Saturday, November 24, 2007

How Pinay Housemaid Created A Multi-million Business

Here’s a very inspiring business success story in a major broadsheet lately. Rags to riches stories are stuff of legends - and readers tend to get mesmerized with the dream - but the truth is hard work and perseverance is key. How can a Pinay housemaid (doestic helper or katulong) turn P1k into a multi-million peso soap making business?

In the story of Leonora C. Atienza, or “Aling Nora” - is a story of a ppor Filipina housemaid who was able to turn her Charmica soap business into a million peso business venture. Amazing isn’t it? How did she do it? Well, read on and be inspired.

It was proven time and again that poverty is not hindrance to success. If you will just work hard, have faith and persevere you will surely become successful.

Aling Nora came from a poor family. She and her siblings, 11 of them learned the hard way in their childhood. Their parents are rope maker from Pangasinan, and the children would help their parents day and night in rope making.

But Nora had bigger dreams. After graduating from elementary, she went to Manila and became a housemaid for 3 years. It was a hard life–doing household chores and studying high school at the same time. But Nora didn’t mind. She knew that her dream to be successful will come eventually.

And so at a tender age of 17, with the help of a friend she became a seamstress at Riverside Mills Company in Pasig. She met her husband there Jose Atienza and they had 5 children. Sewing business at that time was not a boom business. Nora quit her job and tried selling all kinds of packed-snacks to her former co-workers. But it was this big dream that prompted her to enroll in a soap making course at the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center.

TLRC is a government institution under the Office of the President that monitors and disseminate technologies that are being developed and assess their applicability. In1980, TLRC started developing training courses and seminars based on the mature technologies that have proven to be ready for the market.

Soap making, candle making,creative food packing are just some of the courses that they offer. Their seminars were always a hit, attended by more than 11,000 individuals yearly.

Just like any other entrepreneur who were just starting, Aling Nora struggled at first in her backyard business. Good timing came in year 2000 for Charmica. Starting with a 1,000 capital, Aling Nora used this amount to buy the ingredients. Together with the help of her family, they started the production in their own kitchen.

But luck seemed to be on Aling Nora’s side, when her daughter was born she named her Charmica and from then on there’s no stopping to Charmica soap…

Today, many companies buy soap from Aling Nora. Among her clients are a big network-marketing company and El Shaddai. She also has celebrity patrons. Among them is Fanny Serrano with whom she struck a partnership to export the product in UK, US and Japan. She was also able to buy a 179-s.q lot in Antipolo City where the technologically-equipped Charmica plant is located. It was a far-cry from the kitchen where she started in the 90’s.

Aling Nora appears happy with the way the business has grown-from a sort of experiment to a bona fide multi-million business capable of churning out thousands of bars of soap that are sold both here and abroad.

And her recipe for success? Aling Nora shares, humility and being hands-on in the business are just some of the key in her success.

So there you have it folks. I hope Aling nora’s story will inspire those small businessman out there and those who are thinking of putting up a business. Good luck!

Leonora C. Atienza

Thumbelina May Redublo

Age: 30
Job: Waitress
Location: Somewhere in San Francisco


Thumbelina May Redublo or TM, as what most of her friends call her, worked as an encoder for several years in the Philippines before she had an opportunity to seek for greener pastures.

Armed with a tourist visa, TM went to the US with the sole intention of working there.

"Di bali na akong mahuli doon, at least nakaapak ako sa Amerika,” says TM, who was one of the recipients of the amnesty program. She now has a legal working visa and can roam around the US without fears of getting apprehended by the police. The amnesty program is given to immigrants annually, this type of program allows US to collect taxes from people like her.

Although she had a good job here in the Philippines, her income then was just enough for herself. She wanted to help her family, allow her younger siblings to study and build a new house for her parents.

TM came from a middle class family in Laguna. Her parents own a few hectares of land planted with corn. The plantation made it possible for her to study and work in Metro Manila. Being one of the eldest, TM had to help her parents send her younger siblings to school.

“Siyam kaming magkakapatid, pangatlo ako. Kailangan kong magsikap para magkaroon ng magandang buhay.”

Five years after setting foot on the land of milk and honey, TM was able to send money to build a new house for her parents and allow two of her siblings to finish college. They are now working as encoders on the company where TM used to work. And who knows, they too, can follow the footsteps of their older sister.

