Sunday, February 04, 2007

BULATLAT AND COMPATRIOTS' VOICES FROM AFAR

Based on the data periodically provided by our web counters, the greater bulk of visits to Bulatlat are from countries or areas with high concentrations of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and overseas Filipinos (OFs): the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea, and the Middle East. OFWs and OFs thus form an important segment of our identified readership.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat


As I was about to sleep on the office sofa one night last December, because I was to do early-morning coverage the next day and it was better for me to sleep over since where I live is more than an hour away from where the happening would be, I was alerted by the phone ringing. From the other end of the line I was greeted by a motherly voice asking for news about what was happening in Bicol, the region in the southernmost part of Luzon island.

Bicol had been hit just a few days before by supertyphoon “Reming,” which has become legendary in the damage that it wrought.

It turned out to be a long-distance call all the way from Australia. The lady was dead worried about her relatives in Bicol, and she couldn’t contact them to find out how they were, and she had called Bulatlat because she had searched the Net for Philippine media websites and ours was the only media outfit she could find, she said, with a published telephone number for immediate contact.

She said she had read news about the calamity but had failed to come across detailed accounts.

I, of course, had to give her the bad news: how “Reming” had claimed hundreds of lives in Bicol, literally leaving people dead on the roads, and how it had buried two villages in Albay –- and how even we couldn’t contact our colleagues in Bicol because the storm had destroyed all energy and communications facilities in the region.

She sounded distressed after hearing all that I had to tell her, but nevertheless thanked me profusely and said it was only through Bulatlat that she managed to come across more detailed information about what had happened in Bicol.

This incident comes to my mind as I recall that in Bulatlat’s six years on the Net now, we have frequently received similar feedback from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), as well as overseas Filipinos (OFs).

Based on the data periodically provided by our web counters, the greater bulk of visits to Bulatlat are from countries or areas with high concentrations of OFWs or OFs: the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, South Korea, and the Middle East. OFWs and OFs thus form an important segment of our identified readership. They are also among the more active in sending comments on the site.

A good number of these comments are similar to that from the Australia-based lady who called one December night.

“I am trying to learn more about the realities of the Philippines,” said Bradley Cardozo, a son of immigrant parents in the U.S., in a letter to Bulatlat on Oct. 6, 2004. “They offer Southeast Asian studies courses here at Cornell, and hopefully I can study abroad in the Philippines next year. But anyways, I wanted to inform you that I have been reading your site, and I think you offer the best commentary and analysis of what is going on in the Philippines. Thank you for keeping people well-informed.”

A little less than a month earlier, Bulatlat had received similar feedback from an OFW in Saudi Arabia.

“Thank you to all the Bulatlat staff,” said one who gave his name as Andrew Ex in an e-mail on Sept. 14 that same year. “(For) almost 13 years I (have not been updated on) the real situation in our country. Thank you to my sister, (who informed) me about your website. Updated na ako ngayon kahit na malayo ako sa ating bansa" (I am now updated on what is happening though I’m far from our country.

Two years before that Bulatlat had received feedback of the same sort from Nikko Buenaseda, a Filipino student in Los Angeles, California. “I always look to Bulatlat.com for the real ‘stories’ behind the issues facing our nation,” he said.

Some, like one who gave her name as Garma, write to tell how they feel about the hardships of life for Filipinos in a foreign land.

“Does anybody out there know what caregiver/health care provider means over here in the U.S.?” she said. “In our language it means tsimay or atsay. I’ll not say katulong (because) it is more decent compared to the others. The work involves a lot of time (24/7) as a matter of fact and depending on your prospective employers’ needs and wants. And some also require you to clean their house, and some will also restrict you from using their stuffs -- like phones, TV, or even opening the fridge.”

Still, others write to Bulatlat asking for assistance on the possibility of locating relatives or friends they had not seen for years, or even decades.

We realize that many of our compatriots overseas consider Bulatlat to be of importance to them, as a source of information about what is happening in the Philippines. Likewise, we appreciate the avidness with which many OFWs and OFs peruse our pages.

As we enter our seventh year, we would like to return the favor to our compatriots overseas by also spreading the word to Filipinos in the homeland about what is happening to their relatives or friends abroad.

Bulatlat will soon come up with a regular section for OFWs and OFs. The section will feature their stories, in their own words.

What are the travails of trying to fit into a culture totally alien to you? How much more difficult –- or easier –- is work there compared to the homeland? These and other OFWs’ and OFs’ concerns will form the meat of Bulatlat’s upcoming section for them. Bulatlat

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