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Remembering Blas Ople

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By Marjorie Gorospe INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines – Family, friends, and former colleagues of the late Senator Blas Ople gathered for a mass at the Libingan ng mga Bayani [Heroes’ Cemetery] in celebration of his 82nd birthday. Ople served for nearly two decades and created the overseas employment program in the early 70’s, and then the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration, with the last earning for him the distinction of being the “father of overseas employment.” Continuing the legacy of her father, Susan Ople, president of Blas F. Ople Policy Center, is helping overseas Filipino workers by strengthening the programs designed by the government for them. “He is a mentoring type of father and we grew up knowing the country first,” said Ople as she described what her father was like. Ople said that the real thread right now was the “localization of workers” due to global financial crisis. “Everyone is hoping to get things better but let’s keep in mind [that] either things get better, or status quo or things decline.” One of the proposals of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center to the government would be to provide OFWs with “direct cash assistance” considering that most of them have borrowed money to pay the fees that they needed to go abroad. “Maganda na may mga livelihood program sila for OFWs na bumalik [It is good that the government has livelihood programs for the OFWs when they return] but how does government make all these programs concrete and attractive to all the displaced workers,” Ople said. “With the present crisis, it is time to review the role of overseas employment in our economic and national life because we may have been relying too much on overseas employment,” Ople said.
By Quay Evano Dubai, UAE -- For a devout Catholic Filipino like Cristy Atendido, Christmas won’t be complete without attending the traditional “simbang gabi” or midnight mass and completing all nine days of it. So, when she left the Philippines to work as an Overseas Filipino Worker in the Middle East last year, it was one of the things she thought she won’t be able to do since she was going to the world’s region of the Islamic religion. But last December she was able to go to the midnight mass although wasn’t able to complete it. This year, she is focused on completing it and last night she was able to attend the first celebration of the simbang gabi. By the way, she’s still in the Middle East. Cristy is just one of the hundreds of thousands of Catholic Filipinos and millions of Christians who are fortunate to be allowed to practice their faith in a Muslim country, which is a very rare occurrence especially in a war-torn region like the Middle East, where people of different religions and even of the same religion fight and kill each other in the name of God. Cristy lives and works in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, hailed around the world for its religious tolerance and interfaith openness. It is perhaps the only Islamic nation in the Gulf with the most Catholic churches, a total of seven (7): St. Mary’s Church (Dubai), St. Francis of Assisi Church (Jebel Ali, Dubai), St. Joseph’s Church (Abu Dhabi), St. Mary’s Church (Al Ain), St. Michael’s Church (Sharjah), Church of Mother of Perpetual Help (Fujairah), and St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church (Ras Al Khaimah). The church in Abu Dhabi is the UAE headquarter of the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia which is being overseen by Bishop Paul Hinder O.F.M. Cap. Masses are held everyday and most churches have mass celebrations in different languages like English, Arabic, French, Malayalam (South Indian language), Tamil, Urdu (Pakistani language) and Tagalog. Majority of the Catholics and other Christians in the UAE are from the Philippines and South India and the others would be from European countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, and France and Gulf countries like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. People of different faiths and religions work and live in peace and harmony in this open Islamic city and even celebrate each other’s important religious festivals. Christians greet Muslims “Eid Mubarak” during Ramadan, Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr and greet Hindus “Happy Diwali” and “Happy Onam” during their festival of light. Muslims and Hindus in turn greet Christians “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Easter”. This is an amazing contrast to neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia, the seat of Islam, where celebrating even having a cross ornament could bring one to jail