TM Redublo, a proud ate and an obedient daughter.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dante C. Baltazar (An inspiring Success Story)

NOTHING beats a man who has overcome almost all obstacles in life there are to hurdle. Dante C. Baltazar is one such man forged on the anvil of hardships.

Though not exactly from a poor family, yet Dante wasn’t a man born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. Baltazar as a young businessman borrowed a personal loan of P3,000 from a local bank and after only three years, converted this capital into a P36-million business empire. After 13 years, would post some P20-million monthly gross sales? But this is getting ahead of the story.

Baltazar’s father was a World War II veteran, a USAFFE (US Armed Forces in the Far East) intelligence officer who was based in Cavite. His mother was a homemaker. But though Dante’s father was a US military officer, his roots from Cavite were mostly into business.

After he married the former Teresita Barbasa, he began learning the actual ropes of the trade—by selling seafood and fruits to his neighbors in Quezon City.

That same year, custom-made tailoring was ebbing, and with it, the era of Ready-to-Wear (RTW) began. Baltazar went into the RTW business by buying goods from Divisoria and selling them to anyone he can convince.

Dante has this unique business pulse, so unerring he could see gold where other could only see brass. “I saw a great potential in the RTW business,” he said. “Thus, I thought of making a personal loan of P3,000 from a local bank. Then, I bought raw materials from Divisoria and delivered these to my sewer-contractor who had his own tailoring shop. Then he had these sent to various Greenhills stores for them to sell through consignment.

Not contented with subcontracting, Baltazar decided to put up his own garments factory in May 1980. As such, he bought six small sewing machines, “which I bought from a garments factory like they were almost junk. I repaired these myself, and named my business City Suits Garments.”

He continues to tell his story: “With my own 20 sewers, my production output grew from 2,000 pieces a month to 15,000 pieces, with a value of around P600,000. My Metro Manila market expanded unbelievably wide—from Greenhills to Baclaran, Manuela-Las Piñas, Divisoria, Quinta Market, Ongpin and Cartimar in Pasay City.”

In 1981, he has practically phased-out all his small non heavy-duty machines, and replaced them with high-speed and special machines. Today, he employs 50 high-speed sewers capable of producing 40,000 pieces of shirts a month, valued at P3 million monthly.

Dante Baltazar has proven that with hard work and dedication, one can succeed. Business may be a risk, but wanting to succeed is a decision.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lito Camo (Success Story)

The lyrics and melodies of Lito Camo

By Perry Gil S. Mallari and Photos by Ruy Martinez

Lito Camo’s colorful life could very well be a perfect inspiration for a heart-tugging ballad. But the famous composer prefers to inject lightness and laughter to his songs.

His climb to success can either be a point of envy or an inspiration for many, depending on how they perceive his rags-to-riches story. Armed only with a guitar and a brilliant mind, Camo went through hell before he reached heaven’s glory. I was fortunate to be welcomed to his sanctuary, tucked in a quiet Quezon City village, but filled with such warmth and positive energy.

Luxury cars cramped his garage so he decided to buy the adjacent lot. In one of the cozy rooms, his children are taking turns singing their hearts out on a videoke mic hooked to a huge plasma TV.

Camo, who is the country’s reigning king of novelty songs, is responsible for such hits as “Boom Tarat,” “Spageti” and “Otso-Otso” is basking in opulence. But Camo is no overnight success. His climb to the top is a wonderful story of hope and hard work, timing and tenacity.

A hard life

Camo was born and raised in the town of Bungabon in Oriental Mindoro. His grandparents were relatively well off and were engaged in furniture business. When his grandparents died, their properties were sold and the money was divided among their children. Camo’s parents got their share but unfortunately, they failed to make the money grow. “Ang mga magulang ko hindi sinuwerte [My parents ran out of luck],” Camo recalls, staring at a seemingly blank space. “Kaya mula noon puro hirap na ang pinagdaanan namin [That’s why since then, we experienced the hard life].”

Despite tremendous hardships, Camo commended his parents for their diligence and unwavering spirit in supporting their family. “Ang nanay ko noon gumagawa ng mga bag at alpombra ng kabaong, samantalang ang tatay ko naman sapatero [My mother used to make bags and casket cushions while my father is a cobbler].

The eldest of four children, Camo discovered early that he had the gift of music, something he exploited to the hilt by joining singing contests left and right. Camo often won prize money from these competitions, which he gave in full to the family. After high school, Camo’s parents couldn’t afford to send him to college so he packed his bags and came to Manila to try his luck.

