November 26, 2008

Mga Bagong Bayani

Am reposting this article which I read on one of the sites I’ve visited today. This is quite timely because I have recently been group emailing friends and colleagues from my previous work who are also already working abroad. We are now scattered in different parts of the globe, you see - Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, UK and the US. And our most recent topic is of course no other than the plight of OFWs.

Sorry guys for this lengthy re-post. Mr. Jim Paredes, sana po ay ok lang po sa inyo na nagpost uli ako ng inyong article...


HOW TO HANDLE A HERO Sunday, August 3, 2008

The OFW (overseas Filipino worker), who used to be known as OCW (overseas contract worker), is now an integral part of our national culture and consciousness — as Pinoy as pakbet and adobo. It is a cultural template that came to be primarily because our country could not — and still cannot — provide enough employment for its citizens. People have had to find jobs abroad to earn enough to clothe, feed and care for their constantly growing families that, to add to their problems, their faith discourages them from keeping small.

OFWs have been dubbed by the very system that created them as “heroes” for bringing home dollars that provide much needed economic benefits to their families and, consequently, to the system itself. And while they may in fact be a big factor why our country has not collapsed despite the culture of inertia, corruption and government mismanagement that plague it, OFWs are, in their own view, reluctant heroes, to be sure.

One, most of them really have no choice but to go abroad for lack of opportunities here. Two, many of them will abandon the “hero” label in a heartbeat if they can simply find some way to feed their families and stay in the Philippines at the same time. We know that they and their loved ones pay too high a price for the economic benefits they enjoy. And this includes being away from their loved ones and missing out as their family stories are written. They are absent from family pictures, albums, house blessings, graduations, births, birthdays, anniversaries and family reunions because ironically, they have to earn their money elsewhere to finance all this.
They have children who are fed and clothed but are orphaned of at least one parent. Their main consolation is, at least, the people they love are experiencing these wonderful economic benefits even if they cannot physically be part of it and enjoying with them.

I have met many OFWs during my travels abroad and even now that I live parttime in Sydney . I have observed that as much as they are the providers and the sustainers of life back home they, too, need care and sustenance which many of them hardly get. A lot of them complain about being trapped or doomed to being lonely and missing out on life just so their loved ones can have a better life.

This article is about the caring and encouragement these reluctant heroes, who up hold the sky up for our families and our society, need on their end. Here are a few things to keep in mind when relating to the fathers, mothers, kuyas, ates, uncles, aunts and other relatives who have left us temporarily to keep the rest of us alive.

1. Relate to them as people, not just as providers.

Many times, the relationship between OFWs and their families back home is sadly reduced to an almost solely economic one. A lot of OFWs complain that most of the time, they only hear from the beneficiaries of their hard-earned salaries when the roof needs fixing, the tuition needs paying, someone is sick, or a relative needs money. They feel like slaves trapped in a cycle of backbreaking work in order to grant their families’ wishes.

Although I live abroad, I’m what you may call an OFW in reverse. A big part of my family is in Sydney , and I come quite often to Manila to earn and pay for the house, schooling, food, electricity, etc. As an “Aussie W,” as Danny Javier likes to call me, I go through the same loneliness and deprivation that regular OFWs go through, although not as intensely and desperately. At least I am able to go back every few months and stay for a few weeks unlike the majority who go home only once every year or two and stay only for a couple of weeks.

2. Find more things to write or communicate to them about other than asking for money.

The main loss that OFWs feel is the deprivation of affection from their loved ones. It starts off as a physical loss which they and their families feel initially. After a while, when the dust has settled and the reality sets in that the relative will be gone for quite a while, indifference can creep in. Families can get used to their member being far away, leading to an alienation that can be most painful especially for the person who is away.

A soon-to-be-released documentary I watched a few days ago showed a group of Filipino teachers employed in the United States who felt a lot of frustration while doing video chats with their families. Apart from presenting a list of things they needed financed, many of their family members had little else to talk to them about.

Things changed dramatically when one of the teachers committed suicide due to sheer loneliness. After that, the family video chats became less of an asking or begging session, and more of a genuine exchange of love and caring. This is what OFWs miss the most. So make sure they are kept in the loop and abreast of what’s going on in everyone’s lives.

