Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Pinay Nigerwife in Enugu, Nigeria

By: Maynard Flores
in Nigeria since 2006

After a year in Lagos doing marketing coordination job for a Lagos-based company, I was transferred to Enugu State in Southeast Nigeria for an expansion project.

I was full of apprehension of what life would be in Enugu. I haven’t heard of any Pinoys there. But a friend, Guiller, who had worked in Enugu for 3 years, assured me that Enugu is fine and peaceful. So there I went in September 2007, on an Arik plane heading for the hills of Enugu.

After a week in Enugu, I was beginning to feel like I was really the only Filipino in this part of Nigeria. Then in December, Jaime Lumbay came as maintenance engineer for the Pepsi Bottling plant in Enugu. We had known each other back in Ikeja, Lagos where we met in one of those regular Sunday gatherings and Family Days.

Guiller called to tell me about a Filipina doctor who is married to a Nigerian (hence the term 'Niger-wife') and has been living in Enugu for quite a while. I decided to look for her bakeshop. To my pleasant surprise, it was just within walking distance from our lotto office.

I decided one day to pay her a visit and went to Faye's Bakeshoppe at Ogui Road. Only her Nigerian staff were there, but the moment they saw me, they asked if I was looking for my 'sister'. In Nigeria, a compatriot or fellow-countryman is described as 'my brother' or 'my sister'.

I said, “Yes, I'm looking for 'my sistah'.”

"Is madam dey?"

"A dey", a Nigerian staff member replied.

She then called somebody. "Auntie, your brother is looking for you..."
(In Nigeria, 'auntie' and 'uncle' are terms of respect for somebody older than the speaker, even when not related by blood.)

I looked into the kitchen and saw an 'oniyocha' (white-skin) woman looking at me in astonishment. She was a typical Pinay, petite with Chinese eyes and as old as my mother.

"Filipino?" she asked.


"Eyyy, chinike (oh my god! )," she whispered as she came to cheerfully hug me.

As we were making the usual 'kumustahan', I sensed from her accent that she was not Tagalog. So I asked where she was from in the Philippines. She said she was born in Cebu, but grew up in Samar.

"Yay, Waray." I said, as we both laughed.

I have finally met Doc Fely (Fely Maglasang-Chioke), a retired doctor, and now a full-time businesswoman baking cakes and pastries and doing catering. She is well-known in Enugu as a doctor, and as a pesky, fighting 'oniyocha'. In her prime, she was an active officer of Enugu Nigerwives Club (composed of women from different countries who are married to Nigerians), and also a one-time Rotary official in Enugu.

Doc Fely (I call her 'Nang Fely') has been in and out of Nigeria for 25 years. Although she, her late husband and three children are also American citizens, she has chosen to stay in Nigeria.

After the death of her husband, she decided to retire from medical practice and put up a modest bakeshoppe. She’s running her business by herself since all her children are now working overseas.

I am so glad to meet Nang Fely. When I got sick of malaria (p. falciparum) and had thyphoid fever, it was Nang Fely who brought me to good clinics and also helped to treat me.

When I get hungry during lunchtime, I would go to her bakeshop for a free lunch. Lami gyud basta libre. – D

I am also her official taster. I am the first to taste her hamburger, hopia and peppered chin-chin, a kind of doughbread cut into small pieces. Good for ‘pulutan’.

It was through Nang Fely that I was able to go to Anambra to attend the traditional wedding of the daughter of a Filipina (from Butuan) who is also married to a Nigerian. There, I met other Filipina Nigerwives. There were at least four couples. I was also introduced to Nigerians who had studied and finished Engineering and Medicine in the Philippines. They have formed an association called PHILGRAN – Philippine Graduates from Nigeria.

Nang Fely is also the contact person of the Philippine Embassy in Southeast Nigeria. Once, Ambassador Umpa from Abuja called her and requested her to meet and accompany an arriving Filipina whose Nigerian husband died in neighboring Anambra State. It was the Pinay's first visit to Nigeria.

