Alab: The awakening of Filipino nationalism

PARTNERING with Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) is an experience beyond expectations and compare, as you get to wade through Filipino sense of festivity, familiarity, and identity fired up by the shared experience of leaving one’s family for years just to earn enough to fulfill their needs, and shared sufferings in different forms.

A get-together becomes a major event, like the glimpse given us by the award-winning documentary “Sunday Beauty Queen”.

Every day-off is a celebration, every gathering is a party. The loneliness is forgotten, even fir just a day or just a few hours.

I found myself in the midst of all that during the launch of the book I co-authored with several OFWs from 23 countries published by the California-based T’boli Publishing and Distribution Inc. entitled, “Alab: The awakening of Filipino nationalism”.

It’s a 350-page first-hand account of what OFWs from all over the globe in President Rodrigo Duterte when his giving the presidency a shot was still unfounded rumors, and how they organized their own campaigns to win over their fellow OFWs and the OFW families at home to vote for the person whom they saw as the person who would give them the little official attention they have been longing since working abroad has become the norm in the Philippine economy.

The book is the fruition of T’boli Publishing’s Jocelyn Soriano Datangel’s dream of coming up with a book about the OFWs as written by OFWs.

Seeing how Duterte unified OFWs like never before, she reached out to OFW groups on Facebook and presented her idea to them.

“Sa totoo lang, ma’am,” said Maume Escudero, the prime mover of OFW Global Movement for Empowerment (OFWGME) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), during the book launch at the Grand Men Seng Hotel last June 17, 2017, “Ni-research ka rin naming kasi nga ayaw naming ma-scam, at sana kita naming, legit naman kayo.”

Datangel also reached out to her cousins in Davao City and that was how I was dragged into what could be the most fun book, and fastest book publishing experience ever. It’s serendipity at its best, Datangel’s mother being the sister of the wife of a long-ago veteran radioman, Romeo “Mang Romy” Torres, who was my long-time friend. Both Mang Romy and his wife have passed on, but the link remained… somehow. And all it took was just one phone call for me to (albeit very reluctantly) give Datangel the audience she was asking for.

The word, OFWs, however sparked the interest. Indeed, the book Alab (cover design by bestfriend artist Rey Mudjahid Millan and cover photos by former staff now Presidential Photographers Division chief King Rodriguez), is historical because it contains the stories of OFWs written by OFWs themselves, and features Duterte and his achievements both as a mayor and president (in his first 100 days) by somebody who has been covering him since his first outing as a politician, when he was appointed OIC Vice Mayor of Davao City, straight from being a city fiscal.

The OFWs came for the launch, some taking time out just for the launch, it being the first launch for the book. There are other book launchings scheduled all over the world where OFWGME are active and have a considerable number of members.

The book launch was an OFW gathering where they all dressed up in their Filipiniana attires, and laughed and cried over each other’s stories, where even the singing of the National Anthem brings tears to your eyes.

Indeed, diaspora is real, and the OFWs found a rallying point through the book that gave them the voice, after a very long time.
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