Tag Archives: overseas filipino workers

Embracing social media in my life

The Filipino Scribe supports the 2012 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards

Canadian academician Marshall McLuhan noted in his 1964 book Understanding Media that “the globe has contracted, spatially, into a single large village” because of existing communication technologies at that time. Just imagine how dramatically the world had contracted the past ten years because of social networking sites.

Filipinos have embraced the social media in a big way – it has been cited as the social networking capital of the world many times in recent years. According to, nearly 90% of all Filipino internet users have a Facebook account. I cannot remember a day when I went online without checking my social networks.

That hasn’t always been the case for me. When I was a second year high school student back in 2004, I was actually behind others in having a Friendster account. I still remember how amazed I was back then when I got to reconnect with my elementary classmates – folks I haven’t heard from in over two years. So that’s how I utilized the social media initially. Now, it is not an exaggeration to say that the social media has influenced my life at present to a great extent.

When I was younger, letters sent via airmail and overseas phone calls were the only means by which I interacted with my aunt and her family in the United States. Both leave much to be desired. Thanks to our antiquated postal system, I once received a Christmas card shortly before Valentine’s Day. The cost of overseas calls on the other hand can be extremely prohibitive, and this negatively affects the quality of interaction. And contrary to what a famous PLDT NDD ad shows, a few minutes are usually not enough to talk about pressing family matters.

Being an avid news junkie, it didn’t take long before I began using Friendster as a platform to express my views on political issues at that time. On my ‘bulletin board’ there, I posted my insights about the scandals engulfing the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. By 2007, I created an account in, and this marked my first foray in blogging.

Aside from having an online portal for my written school outputs, the blog also served as a means for me to air my take about the campus politics in UP Diliman. Looking back, I realized that I largely stuck with that formula, although I now write more about national politics and with a decidedly wider readership. My engagement in social media eventually prompted me to do a thesis about how the 2010 presidential candidates used the said technology as part of their campaign.

manny villar facebook

Expect Filipino politicians to further use the social media for campaigning in future elections. (screenshot taken in 2010)

A year after doing that research, I put up this blog. From receiving less than 10 views a day on its first three months online, The Filipino Scribe is now getting 1000 hits daily on the average. This blog has opened up a lot of opportunities for me personally, but what really gives me a kick is the fact that in my own way, I can share to Filipinos worldwide information and insights about issues they care about (holiday pay rules, political controversies, etc.).

To a great extent, we can say that the social media has empowered not just bloggers like me but also essentially everyone who has access to the Internet. As they became more enamored with the technology through the years, Filipinos have learned that there is more to Facebook and Twitter than just bringing friends and families together.

Social media as a catalyst of political participation among OFWs

Nowadays, it is not surprising to see Filipinos overseas react to news from the Philippines ahead of their countrymen here. They no longer need to subscribe for a fee to The Filipino Channel just to get news. Facebook and Twitter have become reliable ways of sharing news. Filipinos here and around the world can throw their two cents worth on everything with no restrictions.

Nominee, 2012 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards

Nominee, 2012 Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards

In other words, they need not worry anymore if media gatekeepers will publish their comment or not since no one can stop them from saying their comments on the social network accounts. A Filipino living in Florida, United States for instance founded the Facebook group Anti-Pinoy, a page which features no-holds barred discussions on Philippine issues.

This year, we saw that social networking sites can be used by the public to hold their elective officials accountable for their actions. Usually, this can only happen during elections. Senator Vicente Sotto III and Manila Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David learned it the hard way. When Bonoan-David filed an ill-advised House bill that seeks to require departing overseas Filipino workers to pay US$50 as contribution to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration emergency repatriation fund, OFWs everywhere launched an online revolt which prompted the solon to withdraw her proposal. Sotto, for his part, remains the subject of online ridicule because of his apparent lack of knowledge about what constitutes plagiarism.

Future prospects

Let me conclude this post by making some predictions as to how the social media will be a catalyst in making Filipinos more productive in charting their future. In the same way that I used the 2008 United States presidential elections as a guide in writing my thesis two years ago, I am once again looking up to America for some inputs. In the coming elections, we can expect politicos to use to rely increasingly on the social media to reach their constituents.

However, the medium can also work against them. The Internet can be used extensively in examining the background and political positions of those aspiring to lead us.  Since so much information are now readily accessible, there’s no more excuse for voters to remain uninformed. The social media then becomes like a Damocles sword against people who think they can lie and lie to win political power. That’s people empowerment at its best, isn’t it?

Thanks to the social media and other related technologies, the cliche “malayo man, malapit din” has become truer than ever. Once upon a time, I saw Friendster and Multiply mainly as a means for me to look for long lost classmates and  my numerous crushes. Although I still do that, the social media has become much more meaningful to me as I elucidated above.

I’m confident that the social media will continue opening more opportunities for me in the future. In fact, I am looking forward to the day when I no longer need to work since I am already earning a lot from blogging. While that dream remains to be realized, I will continue using the social media mainly to disseminate information and to express my opinions. 😛

*This is my entry to the 2012 Pinoy Expat/OFW Blog Awards – OFW Supporter Category. This year’s theme is “Social media and I – Bridging the past, present, and future.”


Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David withdraws HB 6195

Solon drops measure after drawing flak from OFWs

Manila Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David (4th distrct) is now rescinding her initial sponsorship of House Bill 6195, which would have amended parts of the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Protection Act of 1995. Rep. Bonoan-David’s camp sent to The Filipino Scribe a copy of the lady solon’s official announcement Friday afternoon.