There are now three of us Filipinos in Enugu -- Jaime of Pepsico, Nang Fely, and I. Because of our varying schedules and Nang Fely being almost always fully-booked in the weekend, it is not very often the three of us can get together. But after nine months in Enugu, we were finally able to spend a Sunday lunch together at Jaime's house.

Through Nang Fely, we were able to meet Ate Mayette, a Filipina from Iloilo who is married to a Belgian expat. She invited us to the Anamco Expat Clubhouse in posh GRA, Enugu to celebrate her birthday and the independence day of Belgium. I was with Roland Rosales, my Pinoy colleague who was in Enugu that time for a two-week assignment.

Ate Mayette and her husband have been in Nigeria even longer than Nang Fely. She lived with her husband for a long time in a palm plantation in Benin City, Edo State before moving to Enugu. She invited me to play golf at Enugu Golf and Country Club, but I never had time for that opportunity. Sayang.

Nang Fely rues about the Filipino's lack of entrepreneurial interest in putting up business in Nigeria. She narrated that before the 'pure water' became a hit in Nigeria as a poor man's packaged water, she had already thought about doing it in Enugu, using the regular 'heat sealer' that can be bought commercially. But because she was still active as a doctor at that time, she was not able to pursue it, until 'pure water' business arrived in Enugu from Lagos.

Nang Fely told us stories about the late 70's to 80's when Filipino doctors, teachers, nurses and engineers came to Nigeria at the height of its oil wealth. She said those OFWs just preferred to be employed, take their money and go home, unlike Lebanese and Indians who made big bucks trading in Nigeria.

She said she will take a vacation to Cebu this December and try to check if she can attend a training at the TLRC on homemade ice-cream making. She's planning to introduce a ‘real’ homemade Pinoy ice-cream in Enugu, assuming that the Nigerian Electric Power Authority (NEPA) will remain good in Enugu.

At Nang Fely’s age, this feisty waray is still thinking about expanding into other business ventures in Nigeria.

As my time in Enugu winds down, I am feeling sad about the thought of leaving Nang Fely and Enugu. As of this writing, I haven't told her that I will be leaving for vacation next month and won’t be back in Enugu.

I have come to like Enugu. It is a peaceful place with good electricity. The police are polite to expats (unlike the Lagos police). I will miss the nkwobi, the ise-ewu, the ram suya, Raya’s Chinese Restaurant, quick beer at Polo Park with Johnny, shopping at Roban’s, Wednesdays at the New Haven market, swimming or boating at Protea Hotel/Nike Lake Resort, Abakpa , and of course, the cakes and pastries of Nang Fely.

So to the Pinoys and Pinays travelling to Enugu, please drop by at Doc Fely's Faye's Bakeshoppe at 84 Ogui Road, Enugu. She makes special hamburger, tasty pastries, and great cakes for all occasions.

Kachifu” (Igbo for goodbye)


By: Maynard Flores
In Nigeria since Sept 2006.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Arnel Pineda: Born to Sing

by Carmelita C. Ballesteros
Journey, one of the best bands in the world, was founded in 1975. It has a long and illustrious career. But since the departure of its most famous lead singer Steve Perry, it has signed up other singers but none could quite capture the Perry magic.

Founder and guitarist Neal Schon had expressed frustration over not having a lead singer for almost a year. It had been a long and exasperating search, but he never lost hope. Finally, on December 5, 2007, Journey announced in its website:

Born in Sampaloc, Manila. Orphaned at 13. High school drop-out. Homeless street child for two years. Tan. Five feet, three inches. Shoulder-length hair. Goatee. 41 years old.Band singer since 15. Singing since his mother conceived him.

