My long-awaited book, the “Overseas Filipino Workers”, has finally gotten published and is now ready for distribution. Started in April 2007, the book project was made possible through the help of a number of cyber friends subscribed to the Overseas Filipino Council listserv and a few close friends in Kuwait where I presently reside. My gratitude and thanks go to them all.
The book is a collection of articles and stories written and published online via Suite101.com between the period of August 1999 and December 2002. I used to maintain a topic on “Overseas Filipino Workers” and even when I stopped submitting stories since December 2002, the OFW-S101 site was still viewable until January 2006 when Suite101.com management made a major overhaul of the webpage in general. I’ve written 38 articles in all.
The book is dedicated to the millions of OFWs scattered in the more than 200 destinations in the world. It is my way of giving honor and importance to the sacrifices that the OFWs face. Also my way of documenting a part of the history of the OFW phenomenon.
The cover of the book was designed by Alex de los Santos of Hiraya Media Arts, who also served as my editor and publisher. Alex is himself a published author with three books to his credit.
The back cover shows a blurb by Ruby Bayan, a freelance writer based in the US who introduced me to Suite101.com. It also shows a brief overview on the OFW phenomenon.
Herewith is a list of the articles contained in the book:
1. The overseas Filipino workers
The article focuses on the general overview of the existence and privileges of overseas Filipino workers.
2. Remembering Flor, Delia and Sarah
Who are these women? Three Filipina domestic helpers whose cases helped shape what is now conceived as the Philippine government’s best way of looking after the millions of its people working overseas
3. Should I go or should I stay?
What really goes on in OFWs’ mind and in their life in particular as they tackle these two opposing questions? Find out and learn from the author’s personal experiences.
4. On Project OFW 2000
It is about a movement to declare Year 2000 as “The Year of Overseas Filipino Workers”. Backed up by Senate Resolution No. 508, Project OFW, as it is called, was spearheaded by OFWs themselves.
5. A tribute to an exceptional public servant
Philippine government officials or the so-called public servants are more often criticized than praised. Very rare and unknown to most, there are officials who are true public servants. One among those is a lady welfare officer assigned to Kuwait. Find out why she is considered an exceptional public servant.
6. A mother’s dream come true
It is a story of a mother’s struggle to fulfill her dream of seeing her children find success in life and of keeping them all together, at long last, with her in Kuwait where she works.
7. Pag-IBIG Fund, your way to owning a house
One of the reasons which drives a Filipino out of his country to venture into foreign land is the desire to earn more so he could build or buy a house. Majority of these overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), in fact, aim for a “dream” house and most, after three years or more of working abroad, will find themselves living in a place they can really call their own.
8. A dream turned into nightmare, Part 1
Life, indeed, is a continuous struggle and one fall should not discourage us to stand up and try again. But how many falls or setbacks, do you think, a person may take in a lifetime, before he or she finds success?
9. A dream turned into nightmare, Part 2
The story focuses on the personal experience of the author in relation to acquiring a house. It is aimed at informing others of how much an OFW puts out “sweat and tears” just so he can own a modest house, out of his earnings working abroad. A typical story, one OFW may claim, as others share similar experiences.
10. OFWs are now covered by Medicare
Another program implemented by the Philippine government for its estimated six million or so overseas workers, is the Medical Care (Medicare) Program for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Mandated by Executive Order No. 195, signed August 13, 1994 by then President Fidel V. Ramos, the health care scheme aims to provide medical assistance and hospitalization benefits to OFWs and their dependents.
11. Y2K marks century-old Philippine labor migration
Officially, labor migration in the Philippines began in 1900. Hawaii was then experiencing severe manpower shortage. The first 200 Filipinos went there to work. Shortly thereafter, Filipinos were sent to California as apple and orange pickers. It’s there where the Filipinos gained a reputation as “fruit pickers.” Learn more as the author presents a brief summary of a century-old phenomenon.
12. SSS now covers OFWs
Cognizant of every individual’s need for security protection and in line with its mandate to embrace every working Filipino, the Social Security System (SSS), one of the Philippines’ top performing agencies, is now providing coverage to overseas Filipino workers. OFWs may now register as voluntary members.
13. 2000 is ‘Year of OFWs’
At long last, the relentless effort of those concerned have finally borne fruit with the penning of signature by President Joseph “Erap” Estrada of Proclamation No. 243, “Declaring Year 2000 as the Year of Overseas Filipino Workers in Recognition of Determination and Sacrifice of Overseas Filipino Workers.”
14. On Gulf War comp claims
Thousands of overseas Filipinos affected by the 1990-1991 Invasion of Kuwait have been awarded compensation ranging between $2,500 to $40,000 by the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC). Payments are grossly delayed, not because of UNCC’s inability to provide fund, but because of a few Philippine government officials’ greed! The author, being a claimant herself, presents some background information.
15. Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 1
Armed with accurate and reliable data accessed from the numerous resolutions, decisions, recommendations and press releases open for scrutiny on the UNCC website, the author is now ready to enlighten readers on the status of claims for compensation by thousands of Filipino claimants. Encouraged by the truth discovered, she heartily shares what she learned from UNCC itself.
16. Pinoy Gulf War claims: facts and figures, Part 2
The United Nations Compensation Commission, as of June 15, 2000, has awarded compensation in the amount of nearly US$175 million to Filipinos and the Philippine government. It is not clear as to how much of the total amount has already been paid to successful claimants. Payments have been dramatically speeded up yet majority of the claimants are still at a loss as to the actual amount of compensation they are yet to receive. The author continues to enlighten readers with new information gathered.
