Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Ethnic Migration of Purpose

Staying on the subject of purpose; I think back again at my family’s immigration to America.  I don’t recall my father’s reasoning for becoming a civil engineer nor my mother’s reason for becoming a nurse, but I would suspect it had something to do with their social and economic climate when they were young adults.  Both were probably intertwined, but the latter was probably the bigger of the two motivating factors.
After graduating from nursing school and starting our family in the Philippines, my mother joined the many other nurses who at the time were the only professions America was accepting at the time.  On her own, she came to Chicago and began laying the ground work for our family to follow.  For this reason, she was extremely glad to have chosen the nursing profession as hers.
Nearly forty years after she left the Cordillera Mountains to plant new roots here in America, the same two factors behind Igorots’ choices of “careers” are probably still the same.  The American dream still spans the oceans with its burning allure to many Igorots.  Nursing, for example, is still the most popular of choices today.
In one of the worst economic times of America, nursing is one of the few professions that are still in demand throughout the country.  Yes, there are many nurses who have lost their jobs due to the economy, but compared to all the other professions; they are still in need.  Another thing I have noticed is the number of male nurses there are today.  Twenty years ago, I never heard of a male nurse; but times have certainly changed.
As long as the American dream continues to burn in the hearts of Igorots back home and professions such as nursing continue to provide the means to pursue greener pastures in other countries; Igorots will continue choosing careers like my parents did.  Also like my parents, they will quickly come to the stark realization that the greener pastures aren’t necessarily as simple to maintain as once thought.  Thus, many like my parents find themselves in a “rut” of working to keep up with maintaining the green pasture.
Every now and then, some question their life, what they are doing with it, what they want out of it and so on.  As I said earlier, I don’t know exactly what led to my parent’s initial choices of professional careers, but I am certain of their reasons for leaving them to pursue other avenues of work that I identify as their purpose in life.
My mother used to tell me stories of how happy she was that my dad left the Philippines because in his line of work were constant influences to overly indulge in alcohol and palutan.  I found it funny that my dad had to lay next to the fire on many occasions while she rubbed coconut oil on his belly because of how drunk he was after a night out with fellow co-workers.  That must have been the “Vicks” cure for drunkenness then. 
My father was happy to have left his engineering profession in America because he always felt limited in what he could achieve and provide for the family.  He used to tell me how he looked at fellow engineers who have been in his company for twenty or more years, and didn’t like what he saw.  Five hungry mouths to feed, a Catholic education and maintaining a roof over our heads were his biggest of concerns.  I sometimes think the real “ancestral” Igorot in him kept him from being pinned down by corporate America.  After all, America has a way of “colonizing” our inner Igorot. 
My mother liked her job as a nurse, but loved spending more time with the family and helping my dad with his endeavors more than her nursing profession.  The one thing about nursing that stayed with her, which molded her purpose in life, was her desire to help people in any way she could.  Physically, she steepened herself in alternative & preventive medicine and constantly shared what she could to help better the health of others.  Spiritually, she was a constant advocate of many religious organizations.  In addition, she made several missionary trips to Puerto Rico and other places to volunteer her time in various missions that helped the poor.
For both my parents, it was all about their purpose as parents and how they could use their God given strengths to help others.  They were simple Igorots to the core.  When my father started making a noticeable amount more of money in financial services, material things and status quo were the furthest from his mind.  Unlike many who would buy fancy cars and get themselves in a heap of debt for appearance purposes; they sacrificed those things for us kids.  I still remember how my dad drove an old silver Ford LTD that was so outdated and embarrassing (for me) when he could have driven something else.  I even recall when my father received an award in front of thousands packed in the New Orleans Superdome and telling me how happier he was to have my sister, her husband, my fiance (now my wife) and I with him there than receiving any award. 
A handful of adults have helped me realize the importance of having a purpose-filled life, but none were more influential than my parents.  Their purpose of family and helping others are even clearer to me now that I am faced with my own discernment in life.  They are the reason why I admire people who use their God given talents and gifts for the betterment of others, and why high achievers in education, business and sports no longer impress me unless they are applying their gifts in a purpose-filled way that focuses more on others than themselves.
In September, I introduced you to Tim Tebow and wrote about how he personifies a purpose-filled person – a Warrior amidst our self centered society.   Last month, I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful person through this new world called Facebook.  She was introduced to me through Charity Bagatsing when I was writing Charity’s “Igorot of Character” blog.
Her name is Perla Paredes Daly.  She is a Filipina who is fed up with the poor sexist image Filipina women have around the world.  Charity told me of how Filipina women still have the terrible connotation of being mail brides and sex objects.  When I heard how Pearl’s friend bought out the website domain,, to “save it from the wolves of the internet” who would use it to sell their womanizing and degrading ideas or much worse – pornography; I immediately became impressed with this person.   She currently uses and other websites on the internet to battle the tainted image of Filipina women around the world. 
When I asked Perla’s permission to feature her as an “honorary Igorot of Character” (knowing she isn’t Igorot), she humbly replied, “I don't want to take the place of a well-deserving Igorot waiting for you to find them . . .  for me, it is the work and its effects that are most important to be highlighted... not for me being named for it. Lifting up my fellow pinays/pinoys is a calling I live for and can do from the sidelines very happily.”  Her reply reminded me of my parents and spoke volumes to me.
I hope that as more and more Igorots migrate across the oceans to plant their new roots; more will live purpose-filled lives, whether it be through their profession that enabled them to immigrate to their new homeland or a newly discovered one.
Perla Daly's websites:


  1. My uncle was an attorney in the Philippines but is working as a nurses aid here in Texas. He hates his job not because of the pay, but because he hates caring after people. The strange thing is, he just enrolled in a 2 year course to become an LPN. There is something wrong with this picture now that I think about it.

  2. @ anonymous . . . Thanks for your comment. Interesting point because there are probably many similar situations that I have encountered where doctors and nurses weren't able to pass their board exam here in America and are doing something different. With that said, not all "pictures" are as simple as black and white. I don't know your uncle's circumstances, but many (including myself) have families and loved ones to provide for and therefore do things we don't "love" for the people we "love." I think what is more important than doing "what we love" is sacrificing our inner desires "temporarily" until we can create that balance where "our purpose" and our "desires" meet in a place that can still provide for our loved ones while helping others simutaneously. Maybe your uncle's pursuit to become an LPN is a means to other things (hopefully a purpose-filled vocation).


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