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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Manila Hostage Crisis: Another Embarrassment



"Whoever had jumped on the gun should be held accountable and be brought to justice. That's the only way to appease an angry public."

They did it again, no annotations necessary! The whole world did not blink a bit to the well-choreographed spectacle of hardcore performance art by the Manila police.  All news media  are in feasting mode at  the show of incompetence and sloppiness carried out by the famous Manila's 'finest'. It is very unfortunate that this display of systemic trembling, unstable and panicky approach by the hostage negotiators and SWAT team is being beamed worldwide for the world to commentate. The global community can be heard lamenting in anger and there is no dearth of vile criticisms from all corners of the way the Manila police had handled the hostage crisis. With all probabilities, the rage will not die down anytime soon. Words at times are superfluous to describe  the world's disgust at the entire event.

News media confirmed that 8 of 15 hostages on the hijacked tourist bus died from gunshot wounds when the hostage-taker sprayed bullets on them. The hostage-taker was also taken down by a sniper. The earlier arrest of the hostage-taker's brother, himself a police officer,  watched by him on the bus monitor could have triggered the assailant to put an end to the spectacle, the bloody way. Under other circumstances, the hostages would be dead. That is the most common fear associated with any hostage crisis in the Philippines.

Rolando Mendoza, the hostage taker was a decorated police officer.  He was a recipient of various awards and recognition during his stint with the Philippine National Police. He got dismissed from service for  extortion complaints against him. And the Ombudsman had ruled that apart from his dismissal, his benefits also be forfeited. Mr. Mendoza was demanding that he be reinstated to his post. It was reported that he had already appealed before the Ombudsman, claiming he was innocent but the Ombudsman according to him just sat down on his case. The man was utterly desperate and depressed.  He was seeking out justice.

It is very unfortunate that the hostage-taking ended in an unspeakable tragedy. What has happened to crisis management exercise? In every hostage situation, the lives of hostages are paramount. But instead of calmly negotiating with the hostage-taker with his demands (albeit in this case attainable), the wealth of wisdom from the dodo suddenly overwhelmed them. What the hell they were thinking when they arrested his brother and dragged him onto the street amid the screams and pleadings of the family members? Would the arrest prove crucial and helpful  to the release of the hostages? Were they clueless that the hostage-taker had his eyes glued on the tv monitor inside the bus and witnessed the supposed 'atrocities' to his loved ones? Was this not a deja vu to what had happened to Ted Failon a year before? Is this level of ineptitude endemic to the Philippine police? A lot of questions hang over our heads.  Had the police used their brains properly, there would have not been innocent lives lost and a monumental embarrassment to the Filipino nation at large could have been avoided.

But this is something else. Watching  live footage on television became an agonizing one. There are ideas our minds can hardly bear to tread,  but my fears that a botched rescue situation is in the offing was quite strong, given the history. And they did not fail. They lived up to their promise and their reputation. The style primitive. The approach shaky. The execution novice and ill-rehearsed. As the world watched in horror, the display of sheer incompetence by the Manila police had sealed the belief that we are not only a nation rife with corruption but also a nation of incompetent and mentally-challenged people. The situation was rather calm and manageable, until the ill-advised arrest of the hostage-taker's brother, that could have triggered the killings. Whoever had jumped on the gun should be held accountable and be brought to justice. That's the only way to appease the angry public. In any case, the Philippines has again grabbed the spotlight as another recognition looms - the country with the weakest and  most incompetent law enforcers.

Immediately after the tragedy, the Hongkong government issued an OTA (outbound travel alert) to its residents against visiting the Philippines. Hongkong residents who were in the country were also advised to go back to their country without delay. In a press conference, a visibly teary-eyed Hongkong leader Mr. Donald Tsang was overwhelmed with rage and disappointment at the way the hostage crisis was mishandled. He further demanded explanation from the president of the Philippines. Many fear that the tragedy could provide a rationale for a backlash against our compatriots working in Hongkong and in the mainland.  Tourism is also expected to suffer as Chinese tourists contribute a big chunk of arrivals every single year.

Dubious reputation, architects of torture, summary killings of suspected criminals, corruption within the ranks, what else can they offer from the bag? I am not in a frenzy to find fault with the police, but the misdeeds of some are naturally appended to the whole institution in general. I'm not saying that they be blamed for the insanity of one man who took matters his way, but for God's sake they should have studied the crisis calmly and not acted like idiots. The sledgehammering alone could speak volumes that provided a highlight to the loathing eye of world spectators. The entire rescue approach  done in a pathetic fashion. Shame on them!

