Thursday, September 19, 2019

Sep 11 19, 10:42 pm

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The state of New York is the second US state to ban favored electronic cigarettes in the country. New York health council filed an emergency legislation saying that flavored vaping products could have triggered severe pulmonary disease and have killed at least seven...

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Sep. 11, 19 | 10:42 pm

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), being among the top destinations for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is second home to about a million Pinoys.

Such being the case, the odds of one bumping into an old friend – even someone THEY grew up with back home – in the streets, workplaces and regular hunts of Dubai or Abu Dhabi, are not remote.

Increasing the probability is the connectivity provided by social media platforms like Facebook which have made it easy to track someone through its “Friend Request” button as well as “Friend Suggestions” and “People You May Know” sections.

The Filipino Times found out that there have been countless instances where Filipinos who last saw each other on, say, graduation day or at a high school party ages ago, have been reunited in the UAE.

Aside from the joys of being reunited, having an old friend around in a place thousands of miles from home helps in adjusting to an OFW life, where having no one to share low moments with is the daily grind.

Indeed, OFWs treasure being with someone they go back to their childhood days with because they’d still be around no matter what and be a cushion, shoulder to lean on, or a punching bag.

Other ways OFWs fend off homesickness include joining church choirs, engaging in sports activities most of whom prefer the de facto Philippine national game – basketball; outdoor activities like mountain biking and photography; and joining professional clubs like accountants’ group, and so on.

Together again after 15 years
“Sobrang saya namin. Kapatid na ang turingan namin sa isa’t isa kaya nang magkita kami ay para kaming mga bata. Kulang na lang maglululundag kami sa saya,” said Lerma Defino, referring to that day she was reunited with Evangeline Calinauan, her “best friend forever” since third grade back in Malungon, Sarangani.

(We were so overjoyed. We were so close, we treated each other like sisters, which was why we were almost jumping with joy like children when we saw each other again.)

Defino, an administrative officer at a cleaning company in Dubai, said she had neither seen nor been in contact with Calinauan since 1997.

“I was surprised when I got a message from her on my Facebook account. It was 2012 when we met up and we have never been separated again,” she said.

Defino said it pays to have a childhood friend in a different place. “You are not alone. I can tell her tell when something is bugging me. I have someone to lean on to. I may not have a relative here but I have my best friend who guides me through.
I’ll never be homesick. Life as an OFW goes on smoothly because of our togetherness,” Defino said, referring to Calinauan.

Defino said she and Calinauan, a domestic helper, bedspaced together for some time till the latter decided to move in to her employer’s house and cut on rent cost. Nonetheless, the two manage to see each other on day-offs.

Thursday Club
For Dona Regis Marinas, Vagelyn Tumbaga Federico and Ericson Cuca, Dubai has been an extension of the happy moment shared in school back home.

“We exchanged messages on Facebook,” said Marinas, registered nurse working at a clinic in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), recalling how the three of them found each other in this expatriate, 24/7 city of over three million people.

Marinas said she was very happy the moment she realized her college classmates were in Dubai.

“I couldn’t wait to reconnect and see them,” Marinas said. She and Federico, a human resource director at a five-star hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, were high school chums, she said. They went to college Saint Louis College in Baguio City with Cuca.

“The thought of having friends like them makes it easy to go through the challenges of living away from your family. We usually see each other during Thursdays,” said Marinas, who arrived in Dubai 10 years ago on a visit visa.

The last time the three were together was during college in 2001 upon graduation. They stumbled upon each other in Dubai 11 years later in 2012.

Grade school peers
Meantime, Maria Anna Garcia Lagman, Liezl Galvez and Edwin Pineda went to school at St. Michael’s College in Guagua, Pampanga. It has been ages since they last saw each other in the Philippines, such that all were surprised and happy meeting up on Facebook and learning they have been sharing a second home.

“Edwin organized a reunion,” said Lagman, recalling as well how she bumped into Pineda one evening in Muraqqabat.

Lagman said the last time they all were together was back in their school days.

“Your world becomes less stressful knowing you have friends around with whom you grew up with back home,” she said.