17. A call of duty, Part 1
Many people must have wondered how the health workers survived the hard and harsh situation during Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Believing that very few stories surfaced after the liberation, the author relates her own experiences during those difficult and challenging times.
18. A call of duty, Part 2
The author continues to relate her experiences working as a nurse in a private hospital during the Invasion of Kuwait.
19. Pinoy Gulf War claims, an update
Privileged to interview face-to-face the Acting Head of the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat (PCCS), the author presents the side of the Philippine government in connection with the controversial UN comp claims of Filipinos affected by the Gulf War.
20. UNCC completes payments to Pinoy claimants
While it is continuously claimed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that there is no anomaly whatsoever involved in the distribution of Gulf War compensation funds of some 40,220+ approved claims by Filipinos, the author’s readings on press releases, decisions, recommendations and reports by the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) on its website prove otherwise. Readers may need to draw their own conclusion based from the data presented herein.
21. Woes of an OFW
Life of an overseas Filipino worker, no doubt, is a very difficult one. Learn how difficult life can be through the author’s personal experiences.
22. Surviving cancer in a foreign land
What could be worse, for an overseas Filipino worker, than having to deal with cancer, on top of the numerous difficulties faced while working in a foreign country? Life is such that one has to fight in order to survive and continue to hurdle the enforced responsibility over a family and country.
23. My saga continues . . .
One way or the other, each one of us takes his/her own share of the world’s ills. Depending on our strength – gained or inherent – we either succeed or fail but sure enough – we all fight in order to survive.
24. Worse than Iraqi invaders
“It’s a sad situation . . . that the Filipino officials entrusted with solving the OFW problems are in fact prolonging their suffering and profiting from it. In this case, these officials are no less cruel to the Filipino claimants that the Iraqi invaders of Kuwait!” So goes a comment from a frequent visitor of the Overseas Filipino workers topic.
25. On overseas Filipinos right to vote
The estimated seven million overseas Filipinos are ironically being stripped off of their fundamental right to vote. Despite a mandate of the Philippine Constitution for overseas Filipinos to be given right to suffrage, the Philippine Congress, in the past 14 years, is still unable to enact a law which will facilitate the realization of absentee voting.
26. Too many a fight . . .
Life is a struggle indeed with its many bumps and curves, all God-given adversities to make us strong. Yet no matter how we try to believe in nature’s kindness, we always end up frustrated and angry. For indeed, bullies abound!
27. Pinoy claimants air grievances
Members of the online group Pinoy Gulf War Claimants Club have officially aired their grievances against the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat (PCCCS). Written by the author, the letter of complaint was read in the presence of heads of the main government bodies involved in the affairs of the OFWs.
28. OFWs among victims of terrorist attacks
As top absorber of Philippine labor, the United States of America, employ as many as four million Filipinos, naturalized individuals and family members included. It is no wonder that Filipino workers were among the thousands of people reported missing after that unprecedented and tragic attack of terrorists in America last September 11, 2001.
29. Rolly’s gift to overseas Filipinos
Inspired by his own experience as an overseas worker, Roland “Rolly” Amaranto has created a masterpiece – a collection of songs he composed which serves as his lifetime gift to all Filipinos working overseas.
30. The fight continues, Part 1
Followers of the Gulf War compensation scam may now glean some light in the follow-up story presented herein. The fight is far from over yet and Filipino claimants continue to act to get what really belongs to them.
31. The holiday that never was
Every overseas Filipino worker (OFW) goes home for a holiday with loved ones in the Philippines. December is always the choicest month. With the Christmas and New Year celebrations, a real holiday, would it be, for a heavy burdened vacationing OFW?
32. Coping with death
Death is inevitable. It can happen anytime, anywhere and whichever condition – either good or bad – we are in. Understanding this basic fact is one thing. But confronting death itself . . . ah . . . we just couldn’t cope.
33. The fight continues, Part 2
The author shares the information she learned from fresh data received from the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee Secretariat (PCCCS). Payments were regularly sent by the UNCC to the PCCCS but the records show that majority of the claimants have not been paid yet of their compensation.
34. The fight continues, Part 3
A Commission on Audit report reveals that the PCCCS earned deposits interest amounting to US$1.2-M within a four-year period of operation. Out of these interest earnings only US$239,565.24 was reported spent for operational expenses. Where did the rest of the money go?
35. Heroes or slaves?
Through the Philippine government’s recognition and outright admission of its reliance on OFWs’ dollar remittances, these so-called ‘New Heroes of the Modern Philippines’ have developed within themselves a new sense of honor and pride. They feel elated to be considered as one of the recognized players in the growth and sustenance of the Philippine economy. But some OFWs feel that they are not heroes; they feel as slaves, economic slaves as they term themselves.
36. On to economic freedom
Never in their lives have the overseas Filipinos become active players in their own economic emancipation as now. The advent of the Internet has actually made it possible for many of them to come together to discuss ways to improve their lot, and to finally make a concrete move to realize their dream - that of establishing a bank which they can call their own.
37. Overseas Filipinos fight for their right to vote
A worldwide campaign and clamor to allow overseas Filipinos to vote in the Philippine national elections in May 2004, initially, took place. In particular, campaigners sought for the passage of the Absentee Voting Bill (AVB) pending in the past many years in the Congress. Along with the AVB, overseas Filipinos also sought for the passage of the Dual Citizenship law.
38. One messy OWWA
What happens when fund, collected from OFWs, is used indiscriminately outside its original purpose? A mess, it will be, of course, and that’s where the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration is in right now!