November 12, 2012

Click Advertise on My Blog

JULY 20, 2012 – Overseas Filipino Workers will use Facebook and Twitter to protest the impending plan of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) to increase its premium. Dubbed as Global Webwide Protest to Stop Philhealth Increase which will run from July 20 – 25, 2012 in different social media platforms, the online protest was initiated by Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards founding president Kenji Solis who is based in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has now adherents from 67 countries majority are OFWs from the Middle East or Gulf countries, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Philhealth Board recently issued Circular No.022 imposing a 150% hike in health premium for OFW members from PhP 900 to become P2, 400; OFWs find this increase extremely exorbitant and inconsiderate because not many of OFWs were consulted. Through its Facebook page Global OFW Voices – the voices of more than 10,000 OFWs, is being mobilized to stage synchronize protest on the different social media platforms of Philhealth, government officials including the President PNOY and other government agencies to air a unified message against the increase.

OFWs globally plead to stop and immediately implement a moratorium on imposing the increase until a comprehensive and genuine consultation with most OFWs and other stakeholders have been conducted. The government has to consider the mobile or transient nature of OFWs, and recognize their unique circumstances where majorities do not directly benefit from the insurance since most of them are already provided with far better and superior health insurances by their companies. In particular, Philhealth should be more sympathetic on OFWs who are earning meager salary like domestic helpers, laborers, janitors, food servers, or those categorized as unskilled workers who find the increase as an added burden to pay before they leave abroad. The said increase is a direct violation of RA 10022, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 that “prohibits increase in government fees for services rendered to OFWs and their dependents.”

It is unfair for OFWs to be treated as revenue mill or as OFWs consider themselves as government’s milking cow. With their dollar remittances that keep the Philippine economy afloat including the strengthening of peso against the dollar, it is unfortunate that the government continue to levy additional fees on this sector. Although OFWs do not oppose government’s plan to provide universal health insurance to the poor, it is immoral to use solidarity to burden the already suffering workers overseas.

The group calls for a comprehensive discussion with Philhealth and other government agencies to agree on an equitable premium among OFWs and stop the increase until a mutual agreement has been reached.

For more information on this protest, visit:
Webwide Protest Against Philhealth Premium increase
Friday, July 20 at 7:00am in UTC+03 at Worldwide

Click Advertise on My Blog


Philippines’ musicians sing their way out of poverty

June 24, 2012

Philippines’ musicians sing their way out of poverty
24-Jun-12, 2:08 PM | Cecil Morella, Agence France-Presse

MANILA – On a mock-up stage in a Philippine music studio, single mom Joanna Talibong is singing for her life.

The former church-choir girl is nervous and struggling to stay on key as she battles through more than a dozen takes of the syrupy Olivia Newton-John ballad “Suddenly.”

If she and keyboard-playing friend Jason Panggoy can get their video-demo right, they stand a chance of securing a series of gigs in South Korea that would enable them to start a long journey out of crushing poverty.

“I did not finish college, so I don’t have many job options… overseas I can earn a lot more,” the carpenter’s daughter tells AFP during a break from singing at the studio in a rundown quarter of Manila.

Roughly nine million Filipinos, or 10 percent of the population, work overseas because there are so few job opportunities in their largely impoverished homeland.

While many toil as largely anonymous maids, sailors, construction workers, and laborers in foreign countries, tens of thousands also stand under spotlights entertaining crowds as singers and musicians.

From high-class hotel bars in the Middle East to Las Vegas casinos, ex-pat pubs in Asia and luxury cruise liners sailing the Caribbean, Filipinos are often found performing near-perfect cover versions of almost any genre.

Talibong is desperate to join them, or she will be forced back to a bar in a small northern Philippine city where for the past three months she and Panggoy have played to tobacco traders and travelling salesmen for $3.50 a night.

Adding to her problems is her nine-month-old son, who has a clubbed foot and lives with his grandparents while Talibong pursues her musical career.

Her manager has lined up a six-month booking for Talibong and Panggoy at bars in South Korea that would pay them each $800 a month, and she knows exactly where her first pay cheques would be be spent.

“My priority is an operation for my son’s clubbed foot. That’s really my goal. That’s what’s pushing me to work really hard,” says Talibong, who is just 21 years old.

But first the duo’s demo tape — which also includes a Taylor Swift and Matchbox 20 numbers — must pass muster with the artist review board in Seoul, a review process that takes about a month.