or in Iraq where Sunni and Shiite Muslims are engaged in an endless bloodshed. It is only Qatar which has lately allowed the construction of Christian churches in its city. Christmas is widely celebrated in the UAE as malls, hotels and other business establishments put up Christmas decorations all over the city. Christmas carols waft through the air and business establishments cash in on the Christmas fervor by offering endless sales. Although there are still minor restrictions like churches are not allowed to have a cross structure on its façade (but other Christian symbols are allowed in the interior) and proselytizing, the UAE has showed the world that in diversity, there could be some form of unity wherein peaceful living could be achieved. The country’s leaders from the ruling family of Dubai, the Maktoums and the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, the Al Nahyans, have been called visionaries not only for making their country one of the richest countries in the world in only a span of 37 years, but for their vision of creating a society wherein Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and people from other religions could live as one without hatred and fear. It is actually the late leader of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum who donated the land where St. Mary’s Church was built and donated funds for its completion. Most of the priests in the seven Catholic churches in the UAE are from India and the Philippines. St. Mary’s Parish Priest is Father P.M. Peter and its famous Filipino priest is Father Zacarias Parra who is endearingly called Father Zaki by most parishioners. Along with other priests and sisters, they are responsible for holding masses and other Christian services like baptisms, weddings, catechisms and confessions. As thousands and thousands of Filipinos arrive in the UAE daily, the churches have become a refuge for OFWs as they fight homesickness and loneliness and live with the everyday struggles of living in a foreign land. Especially now as Christmas approaches, homesickness is at an all time high. But the “simbang gabi” keeps Filipinos and other Catholics with the renewed vigor and optimism they need to survive another year of being away from their loved ones. After hearing the midnight mass, they are even treated to “kakanin” being sold by fellow Filipinos. There are bibingka, suman and other Filipino native delicacies being sold inside and outside the church premises, really making Dubai and the other emirates their home away from home. For Cristy, she said, the only thing missing is to see small children singing Christmas carols in the streets and houses and to have her one and only son Adrian, a college student back home, to be with her this Yuletide season. But aside from this, she feels that the spirit of Christmas and the Catholic faith is very much alive in the UAE.

Foundation for OFWs created

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By Quay Evano FOR the first time in the history of overseas employment for Filipinos and perhaps a first in the Middle East and the rest of the world, a foundation has been created by the OFWs (in the UAE) for the OFWs (in the Middle East) -- to aid them during harsh financial times. The foundation was also created to promote entrepreneurship, to engage in fundraising activities, to give scholarships to children of low-income Filipino families and provide money to Filipinos stricken with life-threatening illnesses or who are victims of calamities and natural disasters. “The Filipino Expatriates in the UAE Foundation Inc., also known as FILEX Foundation was established so that in our own moments of personal need, we have a foundation we Filipino expats can easily go to for help. No one else can really help the OFWs but the OFWs themselves, so it is high time we start preparing ourselves for our future and supporting ourselves. Even if we are abroad, or back home in the Philippines, the foundation will become the common interest we will work for, to gather and to sustain and proudly say that it is our own charitable organization. There are so many charitable organizations in the Philippines but there is really none for the OFWs. Finally, there is one now,” Dick Orense, Chairman of the Interim Board of Trustees, said. The FILEX Foundation, which is a non-stock and non-profit corporation under the laws of the Philippines, was duly registered at and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission in Manila on June 25, 2008. Membership is open to all Filipinos with a payment of a one-time fee of AED (Dirhams) 30 or US$ 8. Overseas Filipino Workers with a UAE residence visa need to pay a yearly fee of Dhs 15 for the group accident insurance security which covers accidental death, total accident disability, payment for medical fees