3. Constantly shower the OFW with gratitude.

There is nothing more gratifying than being appreciated for the sacrifices one makes. A simple, heartfelt “thank you” from a loved one can be profoundly uplifting to someone who is feeling the alienation and meaninglessness of living in some foreign place. It can give one a sense of purpose, direction and reward for a job well done. Gratitude can be a tonic that revitalizes the OFW to continue working under lonely, stressful conditions.

4. Don’t blame them for being away.

Many times, the pain OFWs feel can be a double whammy. Not only is it difficult to be away from their families, it hurts them even more when they are blamed for everything that is wrong with their relationships with their loved ones. Everything is dumped on their lap because they are not present to fix things. While their absence may very well be a factor in why certain things are wrong, e.g. why his son has taken to drugs, why the daughter failed in school or ran away, why the family was cheated of its savings, or whatever else can go wrong, it does not really help the situation to pin the accusation solely or needlessly on someone who is helpless at the moment because he is abroad and is therefore not in a position to fix things.

Instead of blaming, families could attempt to engage one another, including the overseas member in a serious conversation about what together they can do about the situation.

5. Encourage them to get a life outside of work.

While the OFW may not really choose to live abroad but for necessity, it can be a great learning opportunity to learn a new language, understand a new culture, meet new friends and enrich one’s life overall. Many people on both sides of the fence, at home and abroad, mistakenly tend to view the situation largely as one of pure sacrifice with little joys to anticipate wherever one is.
That’s really too bad because being abroad can be a great learning experience in independence, creativity, culture, adjustment and discovery. I’ve been amazed at how some of our countrymen have built happy lives in remote, seemingly inhospitable cultures. It is wonderful how they can make something good out of a bad situation.

For families at home, it is OK to encourage the OFW to pursue personal growth and happiness. Some may worry that growth or embracing their situation can cause them to be estranged from their significant others back home. That can be a valid worry. While it is necessary to remind them to be anchored to the family, it is also important to slacken just a bit the chains or ties that bind.

6. Don’t forget to greet them on their birthdays, Christmas, New Year, Father’s Day, etc.

These special days may not seem as special or have the same urgency to the people at home, but believe me, to the one who left and is living in some alien place, to be forgotten on a special day is a pain that can induce overwhelming sadness. This is especially true when all the other Filipinos they work with receive greetings, gifts and calls from their loved ones back home.

7. Put aside some of the money the OFW sends home for a rainy day.

Many families who are beneficiaries of the OFW’s blood, sweat and tears have the attitude that daddy or mommy, kuya or ate will always provide. Thus they spend on trivial unimportant things and are caught flatfooted when the job contract is not renewed and the money runs out. They soon discover that all that sacrifice was for naught and they are all back where they started!

8. When they come home, make sure to be around for them and for events where the returning relative can experience the family life he or she has missed.

Many OFWs come home for that rare visit looking forward to family bonding, only to discover that the people he wants to spend time with are busy, or worse, not interested to be with him/her. They discover that they have become strangers to their families and only token greetings and affection are accorded them. They do not feel integrated, only accommodated. Their presence after a long absence may even be seen as disruptive to the household’s daily routine.

This can be a big disappointment and may even discourage the OFW from coming home as often. Losing a reason to come home is a tragedy that he and his family can ill afford.

The OFW phenomenon is here to stay. Thank God modern communication can somehow ease its alienating effects on families. But even as we learn to live with it, we should continually find ways to keep OFW families from becoming dysfunctional despite the absence of some of its members. The family is one of our nation’s stronger institutions, our joy and our treasure. We owe it to ourselves and our countrymen to keep it intact, even under the worst of circumstances.

November 23, 2008

Staying Connected

Whoever said “Long distance relationships don’t work” is oh so wrong. Well, I mean this for the ‘friends and family keep in touch’ kind. coz that’s mostly the relationships I actually have right now. As for the other kind… well, let’s talk about that another time.