Their manager, Wilma Ipil, who has been sending an average of two bands to South Korea every month since 2008, concedes the duo may not get the gig, amid growing competition from other Filipino talents trying to make it overseas.

“Previously, even inexperienced musicians got hired,” says Ipil, who sang in Hong Kong, Thailand, and China herself before going into band management.

“But now, with the wealth of talent available, promoters have become more discriminating.”

Nevertheless, the demand for Filipino performers overseas is enormous, according to Jackson Gan, the head of the music studio where Talibong is recording her demo.

“Our only competition is ourselves. The whole world knows that if you have a low budget but need quality, you get Filipino talent,” says Gan, who also acts as an agent for other export acts.

Gan estimates between 25,000 and 30,000 Filipino musicians and singers play in 3,000 clubs, hotels, cruise ships, and restaurants around the world at any one time. The pay generally ranges from $800-1,500 a month, according to Gan.

He says even Malaysian, Indonesian, Australian, and Chinese bands tend to recruit Filipina lead singers.

Gan attributes the success of Filipino performers overseas to the deep roles music and dance have in local culture.

Singing contests are often the highlights of village fairs and beauty contests, while song and dance are a staple of the most popular national television game shows.

Karaoke is one of the country’s most loved forms of entertainment, with guests at weddings and birthday parties expected to be able to belt out songs behind a microphone to entertain their hosts.

Karaoke is also a mainstay at bars, restaurants, and shopping centers.

“Some of my singers were discovered at karaoke joints,” says Gan, a 20-year veteran of the business, whose scouting regimen sees him serving as judge at singing contests in remote villages across the country.

Gan says Philippine musicians are also well-known for their warm audience rapport, a reflection of a general easygoing nature for which Filipinos are famous.

“That is a very important part of the music. It’s not just plain singing,” he says.

However Gan says most performers have a short shelf-life overseas, particularly the female lead singers who often have to end their foreign sojourns when they have babies or for other family reasons.

And although many can copy perfectly the world’s most popular songs, few cover band members will ever get a recording contract.

But there are some inspirational success stories for those who continue to dream of making it big.

The most famous is Arnel Pineda, who for many years fronted Filipino bands in Manila bars and in Hong Kong.

His big break came in 2007 when members of US rock group Journey were looking for a new lead singer and saw clips of him singing the band’s songs on YouTube.

Pineda was hired soon after an audition in the United States, and his first album fronting the band debuted in the top 10 of the American Billboard Charts. Pineda and Journey continue to perform at sold-out concerts around the world.

POEA boss sees writing on wall, starts packing

December 30, 2011

POEA boss sees writing on wall, starts packing
By Philip C. Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:30 am | Friday, December 30th, 2011

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz declined to comment on Carlos Cao’s departure from the POEA. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/NIÑO JESUS ORBETA
While there has been no official word from Malacañang, the head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Carlos Cao Jr., said his bosses at the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) had told him to prepare to vacate his post.

Cao said Thursday, “I was informed verbally a few days ago by higher-ups at DOLE that they want to replace me … but I have not received anything from the Office of the President.”

“Whether I’m finally replaced or not, I continue to believe in and support this administration. I have no rancor. I’m not angry. I continue to pray for this government to succeed,” he said in an interview.

Sources at DOLE last week hinted that Cao was on his way out, with Labor Undersecretary Hans Cacdac expected to replace him on Monday.

Cacdac and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz declined to comment Thursday on Cao’s departure from the POEA.

“I serve at the pleasure of the President,” Cao said. “I’ve already been here for nearly a year and I’m thankful for the opportunity given to me to serve our overseas Filipino workers.”

Cao said he was not aware of the reason for his impending removal.

“It’s beyond me. By the grace of God and the cooperation of our stakeholders, we have been able to improve the processing of our OFWs here at the POEA,” Cao said.

“When I arrived here, they would still be here up to 7 p.m. I’m now looking at our Balik Manggagawa (kiosks) and it’s only 3 p.m. but there are now only a few remaining people in the lines,” he said.

Cao said that there was also an improvement in the deployment of OFWs this year compared to 2010.

“There’s no issue against me but whatever is the decision of the higher-ups, I will comply. This has been a most cheerful time for me because I find joy in serving the people,” he said.

Cacdac, Cao’s expected replacement, is an old hand at the POEA, having served as deputy administrator in charge of licensing and adjudication from 2006 to 2010.