Right timing

In Manila, Camo initially lived with relatives who admonished him to study vocational courses at night and to work during the day. He heeded their advice and took up a vocational course to be a diesel mechanic. “Ang layo nga sa propesyon ko ngayon [The course is remotely connected to my present career],” he remarks.

Wanting to be independent, Camo tried doing odd jobs. He first found employment as a houseboy and later on as a family driver. He had a friend who worked as a family driver. When this friend was about to get married, he asked Camo if he could take his place while he is on honeymoon. That friend never came back and Camo became the official family driver for his boss who owned a placement agency that sent performers abroad.

It was through his boss’s network of friends that he met a certain Eddie Boy who happened to be a sessionist musician for Boom Dayupay who was then actively involved with the R&B band Kulay. Eddie Boy heard Camo sing and asked what is the title of the piece. When he learned that it’s Camo’s original composition, Eddie Boy was impressed and offered to introduce him to Dayupay, who was looking for fresh talents at that time. Camo had serious doubts about himself then and almost hesitated. “Mahina pa ang paniniwala ko noon sa sarili ko kasi iniisip ko taga-probinsya lang ako [I have little faith in myself then because I thought that I was merely a provincial lad].”

The right connections

Camo remembers the thrill he felt when he met Dayupay and the other members of Kulay. It was also the first time for him to set foot in a recording studio. Dayupay liked Camo’s repertoire and promised that he would help him get a break in the music industry. Just three days after his demo, Dayupay called informing that a number of recording studios were interested in his songs.

Camo’s first single “Kung Ikaw ay Nalulumbay” was released by BMG Filipinas (now Sony-BMG) in 1997. “Doon nagsimula si Lito Camo— sa kantang ’yun [What I am today started with that song],” he shares, emphasizing that the piece was instrumental in catapulting him to popularity. The majority of the materials in that first album came from the 70-plus songs he has filed in his small library of original compositions since high school. Though he began singing as young boy, it was only during his teens that Camo began composing songs through impromptu jam sessions with his buddies.

Camo’s initial success was greeted by an overwhelming unbelief. When Camo told his mother that he had already signed a recording contract, she flatly replied, “Totoy, tigilan mo na ’yan at baka dyan ka lang mapahamak [Son, get out of that game before it brings you nowhere].” Even when sent his buddies copies of his CD, they still refused to believe that he already was a recording artist. The only time they were convinced was when they saw him appear on TV. There were a number of ups and downs in Camo’s career since that big break but through perseverance and hard work, he has always managed to bounce back. Camo also admitted that he fared off better in the industry as a composer than as a singer.

Influences and inspirations

Among local songwriters and musicians, Camo expressed high regards for former Eraserhead frontman Ely Buendia. “Hinangaan ko ’yung pagleletra niya at ’yung mga melodies n’ya [ I really admire the way he create lyrics and melodies],” he explains. The Beatles and the legendary rock ’n’ roll icon Juan de la Cruz band also top Camo’s list of ear candies. “Pero mahilig din ako sa mga lumang kanta [But I also like old songs],” he adds with a tone of nostalgia.

Except for a little privacy, Camo needs no special place or gadget to compose a song. He will always prefer solitude given a choice but now that he is already a family man, he could prod himself to churn out a song even while the kids are playing around him or while he is driving. There are times when Camo can finish composing a song in less than 30 minutes though he admits that there were pieces that dragged up to a month to finish.

One thing he can’t stand though is rude interruptions that break his train of thoughts. If situations permit, he likes to work in the attic of his home where there’s absolute peace and quiet. I was witnessed to the numerous awards that lined the walls in this attic that prove that Camo has gone a long way from that Mindoro nobody to who he is now.

The ‘Boom Tarat’ controversy

Camo has become the subject of intrigues lately for allegedly selling the rights of his popular composition “Boom Tarat” to senatorial candidate Miguel Zubiri for a hefty P3 million. The singer-composer has repeatedly denied the allegation adding that those proliferating this rumor know very little of the depth of his relationship to the man running for a senate seat.

The composer discloses that he owes the young politician a lot since it was through Zubiri’s help that he bagged the lucrative commission of composing the political jingle of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and a number of prominent politicians in the elections of 2004. Camo also adds that he will never forget Zubiri’s generosity when the then-Bukidnon congressman shouldered the expenses for his mother-in-law’s costly heart operation. He reluctantly admits though that a number of big-time politicians offered him huge sums for the right to transform “Boom Tarat” to be their campaign jingles but he opted to give it to Zubiri for free. “Sa totoo lang, ako pa ang nag-alok ng “Boom Tarat” kay Migz. [The truth is I am the one who offered the “Boom Tarat” song for Migz. Hindi naman lahat ng pagkakataon, pera lang ang mahalaga [In life, it’s not all about money],” he intones.