Our world has been practically divided into longitudinal zones of time. Thus standard time differences are observed per zone and this varies by geographical location. Space ..they’re only dimensional boundaries to be traversed between two person-points. Such barriers are getting quite infinitesimally smaller what with the advent of technology. As participant Benjie Garcia of Wanbol Web Media mentioned in a seminar I once attended on Making Money on ebay, “Internet has made the world smaller.” It’s so easy to keep in touch.. if you have the time, and the heart, and the inclination. But really, space and time can’t separate kindred souls. Not when they’ve shared so many memorable moments together: funny ones, tearful ones, wrathful ones, peaceful ones – oh so many colorful pictures in my memory book. Yesterday a good friend of mine,J, and I relived them again. Manila’s getting to be a drop-off point for friends going on out-of-country trips. It was a long good talk over hot hazelnut-flavored coffee served with my favorite carrot cake. A talk that continued ‘til dinner at Red Crab Seafood Resto on the upper floor. The food was excellent, the music sublime and the talk equally heartwarming.

Warm, multi-colored memories... there’s plenty more hidden intact in the crevices of my mind. Ready to be served hot over a pleasant talk and a tugging walk down memory lane. I’ll play host next time. I think perhaps some cinnamony treats or butterscotch or plain pound cake…and hot chocolate.. wow! Coffee, anyone?

Realidad- Part 3

The good thing about taking a step forward is that you no longer get stuck with wondering about what could be. I realized now that there really is sense in seeking the unknown. The fears are countless but eventually you learn to face each fear as the days go by. And sometimes you find out that the answers to some of the questions that keep nagging at the back of your mind have been there right before you all along. You just needed the push or change or shall we say ‘paradigm shift’.

I realized…
- that you cannot just give and give without taking for eventually you will run out of what you are giving away
- that you can grow strong from each moment of weakness, it’s up to you to overcome that weakness and turn it into strength
- that you cannot change paradigm unless you are willing to open up to the fact that there could be other possibilities
- that sometimes you need to bend yourself a little, so you can look at another point of view
- that the best way to see your worth is through other people’s eyes

November 22, 2008

Naudlot na Atlantis

Haay... naku naman talaga o.. kung minalas ka nga naman...

Sarado ang Atlantis!!! Waaaa!!!!!!!! Ang aga ko pa namang naligo. Bwiset na Madonna, Lindsay Lohan, Robert de Niro, Pamela Anderson, Kylie Minogue, etc... Kainggit talaga itong mga celebrities na ito.

Sobrang takang-taka kami na walang traffic man lang papasok ng Palm Jumeirah e samantalang ilang araw nang di halos gumagalaw traffic nitong mga nakaraang araw. Pagdating namin sa gate, nakupo, hanggang doon lang pala kami. Sarado ang Atlantis ng dalawang buong araw dahil andun ang mga VIP guests nila for the previous night's Grand Opening, including the President of the UAE, several Sheikhs, celebrity bigwigs, etc... They had the whole place all to themselves for the weekend.

Kaya eto, hanggang gate lang din ang picture ko... sa ngayon.

November 20, 2008

Learning to be a Jill-of-All-Trades

Life truly isn’t a bed of roses. Life doesn’t hand you everything you want on a silver platter- not even a wooden one. You have to work on getting them for yourself. So you really have to arm yourself with the right tools of the trade.

I beg your pardon.. did I say trade? Uh-uh.. Well, first things first. You have to be in the right trade in the first place. Coz if you’re at the wrong place or trade or business to begin with, how else can things follow?

It's been some time now that I've been thinking about being in the wrong trade. But as the days wore on, I'm learning some new things. Never in my imagination did it occur to me that I'll ever be near a publications company. I know nowhere anything about fashion, movie reviews, society gigs or least of all, automobiles!!! But then, as they say and now I learn, there's always a first time for everything. And opportunities for learning new things don't just drop on your lap very often. So perhaps this is a new challenge for me.

November 17, 2008

Mommy's Birthday

I called early today. But it seems that early for me is not early for them back home... coz I'm like 4 hours late.. hehehe

I woke up early so I can greet Mommy on her special day. She said she’s in Cebu with Daddy and Aunty Gingging. It’s Aunty’s first session for her therapy. Aunty was all giggly when I talked to her, I guess just trying to keep light of the situation.

