I have been a broadcast journalist for almost two decades now, but if I were to choose a career highlight, it would be the time when I hosted ¨Pinoy Abroad¨. That show gave me the rare privilege of personally visiting our kababayans all over the world, talking to them, living with them, laughing and crying with them, and going back to the Philippines to tell their stories. As a young journalist then, travelling the world was a wonderful experience. But more than the sights and sounds, it was the stories of our kababayans that made it more meaningful.
How can I forget my first ever episode when I went to Taiwan where many Filipinos worked as factory workers. Some of them lived in re-purposed container vans, with no ventilation. At the workplace, some had ok conditions, some not so. Some were lucky to have fair and considerate employers, while others were not. It was cold for many days of the year there, and I refer not only to temperatures, but the entire experience of being away from home in not so ideal conditions. But our kababayans soldiered on, held on to each other, often laughing their way through the difficulties and challenges.
Also in Taiwan, I met Luz Tsai, a Filipina married to a Taiwanese, who served as a mother, sister, and counselor to many kababayans in distress. She organized this fellowship party while we were there, where the Filipino community would get together to eat, drink and sing (what´s a pinoy get together without videoke?) and simply feel at home in the company of compatriots speaking the same language and sharing the same hopes and dreams. Tita Luz, as I fondly call her, keeps the community together, and has made it her life mission to help kababayans in need. For that, she has my profound admiration and respect. We still keep in touch to this day.
Pinoy Abroad may have been short lived, but in the year and a half that it went on air, I feel that we have told so much about the lives of Pinoys abroad. My only regret is that we could have done more, because there is simply so much more to tell about Filipinos living abroad. In fact we were not even able to visit Canada, where there is sizable number of Filipinos.
There was never a shortage of sad stories in Pinoy Abroad, but for each one of them, there will always be one of overcoming adversity and beating the odds. Such is the Filipino story. Some leave the country by choice, but for most, by force of circumstance. But certain qualities define us: industrious, caring, resilient and genuine—just a few in the long list of desirable qualities that make Filipinos the preferred choice all over the world.
And so to all of you dear readers in Canada, while you battle the cold winters in a foreign land, keep the flame and warmth inside you, and keep writing the story of triumph and success. Mabuhay ka! •