Monday, December 13, 2010

"Pauwi Na!"

“Pauwi Na!”
(Music and Lyrics by Noel Cabangon
From the Album Medjas, 2004)

Pauwi na ako. For good.

I have been an overseas Filipino worker since 2000. I’ve completed a 10-year period of living and working as an ‘alien’ in Taiwan and as a ‘foreign talent’ in Singapore.

While I was working in Taiwan, foreign workers were issued an Alien Registration Certificate or ARC. My nephew, Bon, always teased me about being an ‘alien.’ In Singapore, foreign workers are called ‘foreign talents” and we are issued an employment pass.

“Why are you giving up a good-paying overseas job?” I’ve been asked this question many times ever since I made it known that I’m going home for good.

Here are my answers:

First, when I left to work as an OFW in 2000, it was my intention to go back home. For good. I just didn’t know when.

Second, money isn’t everything. Family and country are more important. When my grandson was seven years old, he told his Daddy:

Di bale walang bahay. (I don't care for a house.) Di bale walang kotse. (I don't care for a car.) Basta may pamilya. (What matters most is our family.)”

My son was considering an overseas job for himself then, and this was the counsel to him by his young son.

Third, I want to invest time in an earnest relationship with my grandkids. They weren’t born yet when I left the Philippines. I’d go home every now and then, and each time, we’ll have to get re-acquainted.

Fourth, metaphorically speaking, I want to dig in my own backyard and discover the ‘acres of diamonds’ (Russell Conwell, 1890) which have been there all along.
I don’t think there’s a literal ‘acres of diamonds’ in my backyard. In the first place, I don’t have a backyard. I want to go the route of entrepreneurship.

I know that I will need a different set of skills and competencies as a businessperson. I’ve been preparing myself over the years. Most importantly, I will need a different mindset.

Having a job from an employer who gives me a regular paycheck every month is certainly comfortable. But I’d like to stop being an employee, and I’d like to start being my own boss.

I will need a different mindset when I go home. For good.

I have a colleague and friend who’s been insisting that I lay out my plans in black and white, each step of the way. She’s concerned that I might be jobless and penniless. I tell her that God has always provided for me and my family, and He always will.

Last Monday, October 25, Noel Cabangon was featured in a noontime concert in the university where I teach (National Institute of Education, Singapore). He is the singer-songwriter who performed at President Noynoy Aquino’s inauguration at the Rizal Park, Manila on June 30. I went to the noontime concert, of course.

Noel sang nine songs during a one-hour show in the performance room of our music majors. In-between songs, he told us vignettes about himself and his journey as a musician.

Let me share with you the one song which spoke to my heart. It’s the best reason why I’m going home. For good. Here’s the youtube link, in case you want to listen to it.

Ako'y pauwi na sa ating bayan
Lupang sinisinta, bayang sinilangan
Ako'y nananabik na ika'y masilayan
Pagkat malaon din akong nawalay
Sa ating inang bayan

Ang aking dala-dala'y
“Sang maleta ng karanasan
Bitbit ko sa ‘king balikat
Ang binuno sa ibang bayan

Hawak ko sa ‘king kamay
Ang pag-asang inaasam
Na sana'y matupad na rin ang pangarap
Na magandang kinabukasan

Bayan ko ako'y pauwi na
Ako'y sabik na ika'y makasama
Bayan ko ako ay nariyan na
Ating pagsaluhan…
Ang pag-asang dala-dala

Ako'y pauwi na sa aming tahanan
Sa mahal kong asawa, mga anak at kaibigan
Ako'y nananabik na kayo ay mahagkan
Pagkat tunay ang pangungulila
Dito sa ibang bayan

Ang aking dala-dala'y
‘Sang maleta ng pagmamahal
Bitbit ko sa ‘king balikat
Ang pangakong matibay

Hawak ko sa ‘king kamay
Ang pag-asang inaasam
Na sana'y matupad na rin ang pangarap
Na magandang kinabukasan

Mahal ko ako'y pauwi na
Ako'y sabik na kayo ay makasama
Mahal ko ako ay nariyan na
Ating pagsaluhan ang pag-asang dala-dala

Monday, April 19, 2010

Voting as an OFW in Singapore

by Carmelita C. Ballesteros

The last time I voted in the Philippines was in 1992. So it has been 18 years of nonparticipation in the electoral process for me. This year, I am taking part in the process again.

This is a historic election year for me for several reasons. First, I am voting as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Singapore. Second, I am taking part in the very first automated Philippine elections. Third, I am making my small voice heard in the clamor for a return to decency, honesty, and integrity in Philippine politics and governance. Fourth, I want my grandchildren to know that I care for their future.

Where and When to Vote

All registered voters in Singapore must go to the Philippine Embassy on Nassim Road. It is a road with several embassies and condominium towers and it is a walking distance from the Orchard MRT Station.

Overseas absentee voters (OAV) may vote in Singapore from April 10 to May 10, 2010. The Embassy is open for voting on a daily basis, Monday to Sunday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

As I walked closer towards the Philippine Embassy, I noticed that white tents had been put up on its grounds.

