Annual PNA UK Short Story Writing Contest

The Philippine Nurses Association of the UK and Ireland
is launching its Annual PNA UK Short Story Writing Contest beginning January 2008.

The annual contest is a part of the association’s cultural awareness and Filipino identity promotion program among the huge OFW community living abroad.

The primary objective of the contest is to help promote literature, cultural and creative thinking in the migrant worker in the context of UK environment and trends and to enable the individual to share this in writing. Aimed at highlighting the OFW as a truly world-class Filipino, the contest stands to be the first of its kind in the UK Filipino community. The ambition of the project campaign is to expand opportunities for the writers, readers and possible publisher of the stories.

It is further hoped that the contest will continue to serve as a reminder for the Filipino individual of the cultural roots and modern social adaptation in a literary environment. The award endeavours to focus on the life of the overseas national in the United Kingdom. The project is open to all overseas Filipino, British-Filipino and Mixed-Filipino national who have mainly come to the UK to work and/ or live permanently. All entries must be between 6,000 to 10,000 words. Deadline for submission of entries is on 30 April 2008.

The PNA UK Annual Short Story Writing Contest is fully endorsed and supported by the Philippine Embassy in London and by various Filipino business establishments. For more entry and sponsorship information, please visit the website at where complete information can be found. Alternatively, please email [email protected]

[Sent by Michael Duque, president of the Philippine Nurses Association of the UK]

The cheap side of London

"It’s impossible to get bored in London. The only way you can find this place dull is if you’re not into alcohol, food, movies, theatre, music, dance, history and art – and it’s a rare person who doesn’t take an interest in at least one of these."

By Mimmette Roldan from the PINOYexpats site.

Full article: The cheap side of London

Filipinos in Cambridge

"Technically speaking, Cambridge could be the most diverse place in Britain. It is a small city whose famous university attracts large numbers of people from around the world. And yet it remains very English, scarcely marked by its exotic but transient population – except at noon on Sundays. Then, in the suburb of Cherry Hinton, the St Philip Howard Catholic church throngs like downtown Manila."

Full article: Filipinos in Cambridge in The Guardian

Why we started Phil-UK

Filipinos began to emigrate from the Philippines around the early 70’s to fill a skills gap in the UK. Usually driven by the need to support family left behind, many of the first-generation often worked long and unsociable hours. Their labour was perhaps made bearable by plans to build enough wealth to return to their families.

Eventually, a second-generation of Filipinos began to appear – our generation. Some of us were born in the UK; others were brought over from the Philippines. However, as our parents focused on meeting economic needs, our social and cultural needs tended to be neglected.

The second-generation of Filipinos in the UK have no voice in Britain; our parents have been silent for too long. What is our contribution to British society? What do we know of our history and how do we pass on our heritage? Did our parents sacrifice too much when they left the Philippines? These are the questions we ask ourselves and why we created this website.

Phil-UK is where we explore our culture, identity and how we fit into British and Filipino society. It is also where a group of us tell people about our projects for change.

We believe that young Filipinos in the UK do not have a voice in society. This is causing us to lose our culture and our identity. It also means that we can’t play an active role in shaping our community.
Our aim is to enable Filipinos to be a positive and visible influence to Britain’s cultural diversity.

We will do this by promoting awareness and pride in our culture; by bringing together young Filipinos with projects for change; and by creating partnerships with people who share our views.

The wasted collective intellect of Philippine society

"Take a moment to wonder: What happens to all the collective experience, skills, insights, and philosophies accumulated by our countrymen from the work they did overseas?
You’d think with all that knowledge, some of it is bound to be properly applied to the Philippine setting. This glaring lack of a nation’s capability to tap the vast knowledgebase residing in the minds of its returning overseas workers further re-enforces the issue of our country not being an environment that rewards innovation and doing things properly."

Full article: The wasted collective intellect of Philippine society in Get Real Philippines 

Defining Nationalism

By Antonio G Pineda Jr

AS the country celebrated Independence Day on June 12, I could not help remembering that, until 1982, I did not know what the word nationalism meant. Nor did I care. It was a long, official-sounding word that, for a long time, held no relevance in my life.

Up to now, I have never bothered to consult the dictionary as to the definition of nationalism. It is through learning to come to terms with my identity as a Filipino living in an alien country that I grew to appreciate its meaning.

I came up with my first definition of nationalism when I joined my parents in London in 1981 at the age of 11. For me, nationalism then meant acceptance. I had to accept that I was different from the rest of my school. An important part of my British education was learning that not everyone was brown-skinned who ate rice as part of every meal.