Of loving the lovable and loathing the loathsome, this is the norm of man. We hasten to praise when it is praiseworthy and we condemn the abhorrent without delay. When we accept, however, grudgingly, that it is wise not to criticize, then we open the gates to all justification of condonation and false patriotism. As a people, we don't stop to learn to adapt to the good and admire the beautiful. The process never ceases and the pitfalls abound. If  ultimately the world sees us otherwise, then it is a sign that lessons were learned. It's no time to panic yet, it is still  up to them and our leaders to commit to changes and give our law enforcement  a real pinch in the ear.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Getting Through The Stress Of Ramadan



"If there's a season to be jolly, it is when temperature's soaring, and days restrained for sobriety and night in  utmost   revelry."

It is no sign of great famine ahead. The swarm of people jostling their way out of the cash counter at every supermarket is no sight of wonderment. These are people over-buying and over-stocking in over excitement for the Ramadan season. This has been the scenario all over Jeddah even prior to the commencement of the Holy Month (and I guess all over the Muslim world). As we all know, Ramadan is the most exciting month in the Islamic calendar in terms of tradition and degree of celebration.  It is the month when Muslims fast from dusk till dawn.  It is also the best time of the year for those who want to do good deeds and give alms to the needy because the 'merits or rewards' are  more than ten times when you do them in Ramadan, say their teachings.

On my nth Ramadan spent here in the Gulf, I've been accustomed to the level of importance this season brings to all. The extreme heat and humidity of summer  will guarantee no excuse to those who are determined to complete their vows or risk (forfeiting) the merits and rewards. You will not be spared from experiencing an air of solemnity and 'holiness' even at work. On several occasions, I've been asked by some of our Arabic staff whether I do fast or not. When I replied, I do not, the stare would be too unforgiving as though I deserved hanging for a crime against humanity. In the instance that I say I do, I would almost be complimented with a hug. Bizarre? Not at all, it's just a matter of getting used to it.

In the Mideast, Ramadan is marked by a tradition of  festivities. The mood becomes vibrant at night when hordes of people throng the malls, supermarkets, and gold souks. It is a tradition of ditching older possessions for new ones such as clothes, gadgets, furnitures or even kitchen wares. Study shows expenditures by every household even on non-essentials sometimes is incongruous with the family's income. And that  leaves one in awe at the sheer extravagance in spending habits by the locals. Those who've been doing it all their lives have it all figured out and know tradition can sometimes become a liability. The jolly mood of Ramadan gradually turns to a nightmare for some, when loansharks start to signal payback time at astronomical gains.

Speaking of shopping indulgence that consumes most of Ramadan activities,  them that are perennial  mall habitues don't seem to find solace with little to carry that some just freak out  when told of  'sizes sold out'. I remember Ramadan 2006 in one of our stores in Jeddah, when two lady customers had almost settled the score on the floor for a last piece find. Some could be too petty and get provoked easily. Others readily spew a mouthful. It's really odd how a rapacious shopper  mercilessly rummages through the well-arranged  clothes and leaving trails of destruction. Still our duty entails a spine-ful of floor recovery of the falling-and-trampled-over items, left at the wake of voracious black-clad invaders. A sip of water foregone, throats dried up, not letting up the energy as swarm of customers fill every space. The very scenario of sheer chaos especially in the last two weeks of Ramadan already terrifies me.  Good thing is, little daunting this season may be, but a little reward too can be somewhat appeasing when our boss gives out his Zakat to us employees.

To us workers in retail sector, Ramadan season poses a minor challenge to our patience and also our health. A day would come without respite from truckloads of delivery that could potentially break your spine, aggravated by the slow-motion work mode by our colleagues, who would banner their cause in your face - that of them solemnly fasting. That used to be the generally accepted rationale and so who the heck am I to cast doubt on the 'logic'? But not until this moron was able to smart out some decent argument that provided him a bit of relief. "How one goes hungry when at the break of dawn he had his fill as if there is no more tomorrow?" (This was a subtle joke laughed at by sheepish subordinates that was taken to be funny.) I couldn't care less though getting little respite from the month-long stressful and fatiguingly workload of Ramadan.