Daddy left Dumaguete early in the morning and met up with Mommy and Aunty in Cebu so they can celebrate Mommy’s birthday together.

I wish my Mom a peaceful year, a grace-filled year, a blessed year. I thank the Lord for the gift of my Mom. God has given us countless blessings all these years. Nothing tops the gift of my loving family.

November 15, 2008

Life Here in Dubai

Angela is moving to a new flat, there in al Baraha... cheaper, fewer people in a room and perhaps more peaceful than what we have here.

Chatted with marie... re: office life. Seems I have to push mohamed for my papers para lumalarga na ang pagkuha ng visa ko. Tatagal pa kaya ako sa ganito?

On my third day at the Jebel Ali office, when going home, I saw the heavy traffic on the way back to Deira. Since the van I rode on was going to the Burj Dubai terminal, I attempted the fastest way back to Deira- riding the abra. Gosh!

My cousin was telling me last night that I should ride the little boats ferrying people across the creek to the Naif market areas. And so I asked the terminal guard where the Abra was and I just followed the throng leaving the terminal. I was already halfway across the walk when I realized I was walking parallel to the bridge crossing the creek, the Al Maktoum Bridge. And I thought, “Hey, this is a long walk! I must be going the wrong way. I seem to be crossing the creek already. I asked one of the people walking along and got pointed to the right direction.
I enjoyed being on my own, though. I started taking pictures of the little wooden boats there, and went to sit on one. I enjoyed the ride so much. I took a video of it and I’m posting it here. Though I know you won’t be seeing anything but random lights out of the dark background.

The ride cost me only one dirham. And suddenly I found myself on the other side of the creek, to the busy side of Naif. From there, I rode a taxi cab shared with a fellow Pinay who also avoided the traffic via the Abra. Anyway, I just thought of sharing with you guys about my life here.

November 10, 2008

Kuya's Birthday

My dearest brother has this thing about posting pictures on the web. He’s not comfortable with it. So I won’t go the lengths of placing his face here. And that’s good coz I don’t have to search for one anymore. Hahaha.

Kuya just turned 37. I called to greet him on his birthday and they were out for lunch, enjoying their favorite pizza. I miss being there with them, perhaps I would have joined them if I were still in Manila. I miss going to the malls with them and just hanging out, eating, window-shopping, making tambay at BookSale or ogling new gadgets in the computer world.

Here in Dubai, I don’t have the luxury of buying in the m alls as I still don’t have money to splurge. I’ve still got debts to pay back home. And my bills are not coming in, meaning penalty for overdue bills are piling up. It’s a difficult life.

November 07, 2008

Aunty Gingging

Do you believe in kulam (curse)? Well, I don’t.

But somehow this is all the talk that’s been going around for a couple of days now here at the house. We just recently received bad news from back home. My aunty Gingging has been diagnosed with cervical cancer. She has been a widow for almost a decade now. And, in retrospect, seems to be a most likely candidate for such an ailment. Nobody suspected. Not even her. She seemed to be so healthy and fit and was always on the go. Then one day, she was admitted to the hospital because of pain in her right kidney. They said they needed to perform surgery on it right away. She was admitted to the hospital where my mom worked. When the next call from my mom came, it was to tell us that there was a finding on aunty. My grand-aunty Flor was her attending physician and who told my mom of Aunty Gingging’s condition. They immediately had a sample tissue sent for biopsy. When the results came, my mom had a hard time coming to terms with the sad news. Aunty had stage 3 cancer already.

My aunty Gingging celebrated her golden birthday a couple of years ago. An active servant of God, she always volunteers for ministry work in the Handmaids of the Lord (HOLD) arm of Couples for Christ. She holds such a zest for life, actively going around joining ILCs anywhere in the archipelago, one time even touring down Malaysia together with her sisters in HOLD. I remember her as a very flamboyant person who loved to sing and dance. Way back in the late seventies, when The Saturday Night Fever movie showed in theaters around, my aunty took me with her to see the movie. When we left the moviehouse, we immediately went to a record house and she bought the soundtrack album. When we got home she immediately played it on the phonograph and we started doing the John Travolta moves to the tune of Night Fever. Boy it was fun!