and repatriation of remains to the Philippines. “We really aimed to have the lowest membership fee we could possibly have and the lowest insurance fee so that it will easy for our fellow Filipinos to become members because we know they work blood, sweat and tears for every dirham they earn here,” Orense said. One of the main purposes in creating the foundation is “to establish a funding facility whose capital fund, which to be known as the Foundation Capital Fund or FCF, is designed to grow and expand through time, with only its interests or earnings, to be known as the Foundation Disposable Fund or FDF, are utilized to assist the Filipino expatriates in the UAE or those who are no longer in the UAE and who are in great need for financial aid or help. This premise is what started the realization of a foundation for OFWs to happen. About five years ago, as the newly-appointed Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, Libran Cabactulan was approached by a Filipina, who had a terminal illness, asking for financial help. The Philippine Embassy and the whole Filipino community rallied to help her as much as they can but eventually and unfortunately, the Filipina died. But out of her death, the FILEX dream was born. “We ran out of time. That was our main problem. It took us a lot of time to get the money she required for her operation, it took time to make the Filipino community raise more funds, and time was something she didn’t have. I thought, if only we had enough money stored somewhere that will only be accessible for OFWs at any given time to help them, then we could stop this scenario from ever happening again. And there are so many of these kinds problems OFWs face everyday,” explained Ambassador Cabactulan. In 2004, Ambassador Cabactulan convened a meeting of Filipino community leaders in Abu Dhabi signifying his vision to form a body that would become an institution which every Overseas Filipino in need could access for support and assistance. In 2005, Filipino community leaders submitted their respective proposals and copies of their existing constitutions and by-laws followed up with regular meetings with the Ambassador. In 2006, Ambassador Cabactulan selected 21 Filcom leaders who were responsible for initiating and shaping the foundation. In 2007, the election for the Board of Trustees was held at the Ambassador’s residence and in 2008, FILEX deposited one million pesos as trust fund at the Land Bank of the Philippines as a requirement for registration as a non-stock and non-profit organization. “Assistance given by the government is not enough, especially with the fact that the numbers of Filipinos in the Middle East is growing by leaps and bounds. Five years ago, there was around 200,000 Filipinos in the UAE. Now we are more than 350,000. In Saudi Arabia, there are almost more than one million Filipinos now. I realized that there’s a great urgent need for adequate extra sufficient assistance to be accorded to the OFWs. I just felt that it was required for us Filipinos abroad to do something,” Ambassador Cabactulan said. “What we’re launching with FILEX is a process, a system that will evolve into an institution that’s long lasting, self-sustaining and durable. I conceived it but it now belongs to all Filipino expatriates. My dream is that every Filipino who will go abroad will become a member of FILEX so that they will have some sort of protection for we don’t know what lies in our future and what will happen to our lives in a foreign land. Filex Foundation is a “pader na masasandalan mo” in times of need,” Ambassador Cabactulan stressed. At present, the Filex Foundation has 1,600 members since the official launch in August but the officers’ goal is to reach 100,000 members within a year. The FILEX Foundation has already been praised by the UAE’s Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Mohammed Khalfan al Roumi for its initiative in helping Filipinos in the country. The foundation has also created its own website. (Photos by Quay Evano)

Bayanihan strong in the UAE

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By Quay Evano Bayanihan is one of the most powerful, strongest and nationalistic word in the Filipino language. It is one of those words that define the Filipino -- a must for his “Filipino-ness” to be complete. It has no literal counterpart in the English language but it can be defined as “working together towards a common goal for a compatriot or for the country.” The word evokes the image of camaraderie, responsibility, unity and sacrifice all done in the spirit of fun and nationalistic pride. And this imagery is precisely what was seen during the first-ever Bayanihan Festival organized by the leaders of the Filipino community in Dubai and the Northern Emirates headed by Engineer Orandantes Delizo, who has lived