Another struggle is how to be sensitive and at the same time respectful of their culture. Learning some tricks (though instinctively) can help too. I'm a bit loath to do a narration of the ugly and stinky, but experience-wise they are no hyperbole springing up from nowhere;  yes,  literally they can be felt and serves as a test of one's olfactoric stamina. Understandably, I am privy to the wake-up boycott of gargling and  freshing up of some oral cavity by our staff, (the dusk till dawn principle also applies), and so it is best to avoid unnecessary conversations; that might mean I'm being a snob, but trust me on this one. Not that I'm being mean;  just trying to beat the oddities of the day till order is restored :-)

For the pleasure of finding productive outlet from the routinary draining cycle of work and home, I had recently enrolled in a training program every Friday which is my off-day. Tons of study materials are yet to be browsed from the net. Thursdays would still  be inadequate. All I knew was, the goals I had were sketchy, whether I am into this seriously, or just for killing the time that already proved oppressive to both my health and pocket :-) But I always had my instinct to rely on, I'm pursuing it and no turning back. I think there are a pack of reasons  to get motivated to. I just hope this Ramadan, I won't be called to travel outside of Jeddah and miss my class. A little bit  nervous for the Basic Life Support exams next week at King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital. Fingers crossed, I hope and pray, this Ramadan ends on a positive note. Inshallah!




Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And She Duly Lost Her Cause



"As long as there remain barbaric and sex maniac Arab employers, there will be no dearth of abused victims being raped and murdered."

Just like any domestic helper working  in the Middle East content with a dirt cheap salary, she did not wish to be rich, she just wanted to feed her loved ones, send her kids  to school and help her old parents.  Asria Samad Abdul  a typical housewife, frail and wrinkled by poverty, became a symbol of a failed struggle by hapless domestic helpers in their pursuit of a better life.. She hailed from Maguindanao, the third poorest province in the Philippines,  famous for its two group of people - the bestial and powerful billionaire Ampatuan clans and the poorest of the poor in the land.

In her struggle to escape untold of poverty, Asria Samad landed a job in Kuwait as a domestic helper. Not surprisingly, her employers maltreated her by starving and beating her - enough reason that she fled from them. The next phase of her precarious adventure would later prove to be her last gasp off the noose. The Kuwaiti couple who subsequently took her in had ferociously feasted on her on a daily basis by subjecting her to extreme physical abuse. The indescribable cruelties she suffered from their hands rendered her weaker each day that they decided to throw her in the desert. Asria was too weak but alive when the evil Kuwaiti couple run her over three times to make it appear that she was a victim of a hit and run. (So that proves that even the fiercest soul-less criminals can sometimes be the most stupid too.) Convinced that they got rid of her, they must be celebrating when police was able to track them down. Thursday, July 15 when the body of Asria was found near a horse stables in Kabad, a desert area. But the sleuths did not buy the idea that it was a case of hit and run when only her eyes were without  bruises.

In retrospect, a three-man team of solons led by Rep. Carlos Padilla went  to the Middle East in November last year on a fact-finding mission to see first hand the conditions of OFWs especially the domestic helpers. On their five-city tour that consisted of Riyadh, Jeddah, Amman, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, they got to interview some runaway domestic helpers housed in those shelters and every one of them had a unanimous recommendation to the government, to put a stop to the deployment of domestic helpers in the Middle East. Each distressed runaway had the saddest story to tell them, that they came up with a strong consensus that it was about time the Philippine government  act on it.

The recommendation from the three solons would have gained ground, because there was no bilateral agreements that existed between Middle East countries and the Philippines, insofar as protection of migrant Filipino workers is concerned. Section 4 of the Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 says, that there must have existing social and labor laws protecting the rights of migrant workers. Rep. Padilla would later hit the government on this, because it keeps on violating its own laws when it cannot ensure the protection of Filipino migrant workers yet aggressive in its  labor export policy.

Another compelling reason according to Padilla why the government has to put an end to the deployment of domestic helpers to the Middle East is, the cost of repatriation of distressed OFWs is too high that it could even cause bankruptcy to the OWWA. It is a fact then that the economy is not projected to suffer (or will not be affected at all) if the government pushes through with the complete ban.

So here we go. If the government is incapable of protecting its exported workers, why not stop exporting the most vulnerable? We know and the government knows that the DHs are the most susceptible to being trafficked, oppressed and abused by their employers. Not to mention those being raped and murdered by their sex maniac employers. I really wanted to hear success stories by our compatriots who worked as domestic helpers to give a bit of rationale (of continually exporting them),  but I could not find one. If there were few in the list, what was the ratio against those who were beaten, starved, raped and went home dead?

