Twenty-five years ago I was a young officer at the US Embassy in Manila, and in my “spare time” I produced records in Manila with some really great artists as a kind of hobby and what I hoped would be a bridge to a different future. My first project was an album by Odette Quesada — and the second project was an album by Freddie Aguilar, called “Heart of Asia” in which I wrote English adaptations of some of Freddie’s songs and we recorded them in English. Those were wonderful days, and whatever deeper connection I have to the Philippines can probably be traced to my connection in those days to the music — not just Freddie and Odette, but Bodjie Dasig, Louie Ocampo, Jo Mari Chan, and others. In fact Jo Mari was kind of an inspiration to me as a businessman/musician — it made my moonlighting as an Embassy officer by day, record producer by night seem to make at least a little bit of sense.
A Tribute to Overseas Filipinos
On that album I did with Freddie, one of the songs that completely captured my imagination was, in English, called “Home” — and was from the point of view of an Overseas Filipino Worker as he comes home after many years abroad — not just for a visit, but forever. This was it — he was coming home for good. And the song was about what was going on in his head as the plane approaches Manila.
When we recorded it in the studio, Freddie had trouble getting through the chorus — he would get choked up, and so would I, and so we recorded the chorus line by line. Even now, just writing the words to the chorus causes me to get ridiculously teary eyed. To me the Filipino OFWs were heros then — and the idea of getting inside the head and heart of an OFW coming home after many years abroad — home to stay, home forever — was very powerful. The chorus:
He’s going home today, home to stay
Home to build his dreams.
He’s going home to where the land is always green
He’s going home to where his family waits
Back home to all his friends
He’s going home and he will never leave again . . . .
Now … I’m not an OFW, or even a Filipino, but my wife is an “abroad”, and by marriage I suppose I am — so I’m at least an “OFW-in-law” of “abroad-in-law” or somehow part of that community.. . . . and this entire experience of trying to regroup after typhoon Yolanda has made very proud to be even an “in-law” member of that community, and here’s why. Never in my life have I seen anything remotely approaching the way the Filipino abroad community (including those in Manila, who are “abroad” from Visayas) have rallied to help their brothers and sisters in Visayas. I have been watching, somewhat awe-struck, and truly moved to be able to pitch in and try to help the process. But I have also wondered — how unique is this? Did anything like this happen after, for example, the tsunami in 2004?
I found a lengthy, comprehensive Brookings Institute Report on the Tsunami response in 2004 and there is no mention of the “abroad” community playing a major role. Now, I realize it’s possible that they just missed this — but I don’t see how anyone could write a report like that on Yolanda/Haiyan and ignore the incredible contribution of fellow Filipinos.
As I was in this state of mind, I came across this on the Maalaala Mo Kaya Facebook page:
Translated, it says:
The final decision for
The future for families
But we do not give up because of god
We draw strength
And aside from the graphic, it says:
I salute those who are willing to sacrifice for his family. No personal happiness regardless sometimes just give families a better future.
OFWs wherever corner of the world, live please you! God bless ..
OFW’s and Filipinos abroad are always heros to their families — but Yolanda has taken it to another level. And it’s a blessing, really, that there is this amazing Fililpino diaspora that means that in every municipality, even every barangay — there are overseas brothers and sisters who are able to step up and help in this time of need. Other countries don’t have that — at least not to the extent the Philippines does. It’s as if there is a shadow population of each barangay made up of the members of the barangay who are abroad, and who are now in a position to help not just their own family, but the other families as well.
So I salute you buys.
Is there a different from an “OFW” and an “Abroad” ? You are rockstars and yes, I think that in some very meaningful way, the future of the Visayas is in your hands. You are making an incredible difference every day ……
Just remember: DO NOT GROW WEARY IN YOUR WELL-DOING.
Your brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers, and nieces and nephews all need you.
And you’re getting it done.