Dubai: Filipino expatriates in the Middle East were recently recognised for their exemplary efforts in helping their compatriots live better lives.
The awards were handed out as part of the first leg of "Global Pinoy Idol", a campaign that aims to share and promote inspiring stories of Overseas Filipino workers (OFW).
“Filipinos are being admired or idolised all over the world, and whether they’ve done something big or small, we salute them,” says Ahwel Paz, an anchor at DZMM radio, organisers of the programme in collaboration with The Filipino Channel (TFC).
A familiar Filipino custom shines in all the stories uncovered by the programme: the "bayanihan" spirit.
Bayanihan — the spirit of community unity, work and cooperation — is deeply embedded in the Filipino value system.
The same custom has been retained even by Filipinos living abroad.
The emblematic depiction of bayanihan is that of Filipinos helping move a neighbour’s "bahay kubo" or "nipa" hut (stilt house traditional to the cultures of the Philippines) to its new location. The concept is as simple as it is practical: doing a task together makes the job easier.
Dr. Sharon Mendoza Dreisbach, who has a doctorate degree in management specialising in human resource management, explains that bayanihan and the Filipinos’ strong connection with the family and community, is deeply rooted in their faith.
Willingness to help
“The religious foundation makes Filipinos helpful,” says Dr Dreisbach. “[It stems from] their strong faith in God. Regardless of religion, Filipinos are always willing to help.”
Filipinos have carried the bayanihan spirit wherever they are in the world, as evidenced even in countries such as the UAE where there are numerous Filipino community groups whose main goal usually is to extend assistance to their members.
“We’ve discovered that there are a lot of Filipinos who help fellow Filipinos without asking anything in return,” says another DZMM anchor, Avelynn Garcia, about the Global Pinoy Idol programme.
Mental health advocate
One of two awardees from the UAE is human resources professional and psychologist, Dr. Rommel Pilapil Sergio, an advocate for mental health who provides free counselling for distressed Filipinos in Dubai.
Dr. Sergio works with the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (Polo) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) at the Philippine consulate in reaching out to Filipinos needing assistance.
He also extends his services to children and parents in different Filipino schools, and he has even established a foundation that provides scholarships to students in the Philippines.
“It’s an honour to have this kind of citation,” says Dr Sergio. “It’s an affirmation of how well we were able to extend ourselves to the community.”
The multi-awarded Dubai-based educator was also among the 23 recipients of the 2016 Presidential Awards for Filipino Individuals and Organisations Overseas.
He says being able to devote selflessly to a cause is one important trait that has helped him in carrying out his civic duties.
Acknowledging the opportunities presented to him and other OFWs working in the UAE, he says, “Make your stay worthwhile. Extend yourself to the community and you can basically touch people’s lives.”
Leo Barrameda, a travel manager and entrepreneur, was also recognised for his scholarship programme. Barrameda began his career on a servant’s visa and from such humble beginnings he would eventually establish scholarships and eventually “adopt” an entire school.
“I feel so overwhelmed with this recognition and at the same time for the humbling reminder of the responsibility of being one of the Global Pinoy Idols,” says Barrameda.
Barrameda’s adopted school in B’laan, North Cotobato has been the recipient of scholarships, school supplies and a feeding program that he organises each year.
In the UAE, Barrameda has established an initiative called E-gents wherein he works with other Filipinos to share expertise in various seminars on financial literacy, self-development and personal branding.
One of the goals of the initiative is to educate and help Filipinos in the UAE to start their own businesses.
“When you do things collectively with your friends, with the community, it will make an impact and it will be magnified a thousand fold,” says Barrameda.
Zen Hernandez, one of the organisers of Global Pinoy Idol, says the programme was an eye opener to the numerous selfless acts of Filipinos the Filipino groups in the region.
“One of the distinct characteristic of a Filipino is our love for our families. That’s even the reason many of us are OFWs,” says Hernandez.
“But we also found many stories of OFWs extending support beyond their families, even to locals. They have shown such strong dedication for public service and that for me is the true meaning of a Filipino idol.”
What is Bayanihan?
The term Bayanihan (pronounced as buy-uh-nee-hun) is a Filipino custom derived from a Filipino word “bayan”, which means nation, town or community.
The etimology may also come from the word "bay" (pronounced as bai), meaning brother.
The term bayanihan itself literally means “being in a bayan”, which refers to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation to achieve a common good.