Media reports and Human Rights organizations certify that the Middle East is the most dangerous place for domestic helpers. Sans seers and oracles, countless cases of abuses and deaths don't see its end coming in the near future, because the trend is there to stay. So what else are we waiting for? It's a shame that the government has spent more time brainstorming ( as to the new title bestowed on our exported compatriots ) than deciding on their greater good. Hallelujah to them that sit on their thrones for protecting the dignity of our domestic helpers (by upgrading their title)!  Now we can legally and respectfully call them Household Service Workers or HSW and not DH anymore. But here in the Middle East? They will be eternally referred to as "Kadamat" or "Alila" or Servant.

It's still current in my memory how my older sister recounted to me the indignation she suffered at the hands of her recruiter from Bacolod City.  She was offered initially to work in the palace (kuno) for the Sheikhas of Qatar. She was very ecstatic then at the prospect of working in a palace. But when her documents were completed (minus the  ticket), she was told that her profile was liked by a very rich family in Lebanon and that they had no option but to send her to them. "In Lebanon you will be treated with the experience of a lifetime where you can literally walk on the snow, whereas in Qatar, you will  not be allowed to go to the mall nor remove your abayah, you will be a virtual prisoner inside the palace." (They now equated Qatar to hell.) All of us resisted the idea because of reports on some Filipino domestic helpers falling from buildings in Lebanon (like meteorites),  and widespread abuses of domestic helpers, (as evident in the embassy's crowded shelter housing hundreds of distressed runaway). When my sister decided to back out, she was made to pay for the ice cream and lunch the recruiter had earlier ordered in addition to  mouthfuls of profanities. Thank God she did not push through to Lebanon as the war broke out the next year that led to repatriation of thousands of domestic helpers from Lebanon.

Despite  Filipino communities and several Human Rights groups urging the government  to immediately ban the export of domestic helpers in Kuwait in the aftermath of the twin brutal murders of  our compatriots last month, the Philippine government stresses that it is not  placing a ban on deployment of domestic helpers in Kuwait just yet. The DFA was even straightforward in its assessment that placing a ban on domestic helpers in Kuwait is not the solution. So that tells of the wimps in the government how ineffectual and useless are they. All  facts and figures are readily laid out on the table yet they still refuse to act with urgency. Earlier recommendation in November 2009 by the three solons of complete banning did not even stand a chance of deliberation in Congress until it just died in limbo.

We know for a fact that abuses and deaths of our compatriot domestic helpers will not stop unless there is a complete banning of their deployment in the Middle East. As long as there remain barbaric and sex maniac Arab employers, there will be no dearth of abused victims being raped and murdered. The bad news is -  abusive behaviors by these human species have been the way of life here in this part of the world and will never become outdated and it will thrive as long as they propagate. Another bad news is - their cravings for human preys will be satisfied by the enterprising DFA officials, in the form of a fragile poverty-stricken commodity called Filipina domestic helper. Since the government admits its inability to find resolution to the situation, expect that more cases of abuses and murders will fill our primetime appetite in the coming weeks or months, ominously signaling that Asria's cause will be nothing but a 'charge to experience - better luck next time' send - off advice by the Philippine government. Where is the dignity they are advocating when the recipient is already dead?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Of Profits And Perils



"Unless it is the Lord that builds the house, the laborers labor in vain (Psalms 127:1)."

Apparently, there can't just be all happiness and success in life, it must come at a cost somehow. When some earned it and worked for it, others chose to ruin it. Benjie (not his real name) is a former colleague in Jeddah. He  is a father of three and a husband to his attractive wife Jessa. He draws a hefty salary. He gets to travel in Spain to train for the company. She is a typical OFW wife. She's addicted to shopping and loves flaunting around a can-afford status. "Generosity to oneself is no privilege earned, it is a right", she rationalizes. And likewise he does. A nice job and an ability to provide for his family beyond their needs, are reasons strong enough to reward himself too,  of some slice of generosity - albeit in the form of another woman's bosom. Comes Mia in his life. She is a Muslim, a Maranao from Lanao del Sur. She's unmarried and a certified runaway. They fell in love. She got pregnant. When a Maranao association learned of her plight, they threatened to get him. His life and career then started to crumble. If caught, Mia could  be deported right away, for Benjie - lengthy jail time and lashes await him. It didn't take long before he found himself dragging his luggage from a conveyor belt at NAIA. Worse, he discovered his wife having an affair with a college student. The two eventually agreed to separate. But his misery just did not seem to stop when  his 16-year old daughter revealed she was pregnant.  As for his baby boy left in Jeddah, he is already one year old now, and very healthy under the care of a surrogate gay parent.

