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Global Filipinos: Migrants' Lives in the Virtual Village. By Deirdre McKay. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 2012. 247 pp.

The title of this book suggests an anthology of accounts of Filipinos who have migrated overseas and of the ways in which their relationships with home are shaped by technology. But Global Filipinos is much more nuanced than that. It offers a descriptive and intimate account focused on two individuals, called Luis and Angelina, who hail from Haliap village in Ifugao Province, northern Luzon. As Deirdre McKay follows their lives closely through their sojourns overseas, she documents in ethnographic detail their journey from a rural village to work sites abroad, in Hong Kong and Canada, and, finally, their homecoming.

Throughout the book, McKay addresses central themes of globalization and migration, presenting findings from her long-term participant observation. She seeks to understand the world of migrants [End Page 369] through the lens of anthropology, focusing on the experiences of members of a single neighbourhood. While this goal may seem an ambitious one, for such a narrowly focused study, the book's unique perspective gives readers fresh insight into translocal identities in the context of cosmopolitanism.

McKay opens her book with a fairly dense chapter on the history of Haliap. This chapter sets the stage for subsequent chapters in exploring dimensions of culture, religion, ethnicity, politics and migration. The second chapter, "Becoming a Global Kind of Woman", will appeal to readers interested in the ways in which gender shapes progress and development in the Philippines. With women comprising over 70 per cent of workers abroad, the Philippines makes a compelling case study for the impact of migration on traditional gender roles and household dynamics.

The author brings to the fore such issues as land rights and the conversion of agricultural land, depicting the struggles rural people commonly face in sustaining or supplementing their livelihoods. Much of the discussion will inform comparative perspectives on other cases in Asia and beyond. The author also raises a relevant point about continued institutional support in the Philippines for migration for domestic work and so called "care work". This support appears to be an effective smokescreen for the state's failure to address the country's employment problem, as through economic and labour policy reform. This failure of the state to address the needs of its citizens is an important theme that recurs throughout the book, helping to explain the frustrations and disappointments, as well as the motivations and aspirations, of these global Filipino migrants.

In the second half of the book, McKay provides a thorough explanation of the processes of migration and of its impact on the maintenance of village ties as well as subjective identities. It is important for readers to note that the case of Luis and Angelina is a rare and unusual one, as very few couples in the Philippines migrate together.

McKay makes the point that migrants feel closer to their kin while abroad because the financial prowess gained from having [End Page 370] found work in the destination country enables them to fulfil their obligations as son, daughter, parent or sibling. Therefore, rather than weakening village ties, temporary labour migration may solidify and strengthen them. Nevertheless, transnational relationships also face limitations and stresses, in such forms as emotional distress, overdependence and unreasonable expectations. This discussion may be confusing to readers, as McKay does not sufficiently address the seeming inconsistencies in her evidence.

The final chapters of the book provide an interesting contrast to the first half as they delve into the struggles of readjustment, in a new host country as well as upon returning home. The plot thus takes an interesting turn as it highlights issues of family demands on and expectations of migrants, and considers the broader and more structural issues of temporary immigration and entitlement to state welfare. In her concluding remarks, the author demonstrates a high level of self-reflexivity in explaining the limitations of her research design and methodology, giving readers an opportunity to review the claims of her study.

This in-depth and well-written narrative provides a rare glimpse into the lives of individuals shaped by globalization and...


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