President Aquino appointed him undersecretary for labor relations in September 2010. Among the cases he handled was the labor row at Philippine Airlines, which remains turbulent to this day.

Cacdac has also occupied various positions at DOLE, among them, as director of the Bureau of Labor Relations and executive director of the National Conciliation and Mediation Board.

A lawyer and multiawarded writer, Cacdac once served as coordinator for the Urban Poor Unity of the Ateneo University-based Sentro ng Alternatibong Lingap Panligal.

Remittances up 2.8% to $1.4B in Aug.

October 15, 2009

By Michelle Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: October 15, 2009

MANILA, Philippines–Remittances continued to grow in August, with household consumption also seen to pick up, supporting growth of the overall economy, monetary officials said.

In August, remittances amounted to $1.4 billion, up 2.8 percent from that of the same month last year, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported on Thursday.

“Remittances from workers overseas continued to underpin the resilience of the economy, remaining a stable source of foreign exchange for the country,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a statement.

The August figure brought overall remittances in the first eight months of the year to $11.3 billion, up 3.7 percent year-on-year.

Remittances in the first eight months came mostly from Filipinos based in the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Italy and Germany.

The central bank earlier projected that remittances would register a flat growth this year. The BSP has since revised its forecast to an average growth of 4 percent, saying that the global turmoil had little bearing on the amount of money sent in by workers abroad.

There had been layoffs in recession-stricken countries. But remittances still rose because newly deployed Filipinos outnumbered those who had lost their jobs.

According to the BSP, remittances may even grow faster in the last few months of the year, noting that workers tend to send in more money in time for Christmas.

It also said that, with the global economy now on its way to recovery, remittances could even surge in the months ahead.

“As recent developments point to improving global economic conditions, a more favorable outlook for remittances through end-2009 is anticipated,” Tetangco said.

He said agreements forged by the government with labor agencies in other countries also helped sustain the rise in deployment of Filipinos abroad. While countries in recession were laying off workers, alternative labor markets were demanding more Filipino workers.

Cash transfers from over nine million Filipinos working abroad are equivalent to nearly 10 percent of the country’s economic output.

Paalam, Michael Jackson

June 26, 2009

michael_jackson_thrillerWe take a break from our usual OFW fare to bade our goodbye to a music icon that has “probably” part of our teenage years (and i’m referring to the 80’s teenagers).

My first memory of Michael Jackson is from the haunting lyrics of “Ben”. I loved this song and so are some Bisdaks, considering the stories sent to radio programs using “Ben” as the music.

In fact, when i was young (so much younger than today), my Auntie Menang encouraged me to join an amateur singing contest and she wanted me to sing “Ben”. But the high notes i can’t make, so i ended up with Rico J’s “Kapalaran”.

I was in High School when my friend Luel Yukoya showed his Thriller LP sent by his “Tate” cousins. And when the Thriller MTV hit the Philippines, our school arranged for a showing of the MTV in the AV hall. Every Saturday and Sunday, i would be glued to our b/w TV waiting for the MTV program to feature music videos of Michael Jackson.

But good things never last. And so we bade farewell to our friend and idol – Michael Jackson…

“My heart is heavy because my idol died,” said Byron Garcia, security consultant at a Philippine prison who organized the famous video of 1,500 inmates synchronized dancing to “Thriller.” The video has had 23.4 million hits on YouTube.

Garcia said the inmates in Cebu will hold a tribute for Jackson on Saturday with their “Thriller” dance and a minute of prayer. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/michael_jackson_world_reax

Today, Lagos Classic FM is playing a whole day tribute to Micheal Jackson.

But i will pick the lines from Paul Anka’s “My Way”, to say goodbye to MJ:

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain,
My friends, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s full, I’ve travelled each and evr’y highway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way.

When mom is away, the whole family goes astray

June 7, 2009

05/09/2009 | 07:29 PM

WHEN THE LIGHT IS OUT. Mothers are the new face of migration in the Philippines. Often they are subjected to dirty, demeaning and dangerous jobs abroad.

MANILA, Philippines – Every night, Cathy’s sleep would be interrupted by a knock on her door. But she doesn’t complain. Since her eldest daughter left for Saudi Arabia to work as a nurse, her two grandsons have been more inquisitive than usual.

“My grandsons would cry to me and ask: ‘Why did Mama leave?’”