Dated June 18 and addressed to House Majority Leader (and chair of the Committee on Rules) Neptali Gonzales, Jr., Bonoan-David said she is withdrawing sponsorship as principal author of HB 6195 “after some careful consideration on (its) provisions.” Curiously, a copy of the said bill is not uploaded in Bonoan-David’s page in the House of Representatives website.

trisha bonoan david HB 6195

Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David has officially withdrawn her sponsorship of House Bill 6185 (click to enlarge)

Filed last May 17, HB 6195 will require departing overseas Filipino workers to pay US$50 as contribution to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration emergency repatriation fund. The Manila solon said her bill “intends to provide the necessary measures for the government to carry out its responsibility to assist distressed OFWs in cases of war, epidemic, disaster or calamities, natural or man-made, and other similar events, and promote their general welfare.”

The bill has received a firestorm of criticism in the social media, led by migrant workers’ rights advocate Susan Ople and other organization of overseas Filipino workers. In her blog, Ople described HB 6195 “bereft of logic” and “inimical to the welfare and rights of our OFWs.” The 2010 senatorial candidate added: “(The bill) touches a sensitive nerve because of its gross insensitivity to the heavily burdened life of an OFW.”

trisha bonoan david congress

Manila Rep. Trisha Bonoan-David is now in her second term in Congress.

Bonoan-David is currently serving her second term in Congress. She has not indicated if she will seek reelection in next year’s midterm polls or if she will instead run for a higher post in Manila.

PS: Ms Susan Ople has mentioned this post in her latest blog entry.

Saudization means fewer overseas work opportunities for Filipinos

by Mark Pere Madrona

(This blog has been published in last August 11:

Through the years, much has been written about the misfortunes that plagued overseas Filipino workers. Countless OFWs have been abused physically and sexually. Many were forced to work in extremely inhumane circumstances under cruel employers (who probably regard their workers as a material possession). For sure, maltreatment of OFWs happen anywhere in the world, but the stories of abuse coming from those who worked in Middle Eastern nations are more common – and more disturbing[1]. Nevertheless, nothing can stop Filipinos from seeking overseas employment.

With over a million Filipinos currently employed in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia[2], the recently implemented Nitaqat system (or “Saudization” of the work force) is certainly not good news for the Philippine economy. Our nation’s labor export policy has been in place for over three decades now, having been initiated by then President Ferdinand Marcos[3]. This scheme has mitigated the country’s perpetual unemployment problem. According to the latest labor figures, there are 11.3 million Filipinos who are unemployed[4]. OFWs had also kept the economy afloat through the billions of dollars in cash remittance they’ve sent back home annually[5].

The realities cannot be denied. Even those who have graduated with honors from the Philippines’ best universities are having a hard time finding a job. Many eventually settle for the first job offer that comes their way – never mind if the compensation package is not at all attractive (or if the work has nothing to do with what one has specialized in). As economists always point out, underemployment is preferable to unemployment. It is also a fact that salaries earned by those who opt to work locally pale in comparison to what one can possibly earn in other countries.

Contrary to insinuations that the Saudization policy was implemented merely as a revenge for the recent investigations conducted by the Philippine Congress regarding the abuse of OFWs in the Middle East, the scheme was actually put into place because the oil kingdom is also experiencing worsening unemployment. Arab News reported last month that as much as 10% of the entire population does not have jobs. Among females, unemployment could be as high as 30%, the paper added[6].

The recently implemented “Saudization” of the work force is certainly not good news for the Philippines.

The recently implemented “Saudization” of the work force is certainly not good news for the Philippines.

The Saudi government appears all set to implement the said policy strictly, giving companies just a few months to increase the number of Saudis in their workforce, lest they be dealt with “punitive measures.” The government of KSA has set a fixed percentage of Saudi employees depending on the industry. “Red” companies, for instance, are also not allowed to renew work visas for their foreign employees. Thus, OFWs who initially planned to have a brief vacation to the Philippines will probably no longer be allowed to come back.

With the global financial crisis still lingering and with no end in sight, the job security of people who work overseas are in jeopardy. For example, since the unemployment in America remains high at 9.2% (or anout 14 million Americans)[7], the government has made it harder for immigrants (whether legitimate or undocumented) to find work. American politicians, meanwhile, never fail to demonize in their speeches companies who outsource their operations overseas. Americans, after all, always rail about people who “take” away their jobs.

Given these realities, it is totally understandable for affluent nations to prioritize their own people when it comes to giving jobs. Labor export-dependent countries like the Philippines have no other option but to start adapting to this unfavorable situation. Reliance on foreign countries to solve a nation’s unemployment woes is not sustainable. This cannot go on forever.

[1] Robles, Raissa. Saudis consider maids as part of their furniture. (Personal blog).

[2] _____________. Commission on Filipinos Overseas. Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos. Philippine Overseas Employment Agency website ( Retrieved July 21, 2011.

[3] O’Neil, Kevin. Labor Export as Government Policy: The Case of the Philippines. Migration Policy Institute website. Retrieved March 14, 2011.

[4] ________.  SWS: Unemployment up, now affects 11.3M Filipinos. GMA News Online. Retrieved May 29, 2011. (Report published May 23, 2011)

[5] Olchondra, Riza. “Remittances to fuel economic growth.” Philippine Daily Inquirer website. Retrieved March 14, 2011.

[6] _______. Labor Ministry outlines Saudization percentage. Arab News. Accessed July 20, 2011.

[7] _______. Employment Situation Summary. United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed July 21, 2011.

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