Likewise, I had to accept that being a Filipino meant I was considered an object of ridicule. In the same way as we Filipinos refer to all white people as ‘Americans’ regardless of their nationality, my British classmates could not seem to distinguish between the Orientals. To them, the Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and other Southeast Asians were all Chinese. The big difference was, the British did not place the Chinese on the same high pedestal that the Filipinos place the Americans. Like other ‘Chinese’ people, I was considered a strange, inferior creature. I had funny eyes. I talked in an odd language. I ate foul-smelling food. I realized that most of these racist taunts were borne out of ignorance but it still took me a while to get used to them.

Then, nationalism became synonymous with shame. To fit in, I misguidedly tried to become more like my British counterparts. But the media never let me or my classmates forget my roots. The Philippines held a lot of interest for reporters. It was a good source for many a scandal and headline. The Philippines became famous not for its world-class beaches, its people’s hospitality, or its exotic fruits. Journalists were hell bent on portraying it as a country of prostitutes, corrupt politicians and of dog-eaters.

More than ten years later, I remember vividly the time the news erupted on the Ten O’clock News on Independent Television: DOGS BATTERED AND COOKED ALIVE. There was outrage all over the United Kingdom, a country of animal lovers. The next day, I was confronted by belligerent classmates. “How could you eat dogs? How could you be so cruel to man’s best friend?” they demanded in disgust. To them, eating dogs was as repulsive as eating a member of one’s family. That I personally had never tasted dog meat in my life did not matter. My country had been found guilty of a terrible crime. It followed that I was guilty too. I bowed my head low in shame.

But it was this shame that eventually helped me equate the word nationalism with pride. One Filipino against one nation. I set out to prove that there was more to the Philippines than graft and corruption, poverty, and animal cruelty. I stopped trying to be British, and with pride for my mother country as my motivating force, I set out to excel in my studies. My efforts were rewarded with a succession of academic distinctions. My heart burst with national pride every time I came top in exams. My love for my country magnified when I received an international award for English Communications at the Houses of Parliament. I felt the same when I won first prize in tan international newsletter-production competition.

I did not look on these as personal triumphs. I did not achieve the highest grades in college because I possessed a high degree of intelligence. I attribute my achievements to one thing only: like Ninoy Aquino, I believed that the Filipino is worth dying for.

There are of course others who have proved that we Filipinos could and should hold our heads up high. Who could forget Lea Salonga’s meteoric rise to international fame and acclaim in the mid-Eighties as Miss Saigon? And was there a true Filipino who did not cheer for Cory Aquino during the EDSA Revolution? These are victories that the rest of the world have come to look up to. They are victories demanding that Filipinos should no longer be seen as a race to look down on.

It was my sense of nationalism that eventually led me to decide to leave England and return to the Philippines for good. And you know what? The word nationalism has acquired the meaning: there’s no place like home.