Two blocks from our company accommodation, Aling Editha keeps herself busy with her thriving homemade tocino and longaniza business. I am one of her 'suki'. She lives with Mang Eddie, her 'husband' here of twelve years. They have no children. Them are a normal couple living happily and 'legally'; thanks to a marriage certificate obtained from the Consulate. He works for a local media group as photojournalist, while she juggles between her full-time job as manicurist and her tocino business . They are a picture of a happy couple but both are not hesitant to admit they have their own respective families in the Philippines. He could automatically qualify to sponsor his wife but opts not to. Instead, he settles  for an annual vacation. Yes, it is extremely painful for their families back home had they known of  the situation.. Yet their cases are not isolated. They are all over the map.  Let's face it. These are real stories of real people.

Despite this alarming trend, there are also feel-good stories of a handful OFWs who keep the dignities of their families protected. Across the Gulf in Abu Dhabi, Elmer works as an aircon technician. (We both worked as warehouse helpers in a garment factory inside FTI Complex some years back, and just recently we found each other on Facebook.) Despite his rather low-paying job, he was able to build a modest home in Indang, Cavite with the help of his wife who started a small carinderia and sari-sari store. From their initial capital of 7,000 pesos, their business has grown dramatically in seven years. Elmer meanwhile waits for his completion of ten years in his company to be with his wife and two kids. I asked him how he is able to put together enough resilience and perseverance in his work. His reply was nothing of the extraordinary. " I draw my inspiration from my wife and kids who in turn draw inspiration from me. And my strength, I draw from God." Ah, I almost forgot he earlier told me he is an active member of the music ministry in a local Christian fellowship in Abu Dhabi.

Indeed a variety of stories each OFW can relate. Mostly inspiring yet some are frustrating. Each story reminds us,  that our love for our loved ones has brought us to wherever we are now and guided us to whatever we have become.  This year's theme advocated by PEBA does not only put the spotlight on the family as the most basic unit of society, therefore  the most important too. We all love our families and nobody would argue about that.  Each of us has our own purpose why we chose to be separated from them. To give our loved ones a better tomorrow easily tops our agenda. To most of us, it is purely economic reason and economic reason alone. To others maybe not, but for the majority including me it is.

For a kid born to a big family of twelve, in a place where barefoot seven-year olds ditch their being kids for a day sweating out under the sun while dodging the wrath of stinging sugarcane leaves, life indeed offered little compassion. Hardly able to get by, with my father alone in his responsibility to feed us all, my mother could only offer little resistance in between sobs, knowing that her children are leaving one after the other. My older brother for Surallah in South Cotabato to work in  a  ricefield, and my sister who next sailed to Iloilo to work as babysitter who eventually took my other sister with her later. And another sister who was barely fifteen, was hired by our neighbor to work as housemaid for a Chinese family in Mandaue.

Other than the scourge of scarcity, ours was a picture of a contented family. Our parents who themselves did not complete primary school, recognized the value of  education - or at least higher than what they had reached. Unable to realize that dream for their children, when we basically struggled to keep our heads above water, we had to be sent out  somewhere, either to work so as to get to school, or to work just to be able to survive. Time and destiny would later conspire that I faced my own. Armed with a few units in college (and some fierce determination), I decided it was my time to slowly weave my own destiny, oblivious of the difficulties that lie ahead, yet mindful of the same that inspired me to press on. My inspiration? - my father who worked tirelessly and saw to it that there was food on the table, and my mother who had to routinely get up before dawn  (albeit stealthily so as not to wake us),  to prepare the village folks' favorite 'bibingka' so that we have notebooks and pencils in school.

No matter what the circumstances in life, it is our love for them that keeps us going. They are our strength and inspiration. They are the reason why we persist to exist even at times when we almost refused to. We put their interest before our own. To the point that we are reluctant to tell our sad tales  in a foreign land because we don't want them to worry about us.  Of being routinely tossed aside from the till point where I was serving, to clean the bathroom because our Arabian colleagues are deemed unworthy touching the dreadful. Of believing that being the breadwinner, it is a natural thing to subsist on a diet of eggs and noodles to make do of a salary too scanty for the whole family . However, all the feelings of cynicism and self pity of having to forget yourself, and anger for being discriminated against, just go away with the thoughts of them.  But nothing beats the pain of losing a father without having tasted the fruits of my sacrifices and not seeing him lowered to his final abode.

