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.