Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, cracked on Wednesday a joke about the Philippine migration phenomenon, telling a Filipina nurse at the opening of a ￡5.5-million cardiac centre that "The Philippines must be half-empty - you're all here running the NHS."
REUTERS/Paul Edwards/Pool Britain's Prince Philip arrives on the eve of his 90th birthday
While said jestingly, along with other jokes about being a curtain-raiser, the royal's comment speaks volumes about the role that Filipino health workers play in the United Kingdom and the continuous outflow of Filipino workers from the country.
Every day, at least 3,000 Filipinos leave for overseas either to migrate permanently or work long-term in foreign countries where the pay is higher compared to local wages. While the prince's estimate is way off, with 10 million Filipinos living or working overseas spread in over 80 nations, their number is at least 10 per cent of the country's population.
The unnamed nurse, employed at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital, just shyly smiled when she heard the 91-year-old monarch's joke. She is one of the 16,184 Filipino nurses and midwives employed in NHS hospitals or about 2.4 per cent of the total 670,000 nurses across UK.
The mass migration of Filipino workers has been beneficial to the economy which relies heavily on foreign exchange remittances of the migrant workers but the trade off are broken families caused by prolonged separation and children of these migrant workers seeing them sometimes as only sources of funds and not parents.
The princely joke appears not to have offended Filipina nurses in UK.
The prince has been known for cracking jokes to make people at ease.
In 2012, he told a pretty woman in red that he might be arrested if he unzipped her dress, while he asked a 60-year-old man in another hospital visit how many people he had knocked over with his mobility scooter.
He warned Brit students in Beijing in 1986 that if they stay longer in China they would become slitty-eyed and commented to a British tourist in Budapest in 1993 that he hasn't stayed that long in the foreign land because of lack of pot belly.
In a factory visit in Edinburgh in 1999, he commented that a fuse box appeared to have been installed by an Indian while he made another politically incorrect joke once when he told teens from the British Deaf Association who were standing near a loud Caribbean steel band that being near such type of music is the reason they have hearing ailments.
At the rate that Queen Elizabeth's husband is cracking jokes, his title should perhaps be amended to Joke of Edinburgh.
The British royal family, however, is also a frequent recipient of royal jokes, including a prank call made by two Australian DJs, which proved fatal for anther migrant nurse employed in a royal hospital where the pregnant Kate Middleton was then confined.