"She knew the uncertainties that await her in Kuwait. She gambled but kept the faith. To feed her son and send him to school topped her list. And there is her mother who is sick. But in an instant all her dreams perished, now her family mourns of her death. As the collective OFW diaspora swiftly reacted in rage, the pain inflicted on the family of Asria Samad can never be healed. What she only knew then - she loved her family, and the pains of not being able to feed them superseded that of the perils that she will have faced. Indeed she did pay with her life - dearly - and lost it." 

Invincible fortitude, unassailable spirit and fierce determination, serve as our arsenal that equips us in our battle with uncertainties in a foreign land. Them that keeps us staying afloat through stormy seas. Them that enabled our immune system to strengthen us when we needed comfort and care.  Yes, they are our loved ones.  It is the thoughts of them that cool us down under the oppressive desert sun by the Gulf. And the thoughts of them blubbering  neath our epidermis that keep us warm in a freezing Alaskan shore. And the thoughts of them that keep us sane  in a chaotic Tel Aviv nursing home. How I wish we had the fortitude and resilience of Elmer and the spirit and determination of Asria. Regrettably, others like Benjie and Jessa who did not stand by their vows to each other, chose to crush the dignity of their family. As for Mang Eddie and Aling Editha, their love affair shows no sign of waning, albeit flourishing in this part of the world yet uncertain in another.

Strangely enough, some of us articulated our mission time and time again, that no matter what the circumstances in life, we are willing to make sacrifices for our loved ones, and yet we make it on our own terms. The mission of realizing those dreams that keeps our reluctant feet going is no longer paramount, but has suddenly been blurred by the slightest tickle of temptation that beckons us. Who are we fooling? Can we count those precious innocent lives who have been at the receiving end of broken families? How many OFW's daughters got pregnant at 16? And misguided young sons into drug addiction and criminality? Are they not daily fixtures in our primetime appetite? We certainly hate them to happen to us. And so why subscribe to the eternal mantra of the deceitful that "I am only human", therefore I am into this habit? We all know that there is no magic formula as to how one remains faithful to his or her spouse. It is a daily battle that could be won in one's own term, no secret formula, it is a given one, stand our ground and keep the faith is all what we need.

Fellow OFWs, unmarried and not,  we all know of our purpose and mission in a foreign land. Some of us may have opted to permanently settle in a country that gave us the fulfillment of our dreams, yet most of us are homebound to our loved ones to share the fruits of our sacrifices. A modest house, a hefty bank account or the flashiest gadgets - all of these will go to naught  sans a family that firmly stands. For no amount of temporal things will ever surpass the joy of seeing your family  complete under one roof. As the PEBA president announces (in his message),  that failed marriages among OFWs are on the rise, it is high time that you stand resolutely to safeguard the dignity of your family. To those blessed with spouses, communication of all sorts are in abundance. Use them to your advantage. Encourage and comfort each other, for tendencies of infidelity abound wielding its  clout and power, its threat  knows no age,  dispensation it has none.  And let us remember, that the success of a person is not gauged by what he has achieved in life, but by the amount of respect he has earned.

Most importantly, let's not forget our Maker - our only source of life and strength. Seek  His guidance and protection -  He who made us and loved us. When we make Him  the central figure of our household, all our cares and worries get subdued.  For unless it is the Lord that builds the house, the laborers labor in vain (Psalms 127:1). Because we only exist by His grace for  apart from Him we can do nothing.  Isn't our God bigger than any of our problems?

Lastly, I would like to applaud the PEBA people for their advocacies on  strengthening OFW families, in light of the rising incidences of failed marriages and misguided children caused by separation from loved ones. I would also like to thank them for encouraging new bloggers like me to share our thoughts and stories, or perhaps lessons worth sharing that will serve as inspiration to others. This year's theme they put  forth is timely and carries a sense of urgency, that opens up the reality behind the sacrifices of an OFW family and the price they have to pay in their pursuit of a better life. As for those who have lost their lives like Asria and many others who have suffered a similar fate, the lives of their loved ones left behind will never be the same again.  Aren't we blessed that we stay whole?  To God be the glory!




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Silay City, Negros Occidental, The Philippines

Some of the photos above courtesy of Arnaldo Arnáiz Díaz

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