Cathy would give out the usual answers: “Because she has to work and she loves you.” But there are nights when even she asks the same question.

When Karen left her family in Manila, her marriage turned sour. Her husband spent her earnings and fled their home with a mistress. Meanwhile, their two sons performed poorly in school and were always being taken to the guidance counselor’s office for disturbing behavior. Three years later, Karen was forced to return home to a broken family and a long list of bills to pay.

When fathers took most of the jobs abroad, it only had a little dent on the Filipino family. But when the mothers left, the entire family needed to adjust.

The departure of the mother redefines her traditional role as the primary caregiver by taking on the position of the father as the main provider. Meanwhile, the father is often unprepared to assume the mother’s care-giving function, which in turn, affects the entire family, especially the children.

Since 2004, the number of women working overseas has steadily increased. The Commission on Population (Popcom) attributed the feminization of labor to the growing demand for health workers, particularly nurses and caregivers, who are mostly women.

The World Bank reported that close to half of the migrant population in the world are women. Andrew Morrison, WB’s Gender Group lead economist, said the more women migrants there are, the more positive effects to the development of the economy it will have.

“Women are sending lots of money to their families back home, and evidence from rural Mexico shows that their migration leads to positive effects for the homes they leave behind,” Morrison observed.

But Dr. Lourdes Arellano-Carandang, a renowned child psychologist who published a book about absent mothers, begs to differ.

“They remit more money because they are more faithful in remitting than the men, but that’s on the side of the money only. The emotional and social costs are not talked about but the money. But we have to consider the entire [OFW] phenomenon holistically,” Carandang asked.

When the ‘light of the house’ is gone

Carandang conducted a case study where she interviewed 10 migrant families, who like Karen, left their families behind to work abroad. For a year, they studied each of the family’s backgrounds, their insights and feelings about the mother leaving the household. They discovered that there is a “pervading feeling of sadness in the family and a deep longing for the mother to come home.”

Most fathers unfortunately do poorly with house management, including taking care of household chores and being sensitive with their children’s needs. The team suggested that the men should accept their new roles not as the breadwinner of the family.

Depending on their age groups, children also have different understanding of their situation.

Carandang later published her study as a book entitled, “Nawala ang Ilaw ng Tahanan: Case Studies of Families Left Behind by OFW Mothers” in 2007. In it she noted a startling discovery:

“While the young children simply miss their mother and don’t really understand why she has to be away, the adolescents are in conflict because they appreciate the necessity and benefit of working abroad (in that they can go to school and buy more things), but they also feel sadness,” a part in Carandang’s book read.

Interestingly, children of migrant parents also become the “tagasalo” (burden-bearers) of the father when he doesn’t perform his patriarchal duties well. That’s why there are kids who would volunteer to cook the family’s meal, do the laundry, perform household chores, and even cheer up the father who they sometimes see as “sad and helpless.”

But the mother’s absence poses a more serious threat to the family, according to Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrants’ Advocacy. Sana said incest is present in OFW families, particularly when the mothers are away.

“Incest relationships are being talked about among OFWs communities, but the figures aren’t there,” Sana said. “It’s an open secret but no one wants to talk about it. It’s embarrassing.”

Substitute spouses

Sana explained that if an incestuous relationship happens in a family where the mother leaves the home early in the morning to sell goods in the market — leaving the father and the daughter at home — how much more if the mother works thousand of miles far away from home?

“It’s gut feel. You know it’s happening but no one wants to talk about it,” Sana observed.

Erwin Puhawan, a paralegal of the Kanlungan Center Foundation, shared Sana’s observations that families tend to be discreet about problems of incestuous relationship.

He said it is an “open-secret” among OFW communities and they talk about it in private.

In 2007, Senator Pia Cayetano expressed apprehension on the emerging problem of the growing number of women working abroad.

While the number of mothers abroad has been increasing, the number of daughters (especially the eldest) who take on roles at home left by their mother, is also increasing, Cayetano said.

“Sometimes to the point of being subjected to sexual abuse and forced to become substitute spouses by their father,” she said.

“This disturbing phenomenon of the girl-child being turned into a substitute spouse has been happening in our country along with the feminization of labor migration,” the lady senator lamented.

She described the phenomenon as one of the most damaging social impacts of labor migration, which she said can never be measured by any of the government’s socio-economic indicators or captured by statistics on labor export.

Home remedy

Carandang and her team suggested several measures for members of the family to implement to lessen the emotional burden on the children and even the fathers left behind.