Some British Eat Rice II

by Rowan Foggit
It is natural for a person, when living in a country other than the one in which they were brought up, to make comparisons between the two. Prices, for example: ‘Blimey, the train from Liverpool St to Newcastle is now 55 quid – the bus from Baclaran to Baguio is only P105.’ Or, ‘You know darling, that amazingly camp queenish tomboy thing that cuts my hair down Pasay Rd only charges me the equivalent of ¬£2 for a trim that’d cost a minimum of ¬£25 in Cambridge now…daren’t ask him for a blow-dry though in case my request is misconstrued.’
Of course, the economic realities of the countries being compared necessitate wildly differing prices: the cost of labour, for example. And quality of service and customer satisfaction often differ wildlyÊ such as at the cinema.
I still marvel at paying around P70 to watch a film in the country’s best theatres (not, you note, the movies to take in a flick. I remain staunchly and stubbornly a communicator in Queen’s English, not the tainted Americano version of our fine language). Humankind loves a bargain and P70 when exchanged into pennies is up there with the Mother of All Bargains.
Yet my first visit to a Philippine cinema√ä at the Greenbelt mall, Makati, one of the most centrally located and owned by the esteemed Ayala Group – was a consumer experience I was unprepared for. Theatres i’ve visited in Hong Kong, the US, Malaysia etc. all provided similar levels of entertainment and left me a satisfied customer√ä although the size of food and beverage portions served in the US were of sufficient size to halt a ravenous wooly mammoth for several weeks.
Queuing for a ticket at Greenbelt was harmless enough but then came the unfamiliar reply from the girl behind the counter that there were no reserved tickets available for this particular show. I smiled, obviously confused, and advised we simply wanted 2 tickets.
Still a little baffled, tickets were purchased, the girl breathed a sigh of relief, and through we went√Č√Čto be met by masses, literally a hundred or more, of people loitering around the top of the aisles. They had nowhere to sit. All seats were taken. And more to the point, we had nowhere to sit. And there were people coming in behind us still. And the film had already started despite us being on time. Or perhaps it hadn’t yet finished.
I was perplexed, dumfounded and starting to sweat. Everyone else seemed to be calmly taking up positions with the intention to stand. ‘What on earth is going on darling?’ said I. My wife quickly explained the film, Rizal and his Filibuster thing, had recently opened, hence the crowds.
I’m told that at this point I began grunting various threats and complaints, such as ‘not bloody good enough, where’s the manager?’ to nobody in particular. The manager was located allowing me to ineloquently, due to being in close to a frenzy, detail my abject disquiet and unhappiness with the situation and demand a refund. My wife dragged me away, accepting their decent apology and equitable offer of 2 tickets to another show some other time, averting a shameful scene, and for me an apoplexy.
So, Philippine theatres allow more people in than it has seats to accommodate. A novel idea. I was enlightened. Perhaps such a system would catch on in the UK? Nah.
Even having the odd rodent scurry across one’s feet with discarded hot-dogs can be withstood. But what is it with the persistent noise and general lack of concern shown by fellow cinemagoers? Phones ring: not only this, they are often answered. Texting and its infernal incoming message beeping continues. Fast food is eaten with accompanying irksome plastic bag and wrapping rustling. Conversations are held in the seats. From the back near the lavatories one can always hear the ushers being chatted up by the security guards. What I understand the least however is the amount of people who wander in, or leave, half way through a film. I’ve seen old couples sitting chatting near the aisle, barely taking interest in proceedings on the screen, being collected by younger relatives and removed mid-film. Most odd.
Yes, I know UK cinemas can have their faults: an X rated film coming replete with dirty old men in flasher raincoats and teenage fornicators pre-booking the back row; extortionate prices; and mangy old seating. But UK cinemagoers, be they perverts or film-buffs, remain, more often than not, quiet.
But what do I expect for P70? This must be always be asked of oneself. And I must add that things have improvedÊ only though in the sense of one person per seat.
It has always been refreshing to see the impressive audience turn-outs for British films here. The gist of most films must be fairly easy for Filipinos to follow but much of the vernacular used in certain UK productions is obviously difficult to understand. Take Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the premiere to which I went with a friend who’d been enjoying happy hour earlier that evening and most of the late afternoon. The heavy cockney slang employed made it fantastically realistic, but lines such as ‘Keep your Alans on’ left the local audience none the wiser as to what had been said. (Alan Whicker = knickers).
Imagine their bemusement and multiply it by one thousand and you get me sat watching, without much of a clue as to what is going on, Isusumbong Kita Sa Tatay Ko, Magkapatid and other such marvels of the Philippine film industry. But it’s great viewing, particularly the comedies. And you know what – the audience is much better behaved. Sure, they make a noise but it seems to fit in with the general hubbub of the soundtrack and dialogue. And I enjoy it more this way. And I don’t care if someone’s phone goes off or munches noisily through 17 pieces of chicken behind me as the overall experience, not just the quality of acting, cinematography and production of the film, is preferable.
So we now don’t go to watch UK releases like About a Boy and hope to sit in stony silence, we go to Mana-Mana Tiba-Tiba, eat copious amounts of crap, make a bit of noise, send texts for the hell of it and come out smiling. ‘And it cost ¬£5 for 2 seats and a feast! That would have cost ¬£50 in Bristol with food and parking.’

