Rational Technology for January 15, 2006
A couple of weeks ago, I had my driver's license renewed. Among the people waiting to have their pictures taken were two Americans from Calvary Chapel Training Center and a middle-aged Japanese woman, elegant and respectable despite her blue jeans and shirt.
To many Dumaguetenos, all this is par for the course. On the whole, it's nothing out of the ordinary anymore. So what's the big deal?
What set my mind on this track is the nature of a driver's license. A driver's license implies some sense of permanence. A person applying for a local driver's license is no longer just a tourist or a visitor. That person is part of the community for the long haul.
It doesn't take a driver's license to tell this story, though. Just look around. It is just as likely that your student, teacher, classmate, neighbor, customer, vendor, or friend will be Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Persian, American, European as he or she will be a full-blooded Filipino.
While I cannot speak authoritatively on the demographics of other parts of the Philippines, I would like to think that in no other city are people of other nationalities as well integrated as they are in Dumaguete and Oriental Negros. We need to understand this phenomenon and take its effects into consideration as we forge our way forward.
To begin with, do we understand why Dumaguete is so attractive to people from other countries? We can come up with our usual long list of factors: our status as University Town, our low cost of living, our friendly people, our beautiful surroundings. And yet, even then, these factors would only scratch at the surface. Some may have come for business opportunities, not a few would have come looking for love, and still others would have come from a sense of altruism.
Don't look to me for answers, though; I am just a writer. Instead, ask your student, teacher, classmate, neighbor, etc. They know why they came.
Then, we need to understand what role immigrants will play in the development of Dumaguete City. Some will stay only a year or two and some will stay until they finish their program of studies. But some would like to build a life here in Oriental Negros, effectively creating a lasting link between their home countries and ours.
It's not enough to say that they be given the same opportunities for education, business, and employment as other Filipinos. They have much to teach us from their own cultures, and these will hopefully provide an antidote for some of the ills which afflict us. They also bring with them opportunities from their home countries. Their virtues, married with ours, can also lead to new strengths not possible individually.
For example: wouldn't it be great if our immigrants could promote Dumaguete tourism in their home countries? Perhaps they can offer personal guided tours for travellers?
Or: wouldn't it be great if our immigrants could introduce our products and services to their home markets? Be it native handicrafts or outsourcing, every little bit helps.
Or: perhaps a new business process outsourcing company would come into Dumaguete, one attracted by the large number of Mandarin or Korean or Japanese speakers available in the city?
Granted, not every visitor or immigrant who comes into the city comes with noble intentions or has something positive to contribute. We certainly have had our share of blights, be they sexual predators or homicidal reckless drivers. Still, our experience has largely been positive, and this is something we need to capitalize on.
When it all comes down to it, we aren't really just Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Thais, Indians, Persians, Americans, Europeans, or Filipinos.
We are Dumaguetenos. This is our city.
On technorati: dumaguete.