Born to sing!
Neal Schon said that he was blown away after listening to Arnel Pineda’s soulful rendition of Journey’s signature ballad “Faithfully” and “Open Arms” on YouTube. Arnel sounded just like Steve Perry, yet he was original. His tenor is higher-pitched and has an unbelievable range.
Here are the opening lines of “Faithfully”:
Highway run into the midnight sun
Wheels go round and round
You're on my mind
Restless hearts sleep alone tonight
Can Arnel perform live to millions of loyal Steve Perry fans around the world? Performing in restaurant-bars like Hard Rock Café is child’s play compared to a world tour.
Rising to the occasion, Arnel’s been touring South America, North America and Europe since February 2008 and the reviews rave about his phenomenal talent and energy. The original Journey band members say they feel reborn.
Where does Arnel get the lung power that makes his tenor soar? Where do the awesome, raw emotions come from? Where does he get the inner drive to sing on and on and on?

Born on September 5, 1967 in Sampaloc, Manila, Arnel is the eldest among four children. His parents were both tailors. His mother loved to sing and always listened to and sang along Karen Carpenter’s and Barbra Streisand’s songs on the radio.

Arnel, being the first child, grew up listening to and singing along the same songs his mother loved. And he had the voice, the talent, and the interest. His father would ‘bribe’ him with new pairs of pants to wear to amateur singing contests.

He and his siblings went to Quiapo Parochial School. Arnel was involved actively in the glee club, the rondalla, and other activities. His family thrived although his parents had to work hard as tailors. Then tragedy struck.

After a long illness, Arnel’s mother succumbed to rheumatic heart, leaving the family bankrupt with huge hospital bills and unpaid rent. Even the funeral expenses were a big challenge to deal with.

Broke and broken-hearted, Arnel’s father had no choice but to move his grieving family out of their rented apartment. He decided to ask different relatives to act as foster families for his young children while he tried to put the pieces of his life back again.

Arnel decided to strike out on his own. He was thirteen.

The streets became his school; Luneta Park, his home. There were days when he’d go unwashed so he’d drink and bathe in the fountain at the Luneta Park. There were days when all he could afford to eat was a small packet of biscuits.

He found work buying and selling metal scraps, old bottles and newspaper. Whenever he made a few extra pesos, he’d go and pay a visit to one of his brothers who lived somewhere near. He’d give his brother some money.

Arnel had a friend, Monet Cajipe. Monet had a guitar and he’d ask Arnel to come to his family home. They’d sing and entertain Monet’s family who’d feed Arnel in return.

When Arnel was 15, he and his friend Monet joined the Ijos Band. It was the humble beginning of a 25-year career as a rock band lead singer. Arnel was paid thirty-five pesos a night and was given a small room as his sleeping quarters.

Arnel must have been so happy. He must have shared the wonderful news with his father right away. The same brother Arnel had been visiting every now and then narrates that his father came to fetch him from their relatives’ house.

Arnel had sent for him. Arnel had a job and a place to sleep. Arnel wanted him to stay with him. It wasn’t much of a bedroom. It was infested with roaches, rats, and mosquitoes, but it was theirs and they were happy. Two of them brothers had been re-united. And his brother Arnel sent him back to school.
Arnel has occupied his niche as a rock band lead singer since the time he joined Ijos Band in 1982. He and his friend Monet Cajipe would re-group and would form new bands with new names, but the two of them stuck together -- Arnel as the singer; Monet as the guitarist.

In the 1990’s, Arnel and his band found their way to Hong Kong. It must have been a steady, well-paying, and enviable gig, singing six nights a week. But Arnel lost another important woman in his life. It devastated him. He turned to drugs, unable to deal with the indescribable pain.

One day, he lost his voice. He just couldn’t sing any more. A doctor told him to retire from singing. He was only 27.

What?! Retire from singing?

It was a wake-up call for Arnel. If losing a girl friend had devastated him, losing his voice knocked sense into his head.

He went home to the Philippines and refusing to believe the Hong Kong doctor, he re-trained his voice. He stayed clean and sober, determined to rise from the depths of despair. Six months of disciplined vocal health care and training paid off. He was able to sing again!

In 2002, he went back to the Hong Kong rock band circuit. Somehow, in 2006, Arnel met Bert de Leon who convinced him and Monet to relocate to the Philippines. They signed up as talents under Bert de Leon’s entertainment company and formed a new band called Zoo. They began performing in restaurant-bars in Metro Manila and Olongapo again.

