Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bilog Boundaries

A Bilog’s boundaries are shaped through his interaction with others.  The state labels him as an overstayer but he acts with the single focus of a breadwinner.  Utilizing various impression management strategies (Goffman 1971) he negotiates thru the complex myriad of his relationships (12 types in 6 categories) that most often harbor opposing interests, clarifying and validating his own symbolic identity (Cohen, 1985) relative to each.  The Bilog’s now coherent identity crystallizes his boundaries, becoming, in turn, the foundation of justifying his actions.


What one thinks about illegal migrants (henceforth to be referred to as Bilog ) is invariably shaped by one’s level of interaction with them.  The wife and children, depending on their knowledge of his legal status and its accompanying contingencies, views the Bilog as a reliable or inefficient breadwinner, at one end of the scale, or as heroic or practical father, on the other end of the scale.  A Japanese immigration control officer wonders how he can do his job better – monitoring, investigating and deporting Bilogs.  The general public – learning about Bilogs only from the mass media – wonders why they cannot find jobs at their home countries, and how they manage to avoid detection and arrest at the host country.

For the Bilog, his choices are remarkably simple: stay and persevere or give up and go home.  In between those two options is a universe of difficult options, most often demanding a choice between two evils.  How does the Bilog make a decision?  More critically, what confluence of factors, situations or variables cooperates to bring him to the point of an impending choice (and did he in fact make a decision or was he a victim of conspiring forces?  This brings us ultimately to the question of a Bilog’s boundaries.  A decision is difficult when it brings the Bilog to the limits of a belief held, a value cherished, or a conviction fully internalized, forcing him to either cross it, or re-validate where those limits really lie, or how far he is willing to stretch their application.  What then are boundaries?  Are boundaries synonymous to limits?  Are boundaries rigid and non-negotiable?  Put differently, are one’s beliefs, values and convictions absolute, and easily applied in the real world?

This paper will explore the dynamics of Bilog boundaries by looking at two specific instances of “difficult” Bilog decisions (or outcomes), namely:  1) second marriages to gain legal status and 2) family alienation.

The paper endeavors to stay at a descriptive (and not normative) discussion of these boundary dynamics, using primarily the ideas of Erving Goffman, Anthony Cohen, Richard Jenkins and Anthony Giddens to understand the processes involved between the individual (the Bilog) and the collective (other individuals, groups or institutions).

Part One begins the discussion by setting the objectives or specific questions to be answered by the paper, including a definition of key terms used.  Part Two then presents a profile of the two Bilog cases on which the discussion of boundaries is based.  Boundaries are intimately tied with identities as it is simultaneously the starting point from where one individual’s boundary radiates from and the reference point from where another individual’s boundary bounces off, or interacts with, bringing us to Part Three which discusses Bilog Relationships in the context of the three distinct orders cited by Jenkins (2008): the Individual Order, the Interaction Order and the Institutional Order (Jenkins 2008).   Enriching the discussion on the dynamics of interaction between Bilogs and other individuals are the ideas of Goffman on “interaction’s orderliness.”  Gidden’s concept of the duality of structure is then brought in to re-interpret the impact of the Institutional Order on the Bilog’s life.  Part Four then identifies the symbols and rituals of the Bilog, relating this to areas where this symbolically constructed community (Cohen 1985) bears down on their decision-making processes.

Kindly contact ELJOMA if you wish to read the full text of this paper.
Diagram 1:  Bilog Relationships
Note:  Kindly contact ELJOMA for the diagram legend.

Bilog Relationships – More than Boundary Reference Points?

Diagram 1 above plots the twelve Bilog relationship types and its six interactional groupings in unified schematic form, attempting to contextualize the complex visual, spatial and temporal features of these relationships within the holistic Bilog reality.  The crux of this issue is this:  In what specific ways does the Bilog’s illegality shape his relationships?  This has to be argued explicitly since the question of what makes Bilogs distinct from non-Bilogs – or, essentially, as differentiated from all the other individuals and groups he interacts with – begs to be answered if we are to concretize what a Bilog boundary is.  If we are unable highlight this difference then a Bilog boundary might as well be called a Migrant boundary.  If we are successful in outlining the domain of Bilog boundaries, then it may bring us closer to understanding what this paper has called “difficult” Bilog decisions (or outcomes) of second marriages and family alienation – decisions which are most often judged or interpreted on normative, emotional or religious levels.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bilog Reality: Migrant Agency And/Or Regime Complicity?