Word of mouth
Richelle Wingco Fosberry, who works in Dubai’s public relations field, couldn’t believe it when friends told her the person she grew up with in Angeles, Pampanga, even went to the same school at Holy Angel University, is in Abu Dhabi.

The last time they were together was circa 2003-2004. They finally were reunited four years later in 2008.

“So, when we met up, we were so excited because she did not expect that I was here in the UAE as well. Then, we had food trip and sleepover so we could really catch up,” Fosberry said, referring to college buddy, Marissa San Jose.

She said being together with San Jose made a difference.

“When she has a problem, I come to the rescue. When she’s bored, she comes to Dubai ang play with my kids,” Fosberry said.

Working in the same company
While others chance upon their kin or old friends in the streets or through Facebook, Julie Ann Tabio, kitchen coordinator at a Dubai five-star hotel, discovered hers right at her place of work.

Little did she knew that Bryan Santome, her husband’s nephew whom she last saw a few years back in their hometown in Cebu, was at the very same kitchen she supervises.

“I didn’t know that he’s working here as well,” Tabio said, adding: “It’s really a big help to have someone you know with because you tend to be less homesick.”

Mall chance upon
For his part, Alvin Pancito, popular in the Dubai Filipino community for his singing prowess, was at a mall in Deira one day when he saw someone who looked familiar.

“The face looked familiar, but I couldn’t place a name and it felt awkward to ask,” he said.

It turned out the “familiar face” was an acquaintance from a different time back home in Siaton, Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

There were two more from Siaton whom he met later along Salahuddin Road in Deira and pretty soon there was already enough number of them to form a basketball team – all fro m the same town, he said.

“When we’re not too busy at work, we meet up. It’s difficult to finalize a schedule because of work,” said Pancito.

Pancito has also chanced upon a neighbor from Barangay Datag in Siaton where he grew up.

“I was ecstatic. Not even in my wildest dream had it occurred to me that I’d be seeing her, my neighbor from the same place back home. She sent me a Facebook message because she saw me at that social media platform. Small world it is! he exclaimed, referring to his friend, Michelle Ragudo Gaan, sales attendant at a music shop in Dubai. “

What followed was a long catching-up, Pancito said.

The whole barangay is here
But while there were seven or so OFWs from Siaton, Dumaguete City, there are some 300 from Glan in Sarangani – and they are all in Abu Dhabi.

“Marami kami. Mostly po magkakilala mga pamilya lahat, iisang school at iisang community lang pinanggalingan,” said Sheryl A. Palacios-Manalo, who works in the medical field in Abu Dhabi.

She said they have formed a group, the UAE – Glanian Association

The group has also been engaged in bayanihan activities.

“We do community projects like providing medical supplies to the community hospital and beautifying our Plaza Rizal, among others,” Manalo said.

The UAE has been named one of the top work destinations for OFWs during the second and third quarter of 2018, according to a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The PSA’s 2018 survey on Overseas Filipinos found that the estimated number of OFWs working abroad from April to September 2018 was at 2.3 million.

Out of that number, 15.7% were working in the UAE making it the second biggest destination among OFWs.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was named as the top work destination with 24.3% of OFWs working there.

Hong Kong (6.3%), Kuwait (5.7%), and Taiwan (5.7%) placed third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.

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THE FILIPINO TIMES is the biggest and most trusted Filipino newspaper in the UAE.

It has a print run of 60,000 copies and 250,000 readership per week; bolstered by 1 million visitors to its website every month. It also has an e-newsletter sent to its 250,000 subscribers every day.

The Filipino Times is FREE and has the widest targeted circulation across the 7 emirates of the UAE.

With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

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THE FILIPINO TIMES is the biggest and most trusted Filipino newspaper in the UAE.

It has a print run of 60,000 copies and 250,000 readership per week; bolstered by 1 million visitors to its website every month. It also has an e-newsletter sent to its 250,000 subscribers every day.

The Filipino Times is FREE and has the widest targeted circulation across the 7 emirates of the UAE.

With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

THE FILIPINO TIMES. We are where the Filipinos are.

FOLLOW US

SIGN UP FOR NEWSLETTER

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