of the PhDs I know will be living here for three-four years. Those who will be staying for a long time have the option of bringing their families along with them. Although our contracts require us to return to our home countries, there is nothing stopping us from coming back here after two years.

Australia is one among six rich countries aggressively competing for highly skilled workers in global labour markets today. In my uni, they have seminars providing information on how graduates can stay as permanent residents. Labour shortages in OECD countries are foreseen to continue and they will be needing more and more workers to augment labour supply as their populations shrink and grow older.

Life is easier here. And although I love my country dearly, probably more than most, I am also a rational human being. I imagine the other scholars who already have their families here may find it difficult to go home in a couple of years. I think of V, who worked for the International Rice Research Institute in LB. I think of our rice shortage. I think of Australia's strong agricultural policies. Australia grows rice. I think of those educational fairs they hold every so often in Manila. You wonder why these countries are so aggressive in promoting higher education in their countries? Well because increasingly they see foreign students as 'test migrants.'

Ah, it is not looking good :(

For Filipinos At Home and Overseas

There is a dearth of scholarship about the Philippines in IR. But when it comes to the globalisation of labour movements, we are a star. Heaps upon heaps of free publications in the ILO website. Don't stick to that web page alone. Explore!

Here is an excerpt of the paper I'm working on at the moment. Enjoy.

This paper seeks to examine the dynamics of today’s human movements within the context of globalisation. Globalisation is here broadly defined as a set of processes which embodies a transformation in the spatial organisation of social relations and transactions - generating flows and networks of activity and modifying the exercise and loci of power. Its dimensions include a stretching of social, political and economic activities across frontiers, an intensification of interconnectedness, a speeding-up of global interactions and a magnified impact of distant events to local ones. These ‘flows’ include people, symbols and information across space and time. ‘Networks’ are the regularised or patterned interactions of agents.

The first part explores the theoretical frameworks within which migration today is studied and interpreted. Also, what are the various socio-economic determinants of human movements today? The second part frames migration within the context of the globalisation of production. As the more mobile factors of production, i.e. capital, globalised, was there a consequent pressure for labour to ‘go global’ as well?

Thirdly, what are the political implications of migration today? It will be shown that while the logic of contemporary capitalism generates pressures for people to migrate, it must necessarily engage the socio-cultural and political ‘discreteness’ of nation-states. The notions of ‘identity,’ ‘citizenship’ and ‘justice’ become increasingly problematic as the ‘national’ becomes more fluid. In contrast to the regulation of other kinds of flows – capital, ideas (intellectual property rights), commodities and certain forms of services, why has labour movement become difficult to include in the World Trade Organisation’s regime? Or indeed, in any other kind of multilateral agreement? At what cost do societies today forgo such regulation? And what has happened to the ‘boundaries’ of social justice?

Lastly, we examine the impact of labour movements on development. Remittances increasingly become important capital flows. According to World Bank estimates, migrants sent $150 billion in remittances to their country of origin in 2004, reflecting an increase of fifty percent in only five years. What are the developmental impacts of such external financial sources to local development? Are they a form of compensation for human capital losses of those emigrating? And what of the impact of ‘brain drain’, the transfer of skilled human capital from developing countries to industrialising ones?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Are You a Winner or a Loser?

More fun reads today!

Try "Winners and Losers over Two Centuries of Globalisation" by Jeffrey Williamson.


"The world has seen two globalization booms over the past two centuries, and one bust. The first global century ended with World War I and the second started at the end of World War II, while the years in between were ones of anti-global backlash. This lecture reports what we know about the winners and losers during the two global centuries, including aspects almost always ignored in modern debate how prices of consumption goods on the expenditure side are affected, and how the economic position of the poor is influenced. It also reports two responses of the winners to the losers' complaints. Some concessions to the losers took the form of anti-global policy manifested by immigration restriction in the high-wage countries and trade restriction pretty much everywhere. Some concessions to the losers were also manifested by a 'race towards the top' whereby legislation strengthened losers' safety nets and increased their sense of political participation. The lecture concludes with four lessons of history and an agenda for international economists, including more attention to the impact of globalization on commodity price structure, the causes of protection, role of political participation in the whole process."

Philippine Wages

Wages in the Philippines have declined in the past decade according to the World Bank. Eh. Ano ba'ng bago?

Source: Global Economic Prospect 2007

Brian Gorrell...So Close You Are!!

The Aussie press finally caught wind of Brian's story. I cannot believe he's in Byron Bay....an hour away from me!!! Waaaaa!!!

Saturday, April 05, 2008


With a few twists the camera focuses its lens, and the image becomes crystal clear. How easy it is for this machine. How simple the dynamic. When it loses focus it is just as mechanical - an accidental movement in its case, no intention. When we lose focus it is never accidental. We choose to lose it for a reason. It is excruciatingly terrifying walking about when things are blurry - but there is also release in the unknown. It is exquisite when all there are are soft edges and swimming colours. It is art.

Week-end Reads

Dani Rodrik's take on World Bank President Robert Zoellick's speech about the world food crisis.
The truth, I fear, is that Zoellick's faith in trade agreements has little to do with the underlying economics and like many ideological free traders he is willing to latch on to the economic arguments only when they serve the cause (and to discard them just as easily when they no longer do).
A new blog I came across, soc2econ - "a group of sociologists trying to save economics from itself."

Rescue of investment bank Bear Sterns a 'socialist' agenda?!?

William Easterly on why Bill Gates hates his book The White Man's Burden:

Mr. Gates seems to believe that the solution is to persuade for-profit companies to meet the poor's needs by boosting the "recognition" of corporate philanthropy. But the dossier of historical evidence to suggest this would work is as thin as Kate Moss on a diet. First of all, the recognition motive has proven to be awfully weak compared to the profit motive. Otherwise we would have had a lot more than the $5.1 billion of annual American corporate philanthropy to the Third World (as of 2005, which has the most recent reliable figures). That was four one-hundredths of 1% of the $12.4 trillion of U.S. production for the free market. Is it really the poor's only hope that the Gap will donate a few pennies per sexy T-shirt for AIDS treatment in Africa?

Ok, I would link more articles, but I'm just too lazy. Start with these. See if you like 'em.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


I was once in a car with a friend's cousin, K. We were on the way to her family's vacation house in Batangas. On the way to the toll gate, I was furiously counting my change to make sure I give the toll person the right amount. K unceremoniously told me to just lump them all together and give it to the toll person. Anyway, she wouldn't count - or if she did, we could just speed away. It never even occurred to me that I didn't have to give the exact amount of money. Anyway, unthinkingly I did as she suggested. She went to the fancy school in Ortigas, but later on went to take up law in UP. I hope her years in the state u have given her some perspective. She's a lawyer now. That said, congratulations to the newbies.