and worked in the UAE for more than two decades. It was held on December 6, 2008 at the Megabowl Amphitheater, Zabeel Park in Dubai with around 5,000 Filipinos from all over the UAE taking part including Filipino clubs and organizations, Filipino schools, and Filipino companies who helped the organizers in many aspects of the event. The whole day and evening affair started with a grand entrance of the national flags of the Philippines and the UAE and singing of the two country’s national anthems and followed by a parade of banners of the participating Filipino clubs and organizations, opening of the tiangge, and military, giving out of the Bayanihan Festival souvenir program, cheering squad, military silent drill and majorette exhibition performances. By afternoon several competitions were held, such as the kids chess, kite flying, lantern-making, group tent, kids ballroom and Palarong Pinoy contests. By nightfall onwards, there were a lot of song and dance performances such as cultural dances, Latin dance numbers by two Filipino dance clubs and a Christmas carol performance by the Christian Voices Chorale. Much-awaited also was the appearance of Filipino celebrities Mark Herras, Jennylyn Mercado and Mang Mike who were the invited guest stars near the end of the show. One of the highlights of the festival was the second job fair organized by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association UAE Chapter (UPAA UAE) for Filipinos who are looking for jobs, especially for those who have just arrived in the country on visit visas. Thousands of Filipinos arrived in Dubai everyday looking for greener pastures, one that they cannot find back home in the Philippines. But with the global recession happening in the world right now, many OFWs in the UAE were also affected with the downsizing of manpower in several construction companies, thus losing their jobs. So, several Filipinos who have been laid off from their companies headed to the job fair to be able to transfer to a new company before their work visa runs out, forcing them to return to the Philippines. Five Dubai-based companies participated in the job fair and these are Careertunity, Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance, Modern Freight, Wilbursmith Associates and Staff United. The Bayanihan festival opened at 9 a.m. but even as early as 6 am, people were already lining up for the job fair with around a total of 400 people handing out their CVs and applying to these companies at the end of the event. The first-ever Bayanihan Festival in the UAE proved that the Filipinos abroad can be one. Is a true testament to the Filipino expatriates’ resilience in the most trying of times and the never-ending belief that there is strength in national unity. The festival was supported and attended by Philippine Embassy officials in the UAE headed by Ambassador Libran Cabactulan and Consul General Benito Valeriano along with former Caloocan City Mayor Rey Malonzo who visited Dubai to talk about Philhealth. The proceeds of the festival will be going to the distressed wards at the POLO-OWWA in Dubai, the Filipino Expatriates in the UAE Foundation (FILEX), Gawad Kalinga 777, and the conflict-affected people in Mindanao. The festival was also held in celebration of the Muslim celebration Eid Al Fitr (December 7 to 9) and Christmas Day and New Year’s Day which are all celebrated in this liberal Islamic country. (Photos taken by Quay Evano. For more info and photos, you may visit www.bayanihanuae.org or http://quaynova.multiply.com/photos/album/17/UPAA_UAE_Job_Fair)

A Japinoy's journey home

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By Lella Santiago Her name was Elsa. She was a showgirl. Or to be more precise, she was a Filipina entertainer in Japan. A Japayuki. His name was Reizo. He was a patron at the bar where she worked. He was a Yakuza. He fell in love with her. Alone and far from home, Elsa succumbed to his persistent wooing. The liaison produced a son they named Kenji. Trouble began when Elsa ended their relationship. The violent man that he was, he threatened to kill her. Afraid for her life and not wanting to leave her son behind, Elsa went into hiding. Life on the run became unbearable. There were times she had to scavenge for food. She decided to bring Kenji to the Philippines. Because of the trouble she was in, Elsa failed to get a Japanese birth certificate for Kenji. The only record of his birth was with the hospital where he was born. The Philippine Consulate in Tokyo issued an affidavit of birth based on hospital records. With this document, Elsa was able to bring her infant son home. Back home, Elsa realized the money she saved will not sustain them for long. With a heavy heart, she decided to return to Japan. Kenji was left in the care of her mother and brother. In Japan, she