[Two Pronged] Should my family and I move away from the Philippines?

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer
[Two Pronged] Should my family and I move away from the Philippines?
'Lately, I’ve had this nagging thought that we should get out of this country before all the doors close on us'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Mr. Baer and Dr. Holmes:

I’m hoping you can help me and my husband on a major life decision. We’ve been talking on and off about the possibility of migrating as a family. In the last five years, many of our relatives and family friends have left for abroad and every time we send them off, they encourage us to consider emigrating but we just always end up choosing to stay for several reasons. 

My husband and I are both employed and we love our jobs here. We have a good life, not lavish but comfortable enough. Our kids go to reputable private schools and once a year, we get to take them on trips abroad to ensure they’re exposed and educated beyond the classroom. 

Lately though, I’ve had this nagging thought that we should get out of this country before all the doors close on us. I keep wondering if we’re being irresponsible parents by not grabbing the opportunity for our kids to receive better education, better health services, and better career options abroad. I would love for my kids to have the option to become an astronaut or the chance to be a published author (in a country where many people love to read books), but the thought of leaving breaks my heart.  

We have consulted a couple of immigration lawyers/consultants and we’ve been told that there are a few routes available to us with a high likelihood of being accepted into our prospective country. But whenever I think about taking the steps to work on the requirements, I am overcome with sadness and anxiety. So I haven’t done anything concrete about this yet. I’ve heard many stories from family and friends that their immigration process went very fast and I’m not sure I’m ready to leave anytime soon.  The thought of starting over in a new place feels exhausting to me.

Are we just being lazy, selfish parents? Should I override my emotions and just give it a shot?        

Confused Parent

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Dear Confused Parent (CP),

Thank you for your email.

First, let’s look at the three “advantages” you have singled out: better education, better health care, and better career opportunities. While universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, etc. are undoubtedly great educational institutions, the academic difference between them and the top universities in the Philippines is probably minimal for all but the most outstanding students, so unless your children fall within this category or you have a special reason for wanting a premium brand name at the top of their diplomas, there is not much to be said for emigrating for the sake of education (and you don’t need to emigrate for them to attend a foreign university anyway). The same applies to health care (unless one or more of your children have a rare medical condition) and careers; you don’t actually need to emigrate .

You rightly highlight some of the disadvantages of emigrating and I would just mention one other which is often overlooked: free time. Comparing middle class life in the so-called less developed and first worlds, in the former when work is done your time is your own. You have reasonably priced support, be they yayas, household help, gardeners, drivers, maintenance people, etc. In the first world, these are available of course, but at a disproportionately high price, and so all the support tasks become tasks that you yourself have to carry out in your free time, leaving you almost none for yourselves. This of course has a significant knock-on effect on “quality” time, both with your children and your husband.

What constitutes a good quality of life varies from person to person of course but you seem clear that staying home is what is best for you and your husband. Giving your children a solid start to life in their native country, a decent education, a strong sense of morality based on their own culture and traditions, will provide them with the necessary springboard for a decent life abroad if that’s what they want when they reach adulthood. Stay home, enjoy life!

All the best,
JAF Baer

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Dear CP:

Thank you very much for your letter. Thank you too, Mr. Baer, for providing the much needed answers and perspective to CP’s concerns, both the immediate and broader – which helped ease their minds.  

CP, your letter includes the sentences: “The thought of leaving breaks my heart” and “The thought of starting over in a new place feels exhausting to me.” These are not emotions/issues to pooh-pooh.   

You then ask: “Should I override my emotions and just give it (immigration) a shot?  Absolutely not! Allow me to quote from A General Theory of Love by psychiatrists Drs. Lewis, Amini, and Landon (2001) which will include my thoughts in parentheses: 

“How should we raise our children? (Is leaving for abroad really a better bet? Even if I cannot find myself wanting to do so?) Should I just override not wanting to for my children’s sakes?”

NO, because as the three psychiatrists above wrote:

“People who do not intuit or respect the laws of acceleration and momentum break bones; those who do not grasp the principles of love (and thus emotion) waste their lives and break their hearts (and in your case, very possibly, also your children’s hearts). The evidence of that pain surrounds us, in the form of hurtful relationships, neglected children, unfulfilled ambitions, and thwarted dreams. And in numbers, these injuries combine to damage society where emotional suffering and its ramifications are commonplace. The roots of that suffering are often unseen and passed over, while proposed remedies cannot succeed, because they contradict emotional laws that our culture does not yet recognize.”  

Listen to your heart, CP, and obey your emotions that so clearly tell you to stay in the Philippines. Please. Not just because, as Pascal says: “The heart has its reasons,” but more so because the Philippines needs people like you more than ever, especially in light of this year’s presidential elections.

Forgive me if I have expanded my answers to your questions to include our countrymen, many of whom bled for our country when Leni lost (and forgive me, please, Marguerite, our editor, for overshooting the suggestion that 1,000 words is a good guideline to follow) but, happily, she also understands that columnists have permission to interject their deepest emotions…as long as said “insertions” fit the purpose of the column.  

In the same way that your deepest concerns are now for your children and rightly so, my current life’s deepest longings are for our beloved country. In asking your questions, you have cracked my heart open to answer not just myself, but many others who have come to me with similar concerns.

Mabuhay ka, dearest CP. Thank you for allowing me to share what is deepest in me, not only on the professional, but this time also on the personal level.

Thank you with all my heart,
MG Holmes


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