Battling Homesickness: 3 Tips for Overseas Filipinos


BY RAYMOND CALBAY

Filipinos who live and work abroad constantly deal with a common ailment - mild enough at times, but debilitating on special days (such as Christmas). It attacks at odd moments, and with wide-ranging symptoms. It starts harmless enough with you missing your toddler's laughter, craving for salted egg and dried fish, or wishing for the warmth of sun during cold winter mornings. Then a silent panic creeps in. Thousands of miles away, distance conjures a false sense of how you're helplessly missing out milestones and becoming estranged from loved ones. It's commonly understood as "homesickness".

But you don't need to suddenly book an expensive one-way return flight to the Philippines for a taste of home. Maybe you have another year or two in your contract before you can return for good? Here are some quick fixes to deal with homesickness:

Shop at a Filipino store

Most major world cities have one. Finding yourself surrounded with familiar Filipino products - canned tuna, shampoo, disinfectant alcohol, local DVDs - is invigorating especially if you're in a foreign land. To brush the blues away, crack chicharon while reading chismis in showbiz magazines. Pop some polvoron or choconut for sugar rush. And don't forget to grab a bottle of vinegar and soy sauce to make your own adobo. Indulge in simple retail therapy to recharge with familiar memories of home.

Join a Filipino community

Filipinos are highly sociable people. With millions of OFWs out there, it's not hard to find established Filipino associations - some even have multiple chapters in popular destination countries. If you don't know where to start looking, contact the Philippine embassy in your area. Church groups also provide company: why not join the choir or lay service? Social networking sites can also keep you on the loop - become active on online discussions such as in HayPinas.org's Facebook or Google Groups pages. Chatting up with people who share the same concerns as you have could help lighten the load.

Connect through tech

One generation ago, Filipinos abroad used voice recordings, mailed letters, and expensive overseas calls to contact their loved ones. Thankfully, you can now virtually sit across your mom through video calling in Skype. Take advantage of the Internet: some websites even stream local TV shows for your dose of news and entertainment. Smartphone apps offer convenience as well, with a variety of services from free SMS to gift calculators. The Philippines is ever a click away if you're longing for the sights and sounds of home.

Remembering why you left in the first place - to save for a house renovation, to earn money for a future business, to secure your children's education - is a counter-punch to lonely thoughts. How about you - what do you do when you're feeling homesick? Share your thoughts on the comments below!

Make Your Vote Count, Kabayan: How to Register as an Absentee Voter



BY RAYMOND CALBAY

Election season in the Philippines is fast approaching once again. Even if you live or work abroad, you can still cast your vote to elect a new generation of government leaders. The Absentee Voting Act ensures that overseas Filipinos can practice their right to vote even if they're out of the country. Philippine embassies and foreign offices are tasked to ensure an efficient process to facilitate absentee votes.

You're qualified to be an absentee voter so long as your Philippine citizenship is in good standing, and if you haven't been convicted of any crime that would forfeit your right to vote. Here's what you need to do to register:
  1. Check for registration schedules. For the 2013 elections, the deadline is October 31, 2012.
  2. Go to a Philippine embassy or designated registration venue (church, duty-free outlet, etc.) nearest to you.
  3. Present the following documents:
    -  Valid passport
    -  Order of Approval (for those with dual citizenship)
    -  Seaman's book (for seafarers)
  4. Submit an accomplished registration form (you can download it in advance). 
  5. Have your fingerprints scanned and your photo taken. 
  6. Confirm if your application has been approved. The Commission on Elections website publishes an official list at least six months before the election.
TIP: Still planning your immigration? While in the Philippines, you may already register as an absentee voter when you apply for your passport.

In the upcoming 2013 national elections, you can elect the following officials: 12 senators, district/party-list representatives in Congress, and local province and city officials. Make sure that you cast your vote come election day! Less than 10 percent of the 10 million overseas Filipinos have registered as absentee voters since 2004, and a lot less actually show up on election day.

As among the country's top income earners, overseas Filipinos should benefit from their hard work abroad by coming home to a corruption-free government, financially stable economy, and better quality social services. So register now - your single vote is a move forward to a better future for the Philippines.