Skipping some of the events I had to write about (I’m so late! Some of them happened weeks and weeks ago!) to write a shortie something about what happened just last Friday. Something very heart warming.
A good percentage of the Filipino population work abroad. Almost everyone in the Philippines has at least one relative who left the country for what they often call as ‘better opportunities’. Admittedly, our people has yet to feel the tangible effects of our growing economy and it makes me hopeful that this would be the start of Filipinos abroad going home without fear whether they will be earning enough for their families if they took a job in their home country.
It might take a couple of years more. But really, I’m looking forward to it. I’ve seen enough families torn apart by the diaspora. Children growing up without their mothers who had to go abroad to take care of the children of other people so she can earn money for her kids’ education back at home. I had a friend whose father never made it to any of her graduations as he was working as an engineer in the Middle East. They had money to send her all the way to college and to finish her Master’s Degree but alas, he was old when he got home and he died a few years later. The times they spent apart was something they can never bring back.
Our society is very family-centric and it is terribly hard for Filipinos to be split apart. But life happens and they make decisions that will, at the end of the day, be best for their family’s welfare. It’s a hard life and you got to hand it to people who make bold moves not just for their own benefit.
So when the husband was asked to represent our Ambassador (he had a prior commitment) to the year-end gathering/Christmas party of the Filipino community in Perak, we both looked forward to it. But admittedly, not to the three-and-a-half hour drive to get there. When will teleportation be invented?
Anyhoo, I just want to share with you a few moments from that event. 🙂
One thing my husband and I noticed is how organised the Filipino community in Perak is, despite not having a formal structure (where FilComm leaders are elected) like in other areas of Malaysia.
They’re like a family with Mr Frank Calalo, one of the first Filipinos to settle in Perak during the 90s (he moved to Perak from the Philippines to work for an oil and gas company) bringing them together at least once a year to get to know each other, do a bit of networking, share a meal, and have fun. They also act as a support group, assisting their fellow Filipinos whenever they can.
Alvin suggested that they formalise their organisation with the help of the embassy to make it easier to assist them whenever they need any help from the embassy. A suggestion that they welcomed as it would make communication between their members and the government representatives here in Malaysia easier.
There were (I think) a little over a hundred people at their party. Mostly Filipino of course, but there were some Malaysians and Americans who were married to Filipinas. It’s nice to see how they embrace their wives’ heritage and really make an effort to join the community. I’m a fan of interracial marriage in general (maybe I’m biased because I’m half-Filipina and half-Danish but whatever) because it’s one of the ways we can promote understanding and acceptance of different cultures. (Because it’s totally possible if everyone keeps an open mind!)
It’s nice that despite being away from their families in the Philippines, they find family in each other here in Malaysia. Especially during Christmas time where one tends to miss family the most. What they’re doing for their families is not easy – to live in a foreign land, to start a new life, to work in a new place. But they do it anyways for better finances. Money isn’t everything, yes. But it does play an important role in raising a family and making sure your kids get proper education.
In the end, the 3 and half hour drive going to Perak and almost 4 hour drive going home ended up feeling like nothing compared to what we experienced with the Filipinos there. They were all smiles and were very welcoming. To see them having fun and extending love they have for their own families at home to their kababayans (countrymen) in Malaysia is something that is just too heartwarming. Having a group of friends who treat you like family is priceless – especially when you’re abroad. It’s your main weapon against homesickness and I’m glad they all have each other there.
I truly felt that they appreciated our long drive so we get to see their organisation and to meet their members. It was so sweet of them to invite the embassy to see how they are doing and to share their stories with us. And I really look forward to seeing them again. 😀 Maybe in KL when they formalise and register their organisation with our Ambassador or maybe in Perak once again. You’ll never know.
They say Filipinos are very good in adapting to other cultures, that’s why it tends to be easy for most Filipinos who go abroad to integrate themselves to their host country. But honestly, you can never take away their culture and how they tend to gravitate towards each other when they’re far away from home. Having at least one Filipino friend goes a long way. Being a FilComm member abroad is like having a second family.