With hard work and an iPhone app, an outback community is building its Philippine dream


Posted

August 11, 2018 05:30:00

In a living room in a small outback town, a group of Filipina women are listening attentively to a young man as he walks them through a presentation projected onto the wall in front of them.

The presentation is about using an iPhone app that will allow the women to send part of their pay each week back to their families in the Philippines.

“We’re teaching the people of Kambalda, especially the Filipino community, how to [use the app] themselves, so they can do it themselves online,” 23-year-old Abel Manzano said.

Each time they send money home, members of the Filipino community back in Kambalda, Western Australia, make a small step towards achieving their own Philippine dream.

“It’s really important because we Filipinos, we are really bonded tightly as a family,” Mr Manzano said.

To the Filipino government, the women gathered for the presentation are known as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), and the wages they send home are known as remittances.

Last year, according to the World Bank, remittances from Filipinos around the world reached a record high of $US33 billion — a whopping one tenth of the country’s entire economy.

Typically sent through popular remittance services such as Western Union or MoneyGram, they help pay for school fees, medicine or other daily expenses.

“Mostly the Filipinos sending money to our country for helping the family — it’s a normal tradition in the Philippines,” said Mabel Shanahan, president of the local Filipino club that organised the event.

“Some of them only send once a month, some of them twice a month.

“Some of them, especially the skilled workers, they send twice a week.”

Remittances keeping economy afloat

Filipinos are one of the world’s largest labour diasporas — millions are spread out across more than 200 countries as migrants in search of better opportunities.

Remittances have grown so much in recent years that there are concerns that the Philippines economy has become reliant on them.

“Without the remittances of overseas Filipino workers, our economy will really slide down,” said Ronhalee Asuncion, a labour academic at the University of the Philippines.

Each year, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte even presents an annual award to “exemplars in the Filipino diaspora”.

“In fact, they are regarded as the new heroes in the Philippines, because OFW remittances make our economy afloat,” Dr Asuncion said.

Thousands of kilometres away from the tropical climes of south-east Asia, in the heart of WA’s gold mining country, many work in a variety of mining and service sector jobs.

Myrna MacDougall, who runs an Asian grocery store in nearby Kalgoorlie, said that helping your family financially was deeply embedded in Filipino culture.

“Because in the Philippines you work all day and you only earn $10 — it’s just not enough,” she said.

“You have children, they send them to school.

“It’s just a part of us; we know how hard it is as well — we just want to help our family.”

‘They definitely miss [their families]’

The sleepy WA community of Kambalda is a mining town that has struggled in the wake of the boom, with its only bank recently announcing its imminent closure.

Despite its remoteness, the Filipino migrant community there and in nearby Kalgoorlie is active and tight-knit.

At the Sunday morning gathering, there is a spread of traditional Filipino dishes, including a hot chicken adobo, that Ms MacDougall has brought to share.

For dessert it is a big helping of maja blanca, a kind of sweet corn pudding.

Those gathered hail from all corners of the Filipino archipelago, but here in Western Australia they have more in common than they do differences.

While each speaks one of the country’s many dialects, with each other they speak the national tongue, Tagalog.

For many overseas Filipino workers around the world, their toil away from family is only temporary, a way to make some money while supporting their family.

Ms MacDougall said she was certain she would not retire in Australia.

“There’s no place like home still,” she said.

“I’m definitely going back home.”

The lengths of time away from loved ones in a foreign environment can also take its toll emotionally and mentally, according to Mr Manzano.

“They definitely miss [their families],” he said.

“It is much easier for them to still connect with their families because we have internet [platforms].

“But there’s no warm hug from loved ones.”

Topics:

multiculturalism,

community-organisations,

kalgoorlie-6430,

kambalda-6442,

philippines



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