According to them, children should be allowed to have an outlet where they can cope with their situation. Letting the kids play enables them to “‘re-enact’ what is happening to them in order to make sense of what is going on around them.” Expressive activities like art, music writing, drawing, or just observing nature’s beauty will enable the child to deal with the absence of their mothers.

The advent of modern technology has also made the communication lines more accessible, convenient and cheap. Regular communication is vital not only to the fathers but more importantly to the children.

“A simple act of asking how they are, what happened to them during the day, etcetera, can boost children’s feelings of being loved and cared for,” she said.

Simple gestures such as asking, “Kamusta ka na? Kamusta pag-aaral mo?” can have a tremendous impact on the child.

In order to lessen the spending sprees of the family left behind, the absent parent must explain thoroughly to her family the reason why he/she is leaving. This will ensure that the family members won’t be lured into overspending or splurging their loved one’s hard-earned money.

It is also crucial for the fathers to know that their change in roles in the household does not necessarily demean his identity “or his perception of himself as a male — that doing the responsibilities of the mother does not make him less of a man.”

While the government hails overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as the new unsung heroes of our time, families like Cathy’s think heroically of their loved ones for sacrificing life and limb, defying war and travel bans just so they could eat three times a day, despite being hardly ever present at the dinner table.

“If only we had enough, I wouldn’t wish for my daughter to leave. I don’t even aspire to be rich anymore. I just want to see my family whole,” Cathy said. – with Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

RP no longer UN’s model-country in OFW protection

April 27, 2009

04/27/2009 | 04:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The United Nations Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers has stricken out the Philippines as model state for its failure to fulfill customary duties under the UN standards, migrants group based in Europe has said.

Grace Punongbayan of Migrante Europe chapter said the Philippines was deleted as a model state at the meeting of the Steering Committee for the Campaign For Ratification of the Migrants Rights Convention presided by Ms. Carla Edelenbos, secretary of the Committee on Migrant Workers, at the UN headquarters in Geneva last April 8.

The document being referred to, where the Philippines was deleted as a “positive case study of state ratification and implementation” is the “Guide on Ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and members of Their Families.

The steering committee approved the deletion after Rev. Cesar Taguba of the Ecumenical Ministry for Filipinos Abroad and Migrante-Europe cited several instances wherein the Philippine government failed to meet its obligations under the Convention.

Present during the meeting, among others, were representatives from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Labor Organization (ILO), International Catholic Migration Commission, and the World Council of Churches.

Meanwhile, Migrante International, at the opening of the 10th session of the United Nations Committee on Migrant Workers held April 20 in Switzerland, called attention to the violations by the Philippine government of the rights of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and its non-compliance with the provisions of the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (UNCPMWMTF).

Among the countries under review by the UN steering committee were Azerbaijan, Colombia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Punongbayan, together with a representative of Migrante Switzerland, both member organizations of Migrante International, gave oral interventions in behalf of the Manila-based international alliance.

Migrante International earlier submitted a written report before the start of the 10th session to the Committee that was distributed to the members of the Commission and posted on the website of the UNCMW.

In the report, the group noted that in 2005, the deployment of documented OFWs breached the one million mark. It said the average number of workers sent abroad daily was 3,000 making the Philippines top-three among migrant-sending countries.

“Approximately a tenth of the population live and work in 194 countries and territories around the world, with concentrations in North America, Middle East, Asia-Pacific and Europe. This migration which started by waves in the course of Philippine history has become an almost daily phenomenon since the government initiated its labor export program (LEP) in the 1970s. What was initially meant as a temporary measure to address the country’s unemployment problem has become a regular fixture, massive and systematic in scope, and bruited about as a tool for national development,” Migrante International said in a statement.

Remittances from migrants have kept the Philippine economy continuously afloat. From $659 million in 1984 remitted OFW money hit a staggering $16 billion by the end of 2008.

“These remittances were earned at tremendous costs to Filipino migrants and their families who had to endure long years of separation and suffer from various forms of exploitation, abuse, discrimination, violence and terrorism,” Migrante said.

During the question and answer portion of the UN committee discussion, Punongbayan stressed that despite the enactment of Republic Act (RA) 8042 and the ratification by the Philippine government of the UNCPMWMTF, the government on many occasions violated the rights of OFWs and is guilty of non-compliance with the provisions of the said convention of which the country is a signatory. – GMANews.TV