Families Might Be Apart This Christmas, But Enjoy the Holiday and Keep in Mind There Is Always Next Year

Most Generation X Filipinos are children of immigrant parents who came into the U.S. in the later half of 1960s to 1970s.

Filipino Gen-Xers were either born in this country or brought over in their early ones (mostly before turning 5-years old) by their parents. Compared to earlier generations of Filipino immigrants, those who arrived during the 1960s-70s were more educated and moved to the US with the intention of staying permanently.

Previous Filipino immigrant generations – many of them – saw their stay in the U.S. as temporary (at least at first) to earn money then had planned to return to the Philippines.

Arguably, Filipino immigrants of the 1960s-1970s were the first wave of immigrants “seeking permanent residency.” Of course during the 1960s there already was a permanent community of Filipino American residents comprised of plantation workers who decided to stay in the US. (arrived in the early 1900s) and their “locally-born” children that branched out to more diverse occupations like joining the military or becoming a longshoreman.

Leaving the Philippines with the intention of living abroad permanently had a finality to it that meant mentally and emotionally, the immigrant would give up his roots and plant new roots in the U.S. – have children (that would become Fil Gen-Xers) and start new careers.

New destination, same pattern of migration
Fast forward some 40 years later, many Filipino Gen-Xers today are experiencing another period of migration –  this time with their children leaving Hawaii to seek permanent residency in the US mainland.

Like their parents who left the Philippines, Gen-Xers’ children (Filipino millennials) are moving to the mainland for similar reasons: to seek new personal and career opportunities, to chase after their dreams.  Many of them cite for leaving the high cost of living in Hawaii—especially housing costs—and the lack of job opportunities suited to their skills and interests.

Gen-Xers are generally supportive of their children’s decision to move to the mainland for enhanced opportunities. Statistics show Hawaii transplants usually go to larger states with large economies like California, Texas and Washington, or to Nevada (where the lure there is to be among  Hawaii’s large transplant community).

At the same time, we also hear Gen-Xers complain about the conditions here (super high priced housing market, lower wages, lack of quality jobs) that essentially are pushing their children to seek what Hawaii lacks in other states.

Some blame the government for not doing enough to make housing more affordable. Others recognize Hawaii’s desirability, lack of land, and investment opportunities as the main drivers of Hawaii’s real estate boom, that never seems to slow down even during recessions. The average price of a single family home in Hawaii recently reached the $1 million mark, which price would put a strain on even two working professionals who have little to no down payment or assets.

Family Separations and the Holidays
Like most immigrant communities in the U.S., Hawaii’s Filipinos see migration for personal and career growth as a part of life. It is difficult for family, particularly during the holidays. But Gen-Xers have already seen how their parents successfully coped with separation from their grandparents in the Philippines. Their parents called family in the Philippines frequently, sent remittances, exchanged cards and photos, made trips back home at least two or three times within a 5-year period.  Often these trips would be around Christmas time.

Technology has made it easier for family separation today. Filipino millennials use face-to-face apps to ease homesickness. They’re able to see their loved ones back in Hawaii and communicate with them without time constraints, compared to the days with just phone-to-phone communication at pricey minute-to-minute long-distance charges.

Traveling, in general, is also cheaper going to and from the U.S. mainland and Hawaii compared to going back and forth from Hawaii and the Philippines, which enables family to visit each other more frequently, especially during the Christmas season.

Keeping our Christmas traditions alive
Whether we manage to fly back home to be with family or are separated, we can still keep our Christmas traditions. And we are seeing this across the globe where Filipinos have migrated to. We see them preserving the Filipino Christmas traditions such as Noche Buena, Misa de Gallo, among others.

Hawaii Gen-Xers might see their children leaving for the mainland as a new normal relative to when they were graduating from high school in the 1980s-1990s when fewer students left for college on the mainland. But migration has been an almost universal cultural phenomenon for ages. We can look back at the Holy Family and Jesus (reason for the season). They were migrants.

The holiday blues are real and being separated from family could be the source of the holiday blues. A good tip to ease the sting of the holiday blues: if you’re anticipating not being with family this Christmas, plan ahead to do something you’d enjoy. And keep in mind there is always next Christmas to reunite with family.

Have a very Merry Christmas! Maligayang Pasko!

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