But now, aunty’s ovaries have grown so very large after her hospital stay. It’s like she was pregnant by the size of her abdomen. With most of the folks back home being very traditional, talk started about my aunty being the victim of a curse. Rumors came out that the thing in her stomach is due to a curse. They wanted to bring her to a quack doctor. They even sent one relative to a known quack doctor, offer my aunty’s name/birthday, some info and ask him to heal her.

I believe in miracles, especially from God. It would take faith, I know.

Mommy was always crying and was text messaging everyone in the family but still couldn’t bring herself to tell aunty about her condition. But when friends started calling in to visit her and encouraging messages started trickling in, the inevitable happened. Aunty learned. Whether it was from her own son, or brod or sis from the CFC ministry or maybe by her own hunch, she learned. And she dealth with it. She prepared herself- emotionally, spiritually, and physically. And she’s still fighting her battle.

I sent my mom a package in time for her birthday, and along with it I sent the pink cap with a pink ribbon which I wore during the Pink Ribbon Walk for a Cause (Breast Cancer Awareness) in Dubai Burjuman. I said she should wear it even if it’s not breast cancer.

Mommy made the rounds of their properties and asked the consent of all her siblings to sell off a parcel of land in Zamboanga to pay for all the therapy and medical expenses. Then they went to Cagayan de Oro to look for a good oncologist but the best ones seem to be in Cebu so they scheduled for an appointment with the doctors there. The doctors immediately scheduled surgery to remove her ovaries which have grown so big that they were already impeding her kidneys.

On the day of her surgery in Cebu, Aunty Gingging called everyone of her siblings and had heart to heart talk with all of them. She wanted to make peace with all of them just to be sure and wouldn’t want to proceed with the operation unless she’s fully ready. She was strong. The doctors said her body was really fighting back. There were four doctors assisting the lead oncologist. Praise God for the good outcome of her surgery. Her doctors allowed her to go home to Iligan to recover and gain back some strength (maybe for a month). Then they will need to go back to Cebu to begin her radiation therapy sessions.

We continue to pray for her that her recovery will continue and that she will truly survive her cancer malady.

Work in Transition

During the first weeks here, I was still waiting for the red ribbon of my transcript which had to be authenticated also by the UAE embassy in the Philippines so that it can be stamped at the Consular office here in Dubai. See, I was told employment papers here in Dubai cannot be processed if I do not have my own educational certificates attested by the proper authorities so I really waited for these documents to be duly authenticated.

I had interviews and decided to accept the job as a receptionist in the sales office of a publication firm here in Dubai. Pay is okay considering that the work does not entail too much brain use… ha-ha. It’s really more of coordinating skills and patience on the phone. “,)

And so, I had so much time on my hands. Enough to pen in most of my thoughts, as my head is already brimming full of things to post on my blog. Hence, these most of my blogposts now.

First day I reported to work here, I was culture-shocked. People at the office seem to be shouting at one another even though they say that it’s the normal way they talk. It’s not a shout to them, but their voices are so loud. And they’re all just facing each other at that.

Then the phones started ringing. And I didn’t know how to handle the multiple ringing around the office. Then I was asked to fax some paper, and I was doing it all wrong. I was used to our fax machine in the laboratory where the document is placed facing downward whereas here it has to be placed facing up.

Then I was called in and told to report to the Jebel Ali office for at least a week seeing that I needed to be trained first on the basics of the job. And I thought I was office literate. Hah!

So off I went to Jebel Ali- at the Dubai Industrial Park where the printing press and main office is located. There, I met all the writers and staff of the publications firm except the Editor who was on leave at the time.

I had several more bloopers at work including transferring calls to Mohamed the Accountant from Mohammad the designer who actually wanted me to connect him to Mohamad of KSA. When I was told my mistake, I immediately looked at the numbers of the KSA staff, and guess how many Mohamad I saw on the list? Three!!! Three Mohamads to choose from. Grabe, di ba?