In this issue Dig this A mess of mines The Canadian quandary Of tribal leaders and dealers Thailand’s continuing crisis Mike Arroyo claim stalls land reform in Negros Every 6 hours, pirates seize a Filipino seaman House opposition seeks cap on Gloria’s spending habits THIS month alone, one Filipino shipping crewmember has been taken hostage […]
IT’S not easy being popular, but Miguel ‘Mike’ Bolos Jr. seems to manage the fame attached to his name quite well. A 57-year-old entrepreneur, the story of the former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) inspires many migrants who would one day also want to come home for good.
Reputedly the highest paid Filipino in Saudi Arabia, Bolos decided to head home and put up his own business here in 2005. Never mind that he might never earn the same income he had as an accountant and chief financial officer; all he wanted was to invest the money he had earned for 25 years in his hometown of Guagua, Pampanga, a bustling town north of Manila.
BEIRUT — Miramar Flores stood on the ledge of her master’s second-floor balcony. As she tried to make up her mind — whether to stay on under the Israeli bombardment or to flee — it may well have occurred to her that it was a choice between death and death.
“If you don’t die from jumping, you die from nervousness,” recalls Flores, a 25-year-old domestic helper from Bacolod City. She chose to jump. She says that when she hit the ground, she thought it was the end. The pain in her legs assured her it wasn’t.
THERE WAS no saying no to Ramon. He invited me to his one-room apartment one day in the middle of the holy month of Ramadan. There was no work for a week and most shops were closed during the day. There was nothing to do but watch television. Ramon, a Filipino who had worked in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, was my driver, guide, and friend. He said he wanted to show me something that I would enjoy.
AS THE youngest of the three Leyba children, McLauren gets pampered in the manner all bunso are in a Filipino family, including being able to share bedspace with his parents. And up until three years ago, bedtime meant going through a peculiar ritual to help induce him to sleep: snuggling against his mother and rubbing one of her ears, a soporific massage that she would also give him.
THE SINGLE-windowed post office in the Manara District of Jeddah opens only between ten o’clock in the morning until around three o’clock in the afternoon. That would cover the time of day when the heat from the desert sun is at its fiercest and just standing outside already feels like being inside a furnace. But until a few years ago, there was always a long line of men sweating it out in front of the post office. More often than not, the line would be made up mostly of Filipino workers, literally suffering a slow burn while waiting for their turn to mail letters and voice tapes to their loved ones back home. Mailing letters was probably the only advantage female OFWs had over their male counterparts, since women did not have to fall in line and were allowed to approach the window anytime and drop their letters.
EACH TIME I open a balikbayan box, the first thing that always strikes me is a fragrance whose source I still have to figure out up to now. Is it the Ivory soap or the Finesse shampoo? Maybe it’s the Jergens lotion? Could it be the whiff of clean American air that somehow gets trapped in that huge box? Or is it a blend of all of the above? I really don’t know. All know is that for some strange reason, the scent sticks to everything made in America — the T-shirts, the jeans, the towels, and even the sneakers — that the sender carefully labels, packs, and ships back home. The smell would surely have seeped into the Goober Grape peanut butter if not for the thick glass bottle it comes in. Actually, the Hershey’s Kisses sometimes do taste odd.
SOME MONTHS ago, a Danish couple living in Australia created a tempest of sorts when they posted this message on the website philippines.com.au, an online forum for Filipinos Down Under:
Danish family is looking for a part time (3 days a week) amah in Jindalee…live out. Must be 100% trust worthy, independent, love our 2 chinese kids / 9 year old retriever and master of cleaning. Prefer non-smoker and QLD drivers licence.
Start late Jan 2005.
Email Sten & Ella
In all, the booming global services industry is providing job opportunities for Filipinos seeking employment overseas not just as health workers but also as caregivers, entertainers, domestic helpers, and chambermaids. The result has been the migration, in droves, of Filipino women who now make up 65 percent of those going abroad to work.
THE IMPORTANCE of family to the individual is almost an article of faith in the Philippines. I remember the bewildered look of our respondents in a research project when we posed the question, “Is it important to have a family?” It was as if we had come from another planet, since we asked a question whose answer was obvious: yes. And just in case we did come from another planet, the respondents all zeroed in on the fact that life is simply unimaginable without the family. Whether they are down and out or happy and successful, Filipinos always have their families conveniently nearby.
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