Independence Day celebration in Lagos, Nigeria

May 21, 2008

Philippines and Filipinos will soon mark its 110th Independence Day celebration in June 12.

Different folks have different ways of commemorating this day in our nation’s history.

For Moros and NPAs, there wasn’t any independence, as we are still tied to the yoke of colonial mentality, western interventions and internal oppression.

For the classical nationalists, it’s a realization of the struggle of our patriotic politicians to gain for us an independence from direct foreign control, and into the arms of lady Liberty — dressed in tattered robes, barefoot, hungry, and living in squalor in the slum areas of our nationhood, because that it was what they wanted – a nation run like hell by the people, and for the people. We just got handed down from one foreign master to a domestic master – our politicians.

But for most of us, it doesn’t matter what was the outcome, long after the cries and shouts for independence has died down. The idea of being an independent nation is one that gives us pride as citizens, no matter what. It is the moment. It is the feeling. It is the sense of having overcome a three and a quarter of century of foreign domination that thrills most of us into celebrating Independence day, regardless of our social circumstances.

We celebrate Indepence Day because it is not only our duty as citizens of the Republic, but it is our identity – what makes us Pinoys and Pinays.

And we carry this sense of pride wherever we go, even overseas.

And so here in Nigeria, we join the entire Filipino nation and with Filipinos around the world in celebrating the 110th anniversary of our nation’s declaration of independence from foreign subjugation.

It is always the year’s highlight in our stay in this gracious host nation of Nigeria.

We are the Naija (Nigeria) Pinoys and Pinays.

Our presence here is a testament to the global professional excellence of Filipino workforce, as most of us are here in Nigeria because of our skills and professions. And we have come to love working and staying in this country that has provided us well with amenities and friendships.

Some of us have brought our families here. Some of us have our children born and raised in Nigeria. And still some of us married Nigerians (or is it the Nigerians who got married to Filipinos/nas?) and are proud of it.

Despite the occassional job hazard to life and limb, working and living in Nigeria is like a vacation. We are never far from home in most aspects. And we are proud and happy being Naija OFWs.

Heroes of the millenium.

It is a nice catchy phrase. But everytime we hear it, we can only smirk and chuckle about what it really means to us — nothing.

The fact that the Philippines continue to impose an employment ban against Nigeria is something of an irony to the government’s paean to OFWs. After the spate of kidnappings directed towards expatriates in the oil fields in Southeast Nigeria has dissipated long time ago, the government continues to implement the ban because it wanted to avoid hassles and embarassment, like what happened to Lebanon and Iraq OFWs. They lined up Nigeria with Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. But we beg to disagree. Nigeria is a far better country, and relatively peaceful than the others.

But yes, we are heroes. In the sense that we braved to work in foreign lands, risking our life and limbs, in order to help our family and the national economy through our remittances,

For our families left back home, we are heroes, indeed..

For our government and politicians, we are just 0.01 percent of the remittance. No heroes. Just a problem everytime a Naija OFW is distressed.

We continue to hope and pray that the Philippine government will soon lift any ban to Nigeria, and consider this nation a mutual friend and ally.

We will celebrate our independence in Nigeria, with the usual pride and pomp.

Proud to be Naija OFWs. Proud to be a Filipino.

Mabuhay !

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OWWA: P70m Lost in Loans to OFWs

May 16, 2008

OWWA: P70m Lost in Loans to OFWs
Gloria Esguerra Melencio, Arab News

MANILA, 7 May 2008 — Acting Labor Secretary and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Marianito Roque admitted in a congressional hearing that the agency has lost P70 million to unpaid loans of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Roque explained that he suspended the OWWA assistance under its pre-departure loans program because the OFW debtors failed to pay back their loans to the agency.

A total of P100 million fund was allocated to this pre-departure loan program to assist leaving OFWs to process their work visas and other pertinent documents that entails expenses.

He admitted this financial condition during the public hearing of the House Committee on Overseas Filipinos over the weekend.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, criticized OWWA for “covering up its mismanagement of funds” by blaming the loses on OFWs who allegedly took loans while processing their deployment abroad.

“OWWA is only covering up its misuse and mismanagement of funds of the P10 billion collections from $25 annual membership fee,” he emphasized.

Monterona said that the pre-departure loans program had already been suspended by the OWWA Governing Board in 2003.

He said that a similar incident happened in 2002 when then OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo admitted that a P260 million loan intended for the OFWs’ welfare and loan programs was also lost as unpaid loans.

“This is only to justify the transfer of a P4-billion OWWA Medicare fund to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation prior to the 2002 presidential election,” he said.

Monterona also said the OWWA has yet to reveal its list of OFW debtors.