OFWs: More than remitters of cash

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10:24 PM February 26th, 2013

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By: Tina G. Santos, February 26th, 2013 10:24 PM

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

MANILA, Philippines—Overseas Filipino workers are more than just remittance senders, they also play a significant role in moving the country forward.

This was highlighted during the Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO) 2nd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora, a gathering of leaders of Filipino communities around the world, held in a Makati hotel on Wednesday.

According to CFO chair Imelda Nicolas, the summit, with its theme “Two Years Thereafter: The Best of the Diaspora,” is an attempt to take stock of what the Filipino diaspora has done and to find ways to move forward.

“We want to start a different revolution where every Filipino abroad can be more than just a remittance sender, more than just a balikbayan and more of an active participant in Philippine development,” she said.

Nicolas said this year’s rallying cry was “Balikbayan para sa inang bayan” (Balikbayan for the motherland), tapping into the hero innate in every overseas Filipino worker and enhancing the terms “balikbayan” (returning citizen) and “bayanihan” (spirit of community).

“It is about reclaiming the meaning of being Filipino in a globalized world and restoring our sense of common purpose,” she said in her welcome remarks.

According to Nicolas, for the millions of Filipinos outside the Philippines, the realization in living in and between two homes–a local and a global home, and connecting both–enriches both their lives and that of the motherland.

Forty-year-old Oggie Maristela, president of the Association Lending Assistance and Exigencies at Home (ALA EH e.V), a Filipino community in Germany, said that for several years now, the group has been helping poor communities in the Philippines.

The group’s around 400 members, most of whom are permanent residents of Germany, are aiming this year to send poor Filipino children to school with the help of a private organization.

“It is such a good feeling knowing that you are able to help others, especially people back home,” said Maristela, a nurse who emigrated to Germany with his family when he was only 12 years old.

“It gives me a sense of fulfillment,” he said.

The three-day summit also traced the progress and highlighted best practices of diaspora engagement since the launch of the Diaspora to Development (D2D) initiatives during the first global summit held in September 2011.

Nicolas said the first summit in 2011 was really to identify and project the areas where overseas Filipino workers could participate.

The summit also served as a venue for networking and exploring partnerships among overseas Filipinos and other development stakeholders.

The CFO has launched the BALinkBayan project, a one-stop online portal for diaspora engagements.

“This will offer an integrated and unique platform for 10.4 million overseas Filipinos to re-engage with the Philippines through the so-called Diaspora to Development (D2D) program of the CFO, tapping into the Filipino diaspora’s knowledge, expertise, skills, networks, material and financial resources to contribute to the development of the Philippines,” said Nicolas.

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