In 2007, a fan and friend, Noel Gomez, started posting on YouTube video clips of the Zoo performing songs by Led Zeppelin, Beatles, Air Supply, Kenny Loggins, and of course, Journey.

What was Noel thinking when he started videotaping Arnel’s gigs at Hard Rock Café? What was he planning when he started posting on YouTube Arnel’s performances with his band Zoo? What made him insist that Arnel reply to Neal Schon’s e-mail which Arnel had dismissed as a hoax?

Noel must have recognized the magnificent talent that Arnel is blessed with and a tiny voice must have told him to do what he had done. He was the bridge which connected Arnel and Journey to each other.

International stardom as a rock music celebrity has made Arnel hot copy. Everyone wants to interview him for a live TV show or for a print medium.

During some interviews in the US and in the Philippines, there were unguarded moments when Arnel would choke up with emotion. His voice would break, trail off, and he’d wipe a tear from his eyes. Those were the moments when he would be asked about his late mother and the homeless, hungry years he spent after her death.

Arnel’s mother was the first and most significant woman in his life. He said in his interview with John Blackstone of CBS that his mother taught him how to sing. She taught him to be brave, to fight on when the world isn’t too kind, and to keep on believing…

Such impact a parent has on a child!

Wherever Arnel’s mother may be right now (she must be in heaven), she must be singing alleluias in gratitude and with pride. Not only has her voice pupil become a phenomenal success around the world, but he has also remained humble and human.

A fan writes about the precious pre-concert moments Arnel spent with her and her wheelchair-bound brother who has cerebral palsy. Arnel thanked them profusely for coming to the concert, for buying Journey’s new CD, Revelation, and for supporting him.
Eric Caruncho of the Philippine Daily Inquirer writes that Arnel doesn’t think of himself as a rock star. He says, “I’m more of an OFW than a rock star. I’m just like you guys—I’m working.”
Today, Arnel is on vacation in the Philippines. Having performed in 69 sell-out shows in South America, North America and Europe, his vocal cords need plenty of rest and he deserves time with his family.

He has announced on Philippine TV two pieces of good news. First, he’ll be organizing a foundation for streetkids. And second, he and his fiancee are getting married early in 2009.

How did Arnel pop the question? He didn’t say, but he must have sung one of Journey’s signature ballads:

So now I come to you, with open arms
Nothing to hide, believe what I say
So here I am with open arms
Hoping you'll see what your love means to me
Open arms
This was originally published in the Filam Weekly MegaScene, Illinois, USA on October 14 & 17, 2008. The publishers may be reached at
Copyright © 2008 to Barangay OFW. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mr. Ajith, Fellow Overseas Worker

by Arjaye Llamas Peria
Saudi Arabia
This article was originally published in Color and Visions (Volume I / Issue 1), official corporate publication/newsletter of Astra Polymers ( as a feature article from one of its (former) employees, Mr. Rjaye Llamas Peria. Mr. Allan V. Adan, Editor-In-Chief of Color and Visions, has given Barangay OFW his kind permission to re-publish this article. You may reach Mr. Adan at or
It was not a typical Saturday morning. Something had changed in him. He smiled at me though I sensed the freshness of his face had succumbed to the dark shadow that he tried to conceal. I knew by intuition that Mr. Ajith was hiding something from me on that day.

I knew there was something wrong. But I was not accustomed to asking him questions that might give me an embarrassing retort. Besides, I knew Mr. Ajith pretty well and therefore, asking a question if he was all right or not would be nonsensical. It was logical to hold that action speaks louder than words.

I lowered my eyes and nailed my attention to his right hand. He was holding a piece of paper. When he noticed that I was staring at it, he slowly handed the paper over to me. I glanced back at him after going through it. I was totally astounded.

The truth was, we had had many instances of short conversations whenever he came to clean my office. He told me that he came from a poor family of four siblings. He was second to the eldest. He dreamt of working abroad not for himself, but for his parents and his own family. He wanted to help them in their daily survival, and hopefully, to help them enjoy an average way of life. A way of life that was conventional in his country.

