Sunday, June 22, 2008

Barangay OFW’s Beginnings

I applied online for a teaching position at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. After hurdling the recruitment process, I was offered a contract as a Teaching Fellow. A ticket was sent to me to fly to Singapore on November 30, 2007 and assume duty on December 3, 2007.

Completely unprepared, I was deeply hurt by the shabby treatment I experienced at the NAIA when I left for Singapore on November 30. On the contrary, I was treated with courtesy and respect at the super-efficient and world-class Changi Airport of Singapore.

Very grateful that I made it to Singapore, I was ready to forget the shabby, embarrassing, demeaning, and painful experience I had at NAIA.

But I realized that I am not alone when I read on January 6, 2008 an article about a similar airport episode in the online Inquirer. The writer is former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban and his article is about his daughter’s experience at the NAIA. I don’t know what moved me but I instantly e-mailed the former Chief Justice and poured my heart out.

The next Sunday, January 13, my sister and brother-in-law called from the Philippines early in the morning to tell me that the former Chief Justice had included excerpts from my letter in his column. It turned out that OFWs from every imaginable nook and cranny around the globe shared their tales of woe not only about NAIA but also about the Department of Foreign Affairs, the National Statistics and Census Office, the POEA, the OWWA, etc.

On January 14, the former Chief Justice asked me to help him collate the data on OFW grievances and suggestions for reforms. He said he is committed to help bring about reforms, but he would like to approach the matter from a macro-perspective rather than deal with individual cases on a piece-meal basis.

I hesitated for a moment. Many if’s and but’s swam in my head. But I made a leap of faith and said yes.

On January 20, the former Chief Justice wrote about OFWs for the third time. He appealed to all of us, “So, OFWs unite! Otherwise, your gripes will not be acted on and you will have no relief from your woes.”

From hundreds of e-mail senders, a core group of about twenty to thirty men and women have remained in touch with one another since January 2008.

We used the email address and referred to ourselves as United OFWS until May when we discovered through a Google search that an older organization based in Saudi Arabia had the same name.

After a flurry of e-mails, we decided to give ourselves a new name – Barangay OFW. In due time, we shall register our group with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the Philippines.

Copyright © 2008 to Barangay OFW. All rights reserved.

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