Listen to the Silence – Reflection

On Wednesday, January 20, 2018, I co-led my first ABSV workshop at Listen to the Silence (LTS). Listen to the Silence is Stanford’s annual Asian American Issues Conference which began in 1995 “out of a need to increase the visibility of Asian American issues as well as the conditions of the Asian American community.” This year’s conference theme was “Immigration Narratives: Advancing Our Movement.”

ABSV’s workshop, which I presented with my kasama, Edwin, was titled “Balikbayan Box: Unpacking the Root Causes of Forced Migration and Human Trafficking” and was originally presented by GABRIELA DC and AB Maryland.

Our workshop led participants through an overview of the Philippines’ history, social class structure, and Labor Export Policy to illuminate why over 6,000 workers leave the Philippines daily. The three root causes of forced migration in the Philippines are Feudalism, Imperalism, and Bureaucrat Capitalism. Together, these problems cause a shortage of well-paying jobs in the Philippines, forcing Filipinos to find work abroad. These workers are known as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW’s). Of the 11 million Filipinos currently living abroad, 4 million have become U.S. immigrants. OFW’s face issues such as family disunity and transnational parenting, job downgrading, and most horrifyingly, exploitation. Exploitation can take the brutal form of human trafficking. OFWs, such as students, are recruited for work under false premises, exploited, and trafficked under corrupt contractors who may withhold their wages and immigration paperwork.

Several participants did not realize the severity of the issues of forced migration and human trafficking affecting the Filipino people. I felt glad to have had the chance to shed light on these issues and share several stories of the people affected by them.

For many of us, the theme of immigration hit close to home. Several members of our workshop were children of at least one recent immigrant parent or were immigrants themselves. During one activity, everyone wrote their family’s “immigration story” on an index card. As I participated, I wrote down that my parents had immigrated to the U.S. from the Philippines in the early 1990’s. However, I could not recall how or why.

My mother said that when she lived in Mindanao, she lived so close to the beach that she grew tired of looking at the ocean. Pointing at the purple-tinted mountain tops surrounding Almaden Valley, she explained, “Maybe that’s why I don’t care for an ocean view. But these hills, these are what I love looking at.”

For whatever reason, my parents left their motherland to find work overseas, joining the legacy of 4 million Filipino workers who have since arrived in the United States.

~ Angel (ABSV Member since October 2017)


Angel (left) and Edwin (right)


Participants writing down their immigration stories