chapter  12
13 Pages

The global urban space: older age and Filipinos as global workers

WithKAREL JOYCE KALAW

This chapter aims to offer an understanding of the intersection of ageing, life course and mobility studies. Here mobility refers to the movement of people from one place to another in a global sense and the ways in which it impacts the everyday lives of overseas contract workers. The structural force of demography, for example labour migration as a driving force and strategy for a good life for one’s family, is key in understanding the inclusion of migration as a life trajectory in an individual’s life course. This study focuses on the public event of labour migration that impacts the personal and intimate lives of a migrant worker’s life. The case of the Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) returnees specifically illustrates the intersection of ageing, life course and mobility studies. The chapter highlights the role of culture in understanding this intersection. I am drawing from Massey’s (2005) idea of space, such that spatiality is

constructed from the exchanges between the global and the most intimate dimensions of human life. In Massey’s terms, space is not solely confined to being an absolute element, but is socially produced and is always renegotiated. With the idea of space, the notion of trajectory is integrated such that several, different trajectories simultaneously and interdependently exist (Jirón 2014). The movement from one place to another and being in place suggest that changes in an individual’s life course may occur over time. With this in view, this chapter seeks to extend the notion of global urban

spaces to the intersection of self and society as refracted by age. The Philippine case, in which labour migration is particularly relevant, opens up an opportunity for discourse across fields of knowledge. Hence, the study has three specific aims. The first is to invite a broader understanding of mobility studies exemplified through labour migration as it intersects with ageing by using the life course perspective. In so doing, this chapter hopes to illuminate an understudied and less explored area and go beyond the economic rationale of migration while investigating the inner subjectivities and the socio-psychological dimensions of return migration in later life. The study extends the few studies on labour migration addressing the simplistic, two-fold divide of micro-and

macro-explanations (Porio 1999). The experience of labour migration bridges this disconnect, as the event of return migration cannot be easily factored into this simplistic binary gap, but must be understoodwithin the dynamic interrelations of both structure and agency. The second aim is to extend C. W. Mill’s discourse on linking the personal

experience of old age with the public affair of labour migration. Mills (1959, 12) once stated that, ‘No social study that does not come back to the problems of biography, of history, and of their intersections within society, has completed its intellectual journey.’ The experience of old age intersects and pervades personal and public spaces. A good example to illustrate this point is the case of labour migrant workers returning to their homelands, their eventual later life experience and how their return experience falls into place with the entire rationale of doing overseas work. In this chapter, I explore the possibility of taking a life course perspective in understanding the lives of migrant workers as they experience the life events of return and older age. I suggest a conceptual map to make sense of the nexus of migration studies and later life. The public understanding of labour migration is brought into light with the life course framework as it takes into account the personal event and significance of older age among returning migrants. Third, I seek to extend the use of indigenous methodologies (IM) as a

culturally sensitive approach to doing research. Indigenous methodologies highlight the different spaces, for example physical, socio-cultural and psychological, that would allow us to understand the intersection between migration and ageing; and describe the inner subjectivities and humanness of migrant workers as they return to their home country. Filipino research methodologies,1 developed from the inspiration of IM, enhance traditional qualitative modes of doing research through the application of culturally-fitting data collection techniques, for example pagtatanong-tanong and pakikipagkwentuhan, which will be discussed later in the chapter. The focus on Philippine labour migration offers a unique opportunity to

investigate the potential exchange between the life course perspective and migration studies. The eventual progress of migrant workers to older age warrants understanding of how they see their ageing experience. The case of the OFW, their very location in the flow of global migration, places them in a good position to illustrate Mills’ statement; such a personal affair as ageing is juxtaposed with the public event of labour migration. The chapter provides a discourse on less explored dimensions of migration. The first concerns the inner subjectivities and humanness in migration studies as much as migration scholars are more drawn to investigate the macro factors, for example in economic, political and historical accounts. The second dimension highlighted is the return experience of male OFWs as being a‘silenced’ population in line with the feminization of migration. This is so since less attention is given to men who are unintentionally marginalized. The chapter offers a male story of return experience and suggests a holistic, gender-and age-sensitive understanding of migration (i.e. return migration). Hence, the significance of

the study lies in its contribution to the literature, to scholarly pursuits, and to the potential formulation of policies over time.