Do Bilogs1 persist due to their detection avoidance tactics (agency) or because the current regime allows it (complicity)?  This paper presents case studies of current and previous Filipino irregular migrant workers in Japan, showing how their continued existence in the host country depends on a number of factors including their own innovative tactics, shielding and protection from the local ethnic community, selective utilization and exploitation by vested local interests and unofficially cooperating law enforcement entities.

A number of variables define the degree to which migrant agency juxtaposed within the context of regime complicity result in the Bilog’s survival.

Bilog labor is not only very cheap; it is unrelenting and completely predictable:  if the job pays, the job is taken – work conditions, duration, location, benefits, even safety are considered but quickly disregarded. Differentiating the Bilog from other workers, local or legal, is his control of his tenure – which is none, as he can be arrested anytime – thus defining the premium afforded each and every work opportunity.  While Bilog employers can be argued to be opportunistic, under threat of global competition or struggling to cope with the effects of economic cycles, the complex sub-contracting system – multiple levels in depth – renders employer sanctions benign and workforce agility the paramount consideration in business survival.  The economic variable is key yet insufficient to explain Bilog perseverance.

Bilogs avoid policemen but know it is the immigration officer in plainclothes that is the real scourge.   That certain times of the year and certain annual events are open season for arrests is common knowledge.  Bilogs are apprehended by local policemen but subsequently released without being sent to immigration.  A conflicted coherence in Japan’s multiculturalism thrusts, on one hand, and immigration control restrictions, on the other hand, becomes more pronounced as on-the-ground implementation is interpreted differently at the Prefecture level.  The political/bureaucracy variable clarifies some questions, yet leaves more unanswered.

Do migrants exercise independent agency or do structural conditions shape their response?

[continuing paper...]

Monday, January 17, 2011

Is Irregularity Genderized? The Story of Yumi

One genderizes when one "makes gender-based distinctions."  Colors are genderized.  A newborn boy is given a blue name tag; a newborn girl, a pink one.
Yumi - entered Japan as an entertainer at 17yrs old

[continuing story...]

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Notes on "Boy Chua."

Below are some notes on the "Boy Chua" post.

1.  ELJOMA (2011).  Irregular Migration Information (http://www.irregularmigration.info), Table 11, Status of Detained and Departed ICRRA Violators,  2000-2008. Retrieved on July 31, 2011 from http://www.irregularmigration.info/2010/11/filipinos-in-japan-2010.html.

2.  Commission for Filipinos Overseas (2009).  Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos.  Retrived on August 1, 2011 from http://www.cfo.gov.ph/pdf/statistics/Stock%202009.pdf.

3.  This US$1.3billion figure represents 7.67% [computed by dividing the 2009 estimate of irregular migrants (658,370) against the 2009 total stock estimate of overseas Filipinos (8,579,378)] of the 2009 reported remittances by the Central Bank of the Philippines (http://www.bsp.gov.ph/statistics/keystat/ofw.htm).

4.  ELJOMA (2011).  Irregular Migration Information (http://www.irregularmigration.info), Table 7, Illegal Work by Amount of Pay and Gender, 2009. Retrieved on August 3, 2011 from http://www.irregularmigration.info/2010/11/filipinos-in-japan-2010.html.

5.  ELJOMA (2011).  Irregular Migration Information (http://www.irregularmigration.info), Table 1, Crimes in Japan by Type, Filipino Nationality, Total Foreigners and Legal Status, 2009. Retrieved on August 5, 2011 from http://www.irregularmigration.info/2011/07/crimes-of-filipinos-in-japan.html.

6.  ELJOMA (2011).  Irregular Migration Information (http://www.irregularmigration.info), Table 3, Selected Penal Code Crimes Committed by Illegal Immigrants in Japan, 2009. Retrieved on August 7, 2011 from http://www.irregularmigration.info/2011/07/crimes-of-filipinos-in-japan.html.