met Toshiro, a cab driver. He was a good man and this time, Elsa reciprocated the love he offered. They lived together and eventually had a daughter. Life became better for Elsa but it was not complete. She missed her son. For years, Elsa tried to bring Kenji to Japan. But without a Japanese birth certificate, he couldn’t get a Japanese passport. When Kenji was 7 years old, Elsa and her new family went back to the Philippines. Toshiro wanted to adopt Kenji to facilitate his return. Elsa and Toshiro even got married in the Philippines to enable him to adopt Kenji legally. But legal technicalities prevented the adoption. In cases of foreign adoption, the two countries involved have to make a case study. This proved to be too difficult to obtain that Elsa and Toshiro returned to Japan without Kenji. As Kenji turned 16, Elsa thought of consulting a different lawyer. She was advised that Kenji had automatic Philippine citizenship being the son of a Filipina who was unmarried at the time of his birth. This entitles him to get a Philippine passport. The issue of his birth certificate was solved by the lawyer with a request for this document from the National Statistics Office (NSO). As his birth was documented by the Philippine Consulate in Tokyo, it was automatically recorded with the NSO. Armed with a birth certificate, Kenji was able to get a Philippine passport. With his Philippine passport, Kenji applied for a Japanese visa. This was easily granted because he was born in Japan. Although his Japanese father was not recorded in his birth certificate, it was not critical to prove his parentage. The place of his birth was enough to grant him an entry permit. Today Kenji is in Tokyo with his mother and her family. To cement Kenji’s place in his new home, Toshiro is still filing for adoption. The names of the people involved have been changed to protect their identities. This article is also published in the Proudly Filipina blog, an online magazine and social network that simulates the warm, intimate and safe environment of bonding with your sisters or best girlfriends. Through a selection of articles on love, sex, hobbies, soulful stories, inspiration, health and wellness, advocacies and women’s issues and that are targeted towards enriching the Pinay’s heart, body and spirit, it’s every Filipina’s virtual coffee-and-cupcake time at the click of a mouse.
By Anna Urquiola-Green WHEN I was invited to write an article about a Filipina’s life in the United Kingdom, I jumped at the opportunity. Mainly because I want to share the experiences I had in this country and quite a lot of these were eye-openers for me. Moving here three years ago, I learned to adapt quickly especially with the climate. My family and I spent the previous 10 years in the Middle East and from a place where there is only one season -- summer, and here in England when they have 4 seasons, it is a total shock to the system. After all, out here one can sometimes experience 4 seasons in one day! I did enjoy shopping for clothes and acquiring a few pairs of boots and not realising that after winter, you have to store the bulky clothes you’ve collected which has taken space in the closet. This is one of the few instances a Filipino’s inborn talent of maximizing the space of a cardboard box when sending pasalubong (presents) back home to the Philippines comes in handy. Although we Filipinos have English as a second language in the Philippines, here in the UK, I have realized that I still have a lot to learn too, not with the accent but the ordinary words we know. When somebody offers you a fag, it doesn’t mean they’re fixing you up on a same sex blind date, it is an offer for a cigarette! I must have heard this line before I just can’t remember where but it does show that a single word can mean two different things and could land you in hot water. There are no eggplants in England, they have aubergines. And no, it’s not a color, that’s what they call it here. When someone says chips, it’s not the chips you see at the casinos or the chips we eat as merienda/snack. Chips means French fries and crisps are chips i.e. potato chips or in England they call it potato crisps, are you confused yet? Shop means the place where you go and buy things and store is a verb. For example, you store your shoes in the box. It’s no wonder that most Filipino nurses when they come to work here have to relearn English. After all, if his/her patient complains of a hammering headache, she might write down in the patient’s medical records that a hammer is responsible for the patient’s migraine! These are a few of the many English words one has to reprogram inside a Pinoy’s brain when coming to England. And most important too is the way you spell the words as you who’s reading this article might have noticed already. What’s the food