Narratives of Filipino Medical Workers on Caring for Other Asians
Author: Megha Amrith
This article explores the narratives of Filipino medical workers on their encounters with other Asians during their migrant journeys to Singapore. Migrants speak of their encounters with regional cultural diversity and the everyday manifestations of regional political-economic power configurations and inequalities. The narratives show that beyond merely responding to state discourses on how migrants ought to represent the nation-state abroad, migrants attempt, on their own terms, to understand their place in Asia, and the world. Their journeys take place at a moment of social and demographic change as many Filipino medical workers travel across borders to care for aging populations in other Asian countries. The field of care raises complex moral dilemmas for Asians of different ethnic and national backgrounds, and this complicates any simple notion of Asian values. Moments of pan-Asian solidarity, in which friendships are cultivated across national boundaries, are often overridden by experiences of racial and cultural prejudice. Among diverse Asians in Singapore, divisive and hierarchical notions of first world and third world, modern and backward, caring and uncaring are prevalent in everyday judgments of others. Filipino migrants assert their global aspirations and their moral reflections on how to live and care for others; simultaneously they create distance from those who they believe do not share such aspirations and moral views. This article illuminates the transformations in migrant subjectivities as migrants experience and evaluate a range of cultural encounters as medical carers in the region.