Voter's ID?

There's no need for a voter's ID. I did not receive any. After verifying my name in the list of OAVs in the Comelec website, I took my Philippine passport and Singapore employment pass with me to the embassy.

The Voting Process
17 April 2010, 10:45 - 10:55 a.m.

1. At the embassy gate. There was no queue. I walked in all by myself. A female guard made a cursory inspection of my handbag. I was neither asked for identification nor was I asked to sign in the log book.

2. A smiling male volunteer immediately welcomed me, steered me toward the holding area, and gave me a registration number.

3. The holding area is an enclosed, air-conditioned tent. Having experienced long and sweat- inducing queues at the Philippine Embassy, the holding area was like a dream.

Another smiling male volunteer offered me a seat in front of a computer manned by another volunteer. He took my registration number and asked for my passport. He verified my name in his computer.

After a few seconds, he asked me to write my passport number as well as Singapore ID number, then sign a registration log book. Then he gave me a number which said "P-1."

While I was doing this, I noticed that someone with a camera was videotaping the process (not me). He was obviously part of the team.

4. An alert volunteer steered me towards a door which led to P-1 or Voting Precinct 1. This was also an enclosed, air-conditioned tent. The dream isn't a dream. Another volunteer took my P-1 number, then led me to the registration table. The female volunteer asked me for any ID, then verified my name.

After a few seconds, she asked me to sign a registration log book.

5. I was immediately given a very long folder containing my ballot. A volunteer explained to me that I should shade the oval opposite the name of the candidate I have chosen. He said I may under-vote, but not over-vote. It means voting for only 1 president, 1 vice-president, 12 senators, and 1 party-list representative. Over-voting would mean the disqualification of my ballot.

"Is there a time limit?" I asked. "No," he said.

"What will I use for shading?" I asked again. "There's a marker on each desk," he said.

The ballot was 26 inches long. I did not have a ruler at the time so I used my hand to measure it. Apat na dangkal ang haba. The folder, which was supposed to cost Php370.00 each till a whistle-blower exposed the scam, was made of two ordinary long folders taped together.

6. I sat down at the back. There were 15 ordinary school tablet arm chairs in three rows. Each tablet had been fastened with a cardboard shield to prevent one's seatmates from 'copying.' A felt-tipped marker with black ink was tied to the tablet with a string.

As suggested in some voters' education flyers, I brought my list of candidates with me. I fished it out from my handbag and started shading the little ovals.

Before giving back my ballot tucked inside the folder to a poll volunteer, I made sure that I had voted for 12 senators. I wrote down my ballot ID number in my list of candidates . I noticed that my ballot had been pre-signed by the Board of Election Inspection registrar(?).

There was only one voter before me. He was already seated when I came in. I watched him feed his ballot into the PCOS or scanning machine.

7. The poll volunteer asked me to remove my ballot from the folder. Then he asked me to feed the ballot into the PCOS machine. It snapped up my ballot, then sucked it in. After a few seconds, it said, "Congratulations."

I took note that I was voter number 189 in that PCOS machine.

8. Another voted had come in. While the female volunteer at the table attended to her, a male volunteer asked me to thumb mark (right thumb) the same registration log book I had signed earlier. Then he applied indelible ink on my right index finger.

I sat down near the door of P-1 to take another look. There were four volunteers in all. The door was made of steel and glass.

Automated Voting Was a Breeze!

It helped, of course, that my voting precinct was air-conditioned and the volunteers were warm, welcoming, and helpful.

I went to the back of the embassy to look around. There are seven air-conditioned precincts altogether. There was a friendly volunteer stationed at the corner with a sign saying, "To P3 - P7." He asked me if he could help me. I said I was done and was just looking around.

I felt a sense of well-being and optimism as I left the embassy grounds.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Simbang-Gabi Singapore 2009: Wardens Needed

What are you doing after office hours on the 17th of December 2009? Do you live in the Jurong area? Please lend your presence to the observance of Simbang Gabi Singapore 2009 as a church warden at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Boon Lay.

As a volunteer church warden, you will help manage human traffic before, during, and after the Simbang Gabi Mass on December 17.

Please get in touch with Mr. Manny Resmeros through mobile phone +65-9277 2863. He's the conductor of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Choir and he will brief the volunteer wardens on December 13. Thirty (30) wardens are needed.

This is the eleventh (11th) year that Rev. Father Angel Luciano, CICM, a Filipino priest based at the Church of St. Michael, has tirelessly spearheaded the observance of Simbang Gabi in Singapore since 1999.

Maligayang Pasko po sa ating lahat!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Filipino Teachers: Beware of US Recruitment

Dear fellow teachers from the Philippines,

I am teaching overseas right now. Please do not allow yourselves to be victimized by recruiters. Please read the article about Filipino teachers held in 'servitude' in the USA in the link below.

You don't need recruiters. You don't need middlemen/middlewomen. You can take control of your job search.

Let me share with you how I applied for my overseas job.