on my table? As a Filipina married to a British, I have incorporated Filipino foods in our menu but with a British twist. Such as when cooking nilaga or pochero, I don’t include saba (cooking banana) as my family considers it strange to include a fruit in cooking stew or in a casserole dish. I would substitute instead potatoes and/or cabbages instead of other ingredients that my family would find acceptable. Bagoong or shrimp paste (which one can buy in Chinese speciality shops) I have learned to forego in this household as the smell might offend my husband’s sensitive nose and the neighbors too! Most important of all is when hosting parties. Filipino culture back in the Philippines dictates that when one hosts a party it’s always best to prepare more food than necessary as the host loses face if one runs out of food, Here in England, when you host a party, the number one rule is to never run out of drinks. It doesn’t matter if your guests starve a little as long as you keep the drinks flowing. After all, when your guests are inebriated, they would not probably remember that you didn’t serve enough food for the party! Living here in the UK has made me appreciate more the life I had back in the Philippines. Doing household chores in this country makes me think of the household helpers we sometimes take for granted back home. When painting the interior of our house, I look back and wish I could beam up, as in Star Trek, that handyman we regularly hired to paint our bedrooms. But living here in England made me also become more self- sufficient and assertive. After all, that’s what life is about no matter where you live. To quote my favorite saying: If life deals you lemons, make lemonade, if tomatoes, make Bloody Marys. And that’s how I live my life here, some days are lemons, some days are tomatoes. (About the author: Anna Green our ka-pinay correspondent from UK, is married to a british national and currently working part time in a primary school, with one child. They lived for a decade in the middle east till they finally decided to move to Chelmsford, England permanently). This article is also published in the Proudly Filipina blog, an online magazine and social network that simulates the warm, intimate and safe environment of bonding with your sisters or best girlfriends. Through a selection of articles on love, sex, hobbies, soulful stories, inspiration, health and wellness, advocacies and women’s issues and that are targeted towards enriching the Pinay’s heart, body and spirit, it’s every Filipina’s virtual coffee-and-cupcake time at the click of a mouse.
By Ria Mendoza FOR many Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the underlying dream is to save up, go back home, start a business and eventually attain financial independence. But even though many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have done this before, a huge percentage has also found the path to entrepreneurship very difficult. Eventually, the savings from years of hard work end up in smoke. (Photo: From left to right: UP Professor Ilano, Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano, PBC President Lucille Ong and UP Professor Florendo awards the sixth 'Managing for Business Success' seminar participants the certificate of completion). On the other hand, others have no solid idea where to start realizing their dreams. This is the reason why 19 Filipinos working across all sectors made a beeline for the “Managing for Business Success” seminar organized by the Philippine Business Council (PBC) in association with the University of the Philippines (UP). The three-day seminar, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel from September 23 to 25, is the only seminar certified by UP outside of the country. Choosing the right business to get into is always tricky, but the discussion of UP Marketing and Strategic Management Professor Art Ilano gave the basics of not only finding the right fit for a person, from franchising to starting an all new enterprise, to branding, expansion and effective marketing. Complemented by the lectures of Joselito Florendo, UP Professor of Finance and Accounting, the participants learned the intricacies of income statements, cash flows and balance sheets. However, Florendo emphasized that though the work can be done by accountants and bookkeepers, it is important for business owners to know how to interpret this data to know how their business is faring. Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano attended the closing ceremony and awarded the participants their certificate of completion together with PBC President Lucille Ong, Professor Ilano and Professor Florendo. The “Managing for Business Success” seminar is the sixth in the PBC-UP seminar series to be held in Dubai and was sponsored by the Western Union Foundation.

