OFW Song in Singapore


Kapalaran abroad, gusto bang subukan
Sa Australia, UK, Canada, New Zealand,
May diploma ka ba, o experience lamang?
Huwag kang mag-alala, kaya kang tulungan,
Dito lamang sa – Amerika, Atbp.!

MARIVIC, Arnel and Sarath Menon are familiar with the lyrics of this song, which actually is the opening billboard jingle of the TV program carrying the same name – “Amerika, Atbp.,” which has been running for 12 years now and will air on its new season on NET 25, Eagle Broadcasting Corporation on December 9, 2014.

All of them except Sarath Menon are first generation migrants in this First World Island State. Mavic hails from Antipolo, Rizal and had been working in Singapore for Canadian employers first as a nanny and, when the kids grew up, metamorphosed into a house manager taking care of the domicile while her employers pursue their business passion.

Arnel works at a gadget-technology store at Lucky Plaza, giving Pinoys the best value for their money giving tips on how to get the latest gadgets at the best prize and get their refunds as tourists before they leave. He is a permanent resident considering moving to reside permanently somewhere else whose natives would not regard his family as “job stealers.”

Overseas Filipinos in Singapore came from other occupations (not domestic helpers). They are mostly healthcare workers (nurses), developers and programmers in the IT industry as well as bank clerks, entertainers, and sales assistants in department stores.

Yahoo! Singapore reports 172,000 Filipinos residing in Singapore this year, compared to 400,000 Indian workers (as reported by the Indian High Commission). The exact numbers are elusive since Filipinos are officially classified as “Others” by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority.

Singapore is also a favorite shopping and tourist destination for an average of 400,000 Filipinos because of its proximity (3 hour-flight). Arnel has a lot of repeat customers since the newest gadgets are usually released first in Singapore then months later in the Philippines.

Incidentally, I did this caricature while on board a Philippine Air Line flight to pick up stories from Overseas Filipinos, especially after the hateful blog about Pinoys.

Like an OFW caught between two immovable objects (people who mainly talk about the bane of “cheap” Filipino labor and those who turn a blind eye to the presence of Overseas Filipinos because they are a boon to businesses), Pinoys in Singapore come here despite the pressure from both boulders for the clean and green: clean environment and a better future. The grass indeed is greener in this corner of Southeast Asia.

Sarath Menon on the other hand, was born and raised in Singapore. He is proud of his migrant history and how he and his playmates in primary school frolicked in what then were kampongs (that’s the Malay word for our “rural barrio). Their small village’s community was made up of migrants from different nationalities. They saw each other as playmates regardless of color, religion or creed. They were Singaporeans.

Then progress came and the kampongs were replaced by a concrete jungle, now also the playground for the rich, big and middle spenders. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who call Singapore their second home although their permanent residency teeters on edge.

Sarath graduated from kampong life to be the Managing Director of Orissa International Pte Ltd. Sarath manages the Southeast Asia Trade Office of the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

He reminisced about the open fields that witnessed the kids turned adults and pursued different paths. Their playground had been declared a historical site as it was where the Japanese soldiers surrendered, below what is now the Marina Bay Financial District skyline – including the Marina Bay Sands Skypark Observatory Deck and Infinity Pool.

Orissa International offers would-be investors in the United States the opportunity to become permanent residents, get green cards for their families through the Immigrant Investor Program, or EB5 category created under the Immigration Act of 1990.

For the last 17 years Sarath’s venture had successfully provided trade and investment promotion services to trade promotion agencies and companies seeking to increase their exports to SE Asia, and working with investment promotion agencies to attract investment from this region into North America and Europe.

Orissa International is a consulting firm serving government economic development agencies and companies seeking to grow their trade, exports or investments in new markets. Since October 1997, Orissa has assisted American and European trade and investment promotion agencies do business in Singapore and Southeast Asia, a region of 600 million people with a combined economy of US$2.2 trillion.

Across the Pacific, Orissa International partners with CanAm Enterprises, LLC., promoting and sponsoring immigration-linked investment funds particularly in the EB 5 category allowing immigrant investors the opportunity to get US residency for investing $500 million in US approved projects within a regional center.

CanAm has raised $1.6 billion in EB-5 capital for more than 45 project loans with total project costs of approximately $3.5 billion, and has helped create an estimated 38,000 new, full-time jobs for US workers.

To date, CanAm’s Regional Centers have repaid principal in full and on time for 28 partnerships, totaling $408 million to more than 800 investors.

To most Filipinos, Singapore had been a destination. Lately, with the Island State’s emerging negative perception of immigrants, Pinoys are casting their eyes on other shores.

The US and Canada are the two favorite destinations for those in the Philippines who intend to have a greener future, away from the daily hazards of going to work; hoping the MRT will not encounter another accident, or that their taxes would provide an economic tide of benefits that will help lift all boats instead of just the schooners and yachts of the actors turned politicians or vice versa, NGO-organization heads (existing or not).

As long as this perception validated by reality remains, the siren song of opportunities for OFWs will linger – long after 2016 and beyond.


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    • Of course any country will survive without Filipinos.. But the reality is Filipinos are in Singapore primarily because they have to earn dollars for their family. If PH economy is good then most Filipinos including myself who is currently working in Dubai for the last 30 years don’t have to be working abroad. Fortunately to most OFW workers they are able to earn decent money to send to their family back home. However, a number of OFW are still not able to invest their money to prepare for their retirement. Few OFW are engaged in business and investments. Most investiments goes to buying condominiums and apartments and a handfull have started a business. Our leaders have to realize that there are many strengths or opportunities for Filipinos abroad in ME, ASEAN, Europe, US, etc. Unfortunately only few large companies such as Jolly Bee, Bench, Max, SM Malls, etc. have set up their stores in other countries. I still have to see Filipino owned hotel, construction companies, tourism, IT, heavy industries to set their subsidiaires abroad.