As an Overseas Filipino Worker, my first overseas job was a teaching position at the Da-Yeh University in Changhua, Taiwan. I taught there for 5 1/2 years. I applied online by posting my resume on Dave's ESL Cafe. It was free. Afterwards, Dave's ESL Cafe sent me job ads posted by schools and language centers.

I sent my application portfolio to several universities in different countries. After considering the offers, I chose to sign up with Da-Yeh University in Taiwan. Everything was free in the sense that I didn't have to pay any middleman/woman (the recruiter). Of course, I paid for my passport at the Department of Foreigh Affairs and my visa at the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in Makati City.

I applied personally for my passport and my visa. I didn't allow any recruiters or travel agents to make money off me. I was a direct hire.

Right now, I am teaching at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore. How did I apply for this job? I surfed the web, found advertised job openings for academic staff in reputable institutions, and sent my application documents in 2007 to some.

After going through the usual interviews and waiting for several months, in November of the same year, I received from NIE an air parcel sent through a 24-hour courier. It contained my letter of appointment and other relevant documents. I signed an acceptance letter which I sent back through a 24-hour courier, too. A notice was e-mailed to me to pick up my air ticket from the nearest Philippine Airline sales office.

On Nov. 30, 2007, I flew to Singapore. I checked into the university's executive centre for free, then transferred to a faculty flat on Dec. 3, 2007. I received my first paycheck on Dec. 15, 2007.

I was a direct hire. I didn't allow any recruiters or travel agents to make money off me.

It breaks my heart when I hear of fellow teachers who are victimized by recruiters. I understand the dream that you dream. For heaven's sake, don't let it become a nightmare!


Carmelita C. Ballesteros

Monday, September 14, 2009

MONEY Management Seminar at Insular Life, Makati

by Jaime G. Seculles, Jr.

Magandang araw po!

Once again, Insular Life would like to invite OFWs and their family members to a Forum/Orientation session entitled, "Money Management", in our Makati Office at 6781 Makati Avenue, Makati City on Friday, Sept. 18, 2009 at 2:00 p.m.

"Money Management" is designed for OFWs and their families to make them aware of the opportunities Insular Life is offering, and maybe help them in financial management.

There is no cost or obligation. Spouses and grown-up children of OFWs are encouraged to attend. Slots are limited, so please reserve a seat by calling Cell No. +63-917-5028310 or dropping an e-mail at


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tita Cory's Funeral

by Ma. Lourdes S. Bautista
A friend of mine in the Philippines sent me this e-mail about Tita Cory’s funeral. It describes how Filipinos from all walks of life took part in Tita Cory's historic funeral spontaneously. The writer has given Barangay OFW permission to publish her e-mail.
Dear all,

Last Wednesday, August 5, 2009, the Filipino people laid Tita Cory to rest. Ton, Nina, Yumi, Ma and I accepted Gigi's invitation to join her and her family in their place which was near the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). It offered a good vantage point of Tita Cory's funeral.

Ma and I arrived at Gigi’s place before 9:00 a.m. and so there was no traffic at all. Ton, Nina, and Yumi arrived after a few minutes. We were able to watch the funeral Mass on TV and it was a great experience being able to see it with family.

Iyakin ako, as you know, so there were several times umiyak ako. All of us found Fr. Arevalo's homily beautiful and we were not turned off (as some were, according to the Inquirer) by the celebrities singing songs -- they were all good (especially Dulce and Lea Salonga) and the songs chosen had great meaning in Cory's life.
At 2:30 p.m., when we thought the cortege was approaching Gigi’s place, we went to SLEX. Ay naku, the wait lasted two hours. It was a very mixed group -- peninsulares who lived in posh villages and ordinary Filipinos. There were the usual vendors of bottled water and peanuts and fish crackers.

When the advance party of the cortege came in view, we flashed the L sign and shouted, “Cory, Cory!” several times. We saw Gina Lopez and then Judy and Mar Roxas drive by. We saw Butch Abad, Aurora Pijuan, and Jun Lozada walk by.

Finally! The flatbed truck with Cory's flag-draped coffin surrounded by flowers and the four honor guards standing tall!

Shouting, “Cory, Cory,” we were again teary-eyed. It was an emotional moment. Nina was shocked that Ma, who’s in her 80s, clambered on top of a monobloc chair to get a better view.

The vans and buses carrying the Aquino family followed. But because of the tinted windows, we only glimpsed Jiggy Aquino-Cruz holding a placard with the pentel-pen inked message: "WE LOVE U. SALAMAT."

Then the rain poured and the wind blew -- and even though we were protected by the Skyway overhang -- we got really wet. The rain came in horizontal torrents.

Ma and I took EDSA back to the house and there was no traffic. We passed by Tita Cory's house on Times Street and we saw the orchids that we had left the day before. At home, we caught the tail-end of the funeral on TV.

A memorable day indeed -- thanks to Gigi and family for the idea and for the great hospitality.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Images of Tita Cory's Funeral Cortege

I chanced upon this blog which features pictures and video clips of Tita Cory's funeral cortege from La Salle Green Hills to Manila Cathedral on 3 August 2009.

Do check it out.