Kababayan

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By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net When you are on a foreign soil, you will need a map to guide you to where you’re going. But when the map is useless, the next thing you will do is to ask directions from the locals of the area. But what if no one understands a thing you’re saying. Sign language may help you a bit. But talking with someone who understands you is better. My mom and I found ourselves lost in Macau after we took a wrong route going to Fisherman’s wharf for dinner. We should have walked but we took a bus with the thought that our destination is far from the Macau Ferry Terminal. Our problem started when asked the driver if the bus was going to the Fisherman’s wharf. He did not answer, and I presumed that it was because he didn’t understand a single word I said. So from that point, we did not know where we were heading. Luckily, a woman who looked like a Filipino boarded the bus. When we asked her, she just said, "Naku, malayo na kayo. Bumaba na lang kayo diyan sa susunod na stop." During the bus ride, I wondered at how bus drivers were told stop. In the Philippines, we say, "Para" for the jeepney or bus to stop. But since I was not in my country, I wondered how they said it. Then I realized not a word was said. I only needed to press a button located in front of the seat. I then pressed it and the bus stopped. When we went out of the bus, another woman behind us spoke in Filipino. Thank God. We found another Filipino. Her name is Vangie Soriano, a domestic helper in Macau. She was on her way to the flat where she and other Filipinos were staying. But she noticed that we were lost. She was on her way home but instead she assisted us to the bus stop, where she told us to ride another bus to our destination. As we were passing by the European architectural façade of the establishments in the Senado Square, she started telling her story on how she wanted to stay home in the Philippines with her family but the odds in life pushed her to work abroad for her family’s future. If there’s one thing Ate Vangie learned in her six years of working as a domestic helper, it was the value of pakikisama. Watch my video interview with Ate Vangie. As we parted ways, I said, “Salamat Ate Vangie!” I don’t know if a word of gratitude was enough to express how much grateful we were. But it was so touching when she said, “Wala ‘yun. Siyempre, kababayan.” To extend a hand to a stranger is a kind act. Though simple it may seem, a help given to a kababayan can be considered the modern bayanihan.
ONE of the all-time greats of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), former professional basketball player Fortunato "Atoy" Co, was the special guest at the annual summer basketball tournament of the Filipino community in Dubai and the Northern Emirates which opened on April 11. Here's a photo of Co addressing the participating teams. atoy-co.jpg The opening ceremonies held at the Al Nasr Gymnasium in Oud Metha, Dubai saw the Intercontinental Hotel team win the best in uniform award, while Nina Cascades of the Fairmont Hotel team was named Ms. FBC-Chikka Grill at Marco Polo Hotel Cup. teams.jpg The marching band of the United International Private School provided the fanfare. For his part, Philippine Consul Vicente Bandillo commended the participating teams and the organizers for the good turnout. Co is a member of the PBA Hall of Fame. He was the first player to score 5,000 and 10,000 points at the time when the three-point shot was not yet introduced. He was part of the fabled Crispa Redmanizers ballclub that won two Grand Slams, in 1976 and 1983. He won the Most Valuable Player award in 1979, and is a 9-time Mythical First Team Member. In a press statement, Ramon Pizarras, chairman of the Filipino Basketball Center (FBC), said the tournament dubbed as “Chikka Grill at Marco Polo Hotel Cup” will see the participation of 40 teams representing the hotel and corporate sectors in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, as well as teams with former professional basketball players from the Philippines. The tournament will be held every Friday and will end in September. “This year’s event will see a new division being introduced. We have opened up the tournament for basketball enthusiasts who are 40 and above. It will be a good opportunity for these individuals to continue playing in a competitive environment,” Pizarras said. The FBC is a duly-licensed entity in the United Arab Emirates established to promote sports and entertainment activities among the Filipinos and other nationalities. It was responsible for bringing the first Middle East game of the PBA when Ginebra and Purefoods played against each other on April 13, 2007 in Dubai. Editor's note: Photos by Darwin Reyes of MEsnipers.