His first experience of being away from home was in 1999. It was an ill-fated experience. He was a roomboy in a lodging house in Kuwait. After four months, an untoward incident occurred that forced him to leave Kuwait and fly back to Sri Lanka. Once again, he embraced the difficulties of life which he had hoped to change.

It was in the early part of the year 2000 when another opportunity crossed his path. This was his chance to work in Saudi Arabia. Mr. Ajith was determined to pursue his dream for the sake of his extended family. Without a second thought, he gave himself another try. He left Sri Lanka hoping to seize one of the stars in order to illuminate if not the whole portion of his life, at least a part of it.

“Do you wish to see your father for the last time?” I asked.

While saying this, I looked back at the piece of paper he gave me. It was a short fax message in Sinhala; “Tata mala en ne gadara.” (Your father died come home).”

He shook his head. His face was unfathomable. After a while, he murmured in broken Arabic, English and Sinhala, “Ana mafi go, me send money to them. They need money. Me mother old.”

Then he whispered with a trembling voice, “Egollanta mudal awassai bumithanam viyathamata.” (They need money for the burial).

As a Filipino, I was stunned. I’d fly home whatever it took if I were in Mr. Ajith’s place. I didn’t know what to say. Silence, so silent it hurt, reigned between us.

Was it about the expenses of flying back to Sri Lanka that made him insensitive and unsympathetic? I was cynical whether to admire or accuse him. Softly, he shuffled out of my office. His steps were slow and heavy as if he were dragging himself. It was then I realized the gravity of his loss and the grief he was dealing with.

It was a short encounter between Mr. Ajith and me on a Saturday morning. It was not a typical Saturday morning. Something had changed in him, and in me. It left me with a heartbreaking thought – to love is not solely to give oneself but to learn to endure each pain in order to fulfill a more noble cause.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Aikido School in the Middle East

by Mel Villareal
Saudi Arabia

Yoshinkan Aikido is a modern Japanese Martial Art taught to the Japanese kidoutai, which when used for self-defense can counter many different attacks. Yoshinkan Aikido began in 1955 at a Dojo (training place) in Tsukudo-Hachiman, Shinjuku Tokyo. Now, the headquarters (Honbu Dojo) is located in Kami-Ochiai, Shinjuku Tokyo.

The All-Japan Yoshinkan Aikido Federation and International Yoshinkan Aikido Federation were founded in 1990, both of which are now led by Shioda Yasuhisa Kancho, the son of the founder Shioda Gozo Soke. All of these organizations contribute to the spread of Yoshinkan Aikido not only in Japan, but all around the world.

The Dojo
Our journey is to master and understand the basics utilizing the Yoshinkan approach. Powerful, flowing, and dynamic movements should only be attempted once a good understanding of the basics has been established.

In this dojo, we train very seriously, and yet interact with each other like family members. Our instructions are minutely detailed, as we pay special attention to the position of the hands and feet, guided by kihon dosa/waza - an innovation by the Yoshinkan Foundation to help the beginners and advanced students understand the fundamental principles.

We practice basic techniques over and over to learn how to move our bodies in response to different types of power exerted by the opponent. Repeated and correct practice of these basic techniques eventually enables the aikidoka to react instinctively and to apply the appropriate technique in the situation in which he finds himself, whether it takes place in the dojo or at unexpected moments in daily life.

Chief Instructor
Romuel Villareal, Chief Instructor, began his study of Aikido in 2000 under the direction of Mr. Flor Bisin and Mr. Alvin Valero. He took over the day-to-day operations of the dojo upon Mr. Bisin’s retirement in March 2005.

To further his study and understanding of Yoshinkan Aikido, Mel made two very significant trips. The first was in March of 2006 when he went to Japan and trained at the Yoshinkan Honbu dojo and at the Yoshinkan Aikido Ryu dojo where he was tested and awarded 6th kyu by Tsuneo Ando Shihan.