Some British Eat Rice

by Rowan Foggit
The proud owners of this website have kindly allowed me to fill a few hours of my life each month, and therefore a few minutes of yours, writing a column about the Philippines, Filipinos, Fillipinas, EDSA’s traffic, whether or not bagoong is fit for mankind to consume, and whatever else this Brit abroad decides is life-shatteringly relevant or irreverent.
I will endeavour to say as little about myself as possible when I write these columns, but allow me a little introduction first as this will hopefully enable you to see how I see things the way I do.
Born in North Yorkshire, I was whisked down to sunny Suffolk before my accent became irreparably ‘northern’. A few years at school came and went without me leaving my mark on academia and its institutions. I even failed to turn-up at one exam as there was a titanic game of cricket, a sport few Philippine-based Filipinos know exists, on the telly between Essex and Gloucestershire.
Fast forward to 1994, when during a 7-year stay in Hong Kong, I met a ravishingly beautiful, vivacious and wonderfully feisty girl named Betty.
I have an Aunt in Yorkshire called Betty and to me this quintessential English old-ladies name conjured up images of, well, old English ladies. Add to that those flesh-coloured stockings to which they are partial and never-ending "fancy a cuppa tea, love?" probes and you get the picture.
But this Betty looked nothing like a stereotypical, handbag-wielding granny to me which is not surprising as she hails from Nueva Vizcaya. Home for Betty when she was small was a barangay near a funny little town called Bambang (more of which another time as I can tell a tale or two about her relatives, carabaos, ginebra gin, a gun and a hasty escape).
We got on well despite her knowledge of English football being non-existent. And we holidayed together in the Philippines as often as we could which was great as I no longer had to put up with all the other San Miguel-addled foreigners in Boracay and Puerto Galera. Off we went to the Camotes islands where the children’s smiles and nervous laughs were a joy to behold. Little villages and tilapia farms of La Union were explored on foot, such as Agoo (try get an Englishman to pronounce Agoo correctly first time he reads it…); Bantayan’s perfectly flat egg-carrying roads and beaches were hiked; Bohol’s ubiquitous mud and Chocolate Hills were stickily traversed on motorbikes; Mount Apo was climbed; the lake inside the crater of Taal volcano was urinated in (sorry, but we’d had a lot of Beer-na-Beer for lunch; and somewhere, probably Malapascua island off the northern tip of Cebu, our first mestizo was conceived.
A number of other places of my wish-list remain to this day unvisited. Unravelling a map of the country one day, I picked certain places that I’d like see, among them being: Siquior, Batanes and Sulu/Tawi Tawi islands. Betty was none to keen on the first of these due to the fact there were witches, vampires and all sorts of unidentified ghouls running amok all over the place. Batanes seems to get blown away by a typhoon each week so this was put on hold. And the latter, which are possibly the most beautiful picture-postcard islands in the entire archipelago, remain out of reach for any foreigner who values his life, head and bank balance.
We were married of course by the time we’d been to these places and I’d become quite proud of my Tagalog proficiency. I fancied spending more time in the Philippines but Betty, perhaps like some of you reading this, had spent a not inconsiderable amount of time looking for a brighter or at least alternative future outside of the country, was quite happy living in Hong Kong. However, I dragged her kicking and screaming back from whence she came and we lived for a while in a small Makati apartment before number one son popped out, before removing to Paranaque.
Mestizo number two arrived 2 years ago during a period back in Hong Kong and we now split our time between a house we keep in Laguna, and the former British colony on China’s southern shores
I suppose by telling you this I am trying to say I have integrated myself a little into Philippine way of life, that I have become a little piece of the fabric that makes up your wonderful, manic and often mad country. For a Filipino to write convincingly about the British, their peculiar rituals, personal idiosyncrasies and the inherent madness of a good number of its inhabitants, I’d expect that person to have lived not only in the same country as them, but as one of them.
For clarity, I’ll take this a little further. When I jump inside a cramped jeepney on its way down Pasong Tamo, I don’t just see brown faces smiling back at me. I see the daily struggle they have to make ends meet, the mouths they have to feed and their sense of despair at the injustices and corruption they suffer from. When boarding a Philippine Airlines flight, I observe not only the domestic helpers bound for life with a foreign family in Hong Kong, Taiwan or the Middle East, but the sacrifices they make and the families left behind, their menfolk consuming remittances on tanduay and bingo, and the way they themselves are often maltreated and misunderstood by their employers.
And when I get stuck in traffic on EDSA on a Friday night and it takes me 2 hours to get from the South-not-so-Super Highway to Ortigas, I see yet again that I must be completely deranged to have even attempted to traverse such a route on a Friday night when it’s raining, and it’s pay-day, and it’s midnight madness sale night in Glorietta, and I’ve been stuck in the same place before and sworn never, ever to let it happen again.
So although I may be able to see what goes on in the Philippines and read between the lines, I am still a foreigner (or a "Joe" as we get called in the provinces), albeit with a Filipina asawa and Eurasian anaks. And being a foreigner means I still pull my hair out when the traffic snarls, yet Betty shrugs her shoulders. And I still have 95% of taxi drivers trying to extort double the actual fare from me due to the colour of my skin and assumed weight of wallet (reverse racial financial discrimination we can call this phenomenon which I think is a fine and equitable system of wealth re-distribution).
And I have taste-buds that grew-up loving Sunday’s roast beef with Yorkshire puddings, gravy and soggy vegetables, chicken tikka masala from the Indian down the road, and No. 36 with chips from the local Chinese takeaway. I did not grow-up on balut, bagoong, caldereta or aroz caldo.
I am now researching material for a work of fiction. It’s in its infancy as a project but is coming on nicely. The subject matter being the Moros and their long claim to land, mixed in with a drunkard British naturalist, Spanish aggressors, a pretty Muslim girl and a fanatical Jesuit priest.
That’s enough about me. It’s Friday night and I’m off down the pub. Okay, it’s not really a pub but a bar in Makati that allows me to drink as much San Miguel as I wish between the hours of 5 and 9pm for about P150. This is a scandalously small amount to pay for the destruction of my liver and brain. My mates in the UK have to pay a high multiple of this amount to inebriate and damage themselves. But perhaps it will not take them 2 hours to get to the pub!