From Iskomunidad

M.A. Anthropology (June 2012)
Department of Anthropology


This study is an inquiry into the lives and experiences of an Ilocano community with a long migration history. The research attempts to explore how local conditions shape a people's understanding of the concept of the “good life” and “hard life.” It deals with change in the people's lives and their varying definitions of life. For this, I have explored how the Ilocano culture of migration persisted through time by examining their concept of the “good life” in relation to their changing landscapes amidst the long and continuing experience of migration. The study employed a qualitative research method with in depth interviews as the main data gathering method.

The study has analyzed the concept of the “good life” as to the following aspects:

1. Seasonality: the experience of the “good life” as dictated by agricultural experiences and ecological observations; 2. Cross-generational perception; 3. As a reflection of changed socio-economic status; 4. Establishing community ties through socio-economic support; 5. Difficulty of pursuing the “good life”; and 6. Exceptions to experiencing the “good life” through migration. The concept of nasayaat nga panagbiag, “good life,” seems to be associated with having financial surplus.

The “good life” is also nuanced and evolving. “good life” has changed across generations. For the first generation, “good life” means providing for the basic needs of children as well as being able to send them to school in spite of the difficulties attributed to the poor socio-economic conditions during their time. To those who belong in the second generation, the “good life” means finishing their studies, getting employed, providing the needs of their family, especially their children, and being able to give back to their parents or share something to other people. To many of them, overseas work is the main answer for its achievement because of the observed change in economic status of those who went first to work abroad. For the third generation, “good life” is equated with having and providing for more than just the basic needs, which may mean, enjoyment of recreational activities and being able to have success to whatever wants they have.

Being labelled as a “migrant worker,” the person is put under different layers of subjectivities. As balikbayans, they are scrutinized according to: financial capability, start or have finished “projects” such as renovating their houses, buying new furniture, latest appliances and gadgets; and ability to hold grand feasts and celebrations. They are also expected to act in a particular manner, and wear particular clothes and or jewelries. The culture of migration in Ilocos has brought a lot of changes to families and households. The primary visible change is the possession of latest and imported “material” (things) and “immaterial” (ideas) culture.

The “good life” in general is also seen as something in flux that is mediated by various situations such as the following: educational attainment, generation, season, environmental changes, economic activities of people, location of their farm lots, material possessions, market price of produce upon harvest, and health condition. In spite of the general conception that it can be achieved through overseas work, there are also some exceptional cases wherein the “good life” can be achieved locally.