While visiting the honbu dojo, Mel was also privileged to observe proper testing protocols as administered by Inoue Kancho and Chida Dojocho, the former director and chief instructor.

The second event took place in 2007 when Mel visited Mr. Sonny Loke, Yoshinkan 6th dan, while vacationing in Malaysia. Mel spent several days training at Mr. Loke’s dojo.Upon meeting all the requirements of his advisors and the honbu dojo in May 2008, Mel was awarded his shodan and level 6 instructor certificate by the Yoshinkan Honbu dojo, making him the first AYF registered instructor in Saudi Arabia with grading authority to 4th kyu.

Mel is assisted by Aikido Instructors Fernando Sakay, Roque Amparo, and Omar Seracarpio.

Dojo (place of training)

We welcome all those interested in learning Aikido, and we assure you that you will enjoy your training with us whether your reason for training is cardio-vascular exercise, self defense, or just simply working out. More so, Aikido teachings adhere to the same principles of anger and risk management. At the end of the day students become fit, strong, and ethically disciplined to better serve the community.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

'No' to Bilateral on OFW Pension Funds

by Elizer Peñaranda
South Korea
The author, Editor-in-Chief of Sulyapinoy Newsletter in South Korea, has given Barangay OFW his kind permission to re-publish this article. You may reach Mr. Elizer Peñaranda at
SEOUL, South Korea--Various Filipino organizations are opposing the National Pension Scheme-Social Security System (NPS-SSS), a bilateral agreement on social security between South Korea and the Philippines.
An ongoing signature campaign widely recognized and supported by the majority of the 51,051 members in different Filipino communities here is paving the way for all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to band together in protest. With the help of the religious sector, information and encouragement on the issue are also disseminated to churchgoers.
Regardless of gender, religion and visa status, OFWs are currently calling for immediate revision of the agreement and its planned transfer of the NPS lump-sum refund to SSS. Workers are worried about the vested interests of some allegedly greedy public officials in the Philippines, whom they fear will use their money for anomalies, unscrupulous plans and personal interest.
OFWs, owners of the NPS Lump-sum Refund benefits, feel they have been inadequately consulted by the SSS and the Korean officials on this Bilateral Agreement.
Article III - Bill of Rights, Section 7 of the Philippine Constitution states that "The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions... shall be afforded the citizen…"
The procedure in the formulation of the Bilateral Agreement clearly violated our constitutional rights, resulting in the loss of workers’ small business opportunities upon return, unfair compulsory coverage in the NPS-SSS social security agreement, and the vulnerability of our refund to corruption at home.
All these have triggered the EPS workers, led by the Filipino EPS Workers Association (FEWA), to launch a massive campaign for social awareness and participation by all OFWs.
The Filipino Employment Permit System Workers Association (FEWA) and SULYAPINOY spearheaded the signature campaign, supported by the Hyehwadong Filipino Catholic Community (HFCC) led by its chaplain Fr. Alvin Parantar, MSP;
the Kasan Migrant Workers Community (KMWC); Changhyun Filipino Catholic Community; Human Rights Welfare Organization Filipino Community (HRWOFC); Ansan Filipino Catholic Community (AFCC); Philippine Migrant Workers Association in South Korea (PMWAK); Filipino communities in Busan and other parts of South Korea.
The SULYAPINOY website’s current online signature campaign has demonstrated the online participation of other workers, who cannot sign the petition letter in person. They number an unprecedented 1095 at this writing.
With support from Philippine radio program like DZME, the issue has reached the Philippine Senate through the office of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Our campaign program against the NPS-SSS social security agreement continues to empower all concerned workers with the necessary information. We strongly believe that justice should be served for the general welfare of all OFWs, to foster solidarity among Filipino communities and awareness on issues concerning Filipino migrant workers all over the Korean peninsula.
Our struggles are for our families in the Philippines who have been making great sacrifices due to our migration. They keep on praying while waiting for our return, hoping against hope that our end-of-contract refund-resources would be sufficient to rebuild the broken pieces of our lives under social injustice, poverty and unemployment in our own country.