By Quay Evano, Contributor INQUIRER.net wency-ara-presscon.jpgDUBAI, United Arab Emirates--During the press conference of award-winning composer and rock balladeer (l-r) Wency Cornejo, sexy actress-turned-singer Ara Mina and saxophone player John Ray for their show in Dubai called "Rock Ballad, Soul and All That Jazz," one of the members of the Filipino Press Club-UAE asked the three artists how they want to be remembered by people when they are no longer famous. Wency quickly answered: "More than anything else, I think I will be remembered for my songs. I believe I have composed many songs that have touched the hearts of many Filipinos. For an artist, I believe that is what is important -- to have a legacy in the lives of people. Even if I pass away, my songs will live on and in some sense, so will I." Yes, for millions of his Filipino fans, Wency Cornejo, the unique and soulful voice behind beautiful ballads such as "Habang May Buhay," "Hanggang" and "Only You" and generation-defining rock anthems like "Next in Line," "Mangarap Ka," "Pagtawid" and "Panahon," he will surely be remembered for his songs. His immortality is clearly defined in his music. But for most of his closest friends, it is his true friendship, more than his music that he will be remembered for… because that’s what he really is aside from being a true musician -- he is a true friend. It is what I always remember about Wency, being one of his closest friends back home and in Dubai. Without a doubt, I am one of his biggest fans not just because I am his friend, but because his music is obviously the work of a true musical artist and genius. His songs are true works of art -- simply melodic, with lyrics that are profound and meaningful, and envelope you with their truthfulness every time you listen to them. But just like his music that has never ceased to touch me, it is his almost twenty-year-old friendship with me that has continually enveloped me with truthfulness. Our friendship perhaps is the biggest hit of our lives and the favorite song we like to listen to. Here's a photo of Wency and me. wency-and-author.jpg The last time Wency was in Dubai in 2004, Burj Al Arab was still the icon of the city, construction and other developments in the city were still in their early stages, and I was still single, didn’t have a car and was working for a fashion company. Now, four years later, Dubai is known for having the world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai; there is mind-boggling fast-paced construction everywhere; and I am happily married with two children (one of whom is Wency's inaanak), own a car and work for another company. Many things have changed in the city and in our lives, but one thing that has remained constant is our friendship. Here's a photo of us with my wife and kids when Wency visited our flat. wency-visits-flat.jpg You could also say whenever Wency is in Dubai, he performs magnificently for the homesick Filipino expatriates and that I am always here for my friend. Wency arrived in Dubai on March 10 after coming in from a show in Kuwait -- his first time to perform there. It was his third time to be in Dubai, performing in 2003 and 2004, both for the Philippine Independence Day celebration, and this time he had more time to shop around, promote his and Ara’s show and just explore the city. It also gave us ample time to catch up on each other’s lives after not seeing each other for three years (the last time we saw each other was when he performed during my wedding reception in 2005). Here's a photo of Wency with members of the Filipino Press Club-UAE. wency-group-pic-press-club.jpg At Chi Garden. wency-at-chi-garden.jpg And at the City Centre. wency-at-city-centre.jpg I learned from him that Afterimage is back with a new album that will be released after he gets back to Manila. (I knew since last year that they were back in the studio but he finally confirmed to me that they are ready to hit the airwaves again with some new singles). He let me listen to one of their songs, "Musikero," and I was instantly blown away by it. He showed me the song's music video on his iPhone and gave me a copy of their yet-to-be-released album "Our Place Under the Sun," their fourth album but this time without the original lead guitarist Chuck Isidro, who is now with 6CycleMind, and original drummer, Rogie Callejo. Two new members have filled in for them but the sound of Afterimage is still the same or, actually, much better. With Wency's voice driving the songs, it is plainly superb. He asked me for my opinion on the album, if I liked it and how I rated it compared to their previous ones. I honestly told him that their third album "Bagong Araw" was still my favorite although it wasn't commercially that successful. But I said that this new album could be as big or bigger than their platinum-award winning second output, the album "Tag-Ulan, Tag-Araw." I've listened to the new songs that he and Arnold Cabalza, Afterimage's keyboardist, have written in the album and I must say that they just grow on you. This album will clearly put Afterimage in their rightful "musical place under the sun." Four years ago, in my article about Wency's second visit to Dubai published in what was then INQ7.net, using the titles of his famous songs, I wrote "tag-ulan man o tag-araw, habang may buhay at hanggang kailanman," Wency and I will always be friends. Using the lines in his new ballad (the fourth song in the album), "Habang ako ay narito asahan mo ako ay kasalo, kung dumilim ang iyong mundo, kumapit ka sa kamay ko," this time I write, as long as I am here, Dubai will always be Wency's place under the sun… the Middle Eastern sun. Editor's note: Photos taken by Quay Evano

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