Drawing the line

High-brow artists and other purveyors of culture blame Camo’s songs and TV shows such as Wowowee for promoting parochial mentality among Filipinos. They alleged that the infamous Ultra stampede tragedy and little girls whose main wish in life is to become the next Sex Bomb dancer were a few effects of relentlessly feeding the masses’s consciousness with such asinine stuff. “Bakit hindi na lang nila ako pabayaan [Why don’t they just let me be,]” is Camo’s indignant reply to the denigration.

A line must be drawn, he says, between those who write novelty songs and those who compose serious pieces. As far as Camo is concerned, his sole mission is to entertain, period. The value of novelty songs should never be underestimated since “the humor found in these hit songs could have aborted a suicide attempt by some dispirited person somewhere, for all we know,” he rationalizes.

Though Camo believes that the success he’s enjoying now is an amalgam of many different elements, he stresses that perseverance and determination are paramount. These two things are what keep him going during down times. Each new height he has scaled, Camo makes it a point to stop, be thankful and look back where he came from. “Ayaw ko nang danasin ng mga anak ko ang pinagdaanan ko [I don’t want my children to experience the hardships I’ve been through],” he intones. “Sa industriyang ito ’wag kang tatamarin. Kapag tinamad ka, makakalimutan ka ng tao dahil maraming bagong dumarating [You can’t afford to be sluggish in this industry otherwise the people will forget you easily because there’s so many new talents around],” he warns.

After 10 years in the business, there’s no sign of stopping for Camo. At least for now. “Hanggang gusto ng tao ’yung mga ginagawa ko, dire-diretso akong lilikha ng awitin [As long as the public likes what I’m doing, I will continue writing songs],” he says with a quiet resolve.

With a huge dose of unforgettable lyrics and timeless melodies, it looks like Lito Camo is bound to be around for a long while, and more and more Filipinos will continue to take his songs by heart.

Merlyn Francisco (Success Story)

Former fish vendor now exports paper mâché products

By Niña Catherine Calleja

Southern Luzon Bureau

PANGIL, Laguna -- When Merlyn Francisco, 50, lost her husband to lung cancer seven years ago, she felt her happy life was over.

Merlyn fell into a deep depression and never went out of their house. It seemed, according to her, that her family lost everything.

She shut down their paper mâché business, which has given them livelihood for 21 years, because of loneliness.

But two years later, in 2002, Merlyn snapped out of her stupor and decided to revive the business and their life.

Her family has been producing “basic brown” paper mâché products, which were later on transformed into decorated paper boxes.

Brimming with confidence, and support from a new business and life partner, Merlyn called on the exporters she used to deal with before to let them know she was back in business.

And what a comeback she did. From near scratch when she restarted the business, she now serves purchase orders amounting to millions of pesos from four exporters yearly.

In December last year, she was one of the chosen finalists of the 2006 Citygroup Micro-entrepreneur Award.

Rags-to-riches story

The Francisco family’s tale is a common rags-to-riches story. Merlyn was a fish vendor in the market while her husband Eleseo was a fisherman and a part-time tricycle driver.

“It was very difficult. We had to make both ends meet with so little money,” she said in Filipino.

With seven children, Merlyn said their life became more difficult as the family grew bigger.

When the volume of fish caught from Laguna de Bay dropped due to overfishing and pollution, she decided to look for another work.

In Paete, Laguna, a nearby town that is known for sculpture and handicrafts, she landed a job at a small paper mâché enterprise.

She toiled as a worker there for four years, learning the paper mâché trade and knowing the buyers and exporters.

She resigned in 1986, returned to Pangil, and used whatever she had saved to set up her own paper mâché business.

From humble beginnings, the business grew slowly until 1990, when orders suddenly got bigger. That trend went on for about six years and enabled her, in fact, to employ members of around 30 families in her community.

Business was good she was also able to buy a van and a house and lot for the family.

But a big problem came her way when Eleseo fell ill and was diagnosed to have cancer. It was the most difficult time of her life and of the business.

Merlyn said soaring medical expenses eventually took a toll on their finances, forcing her to sell some of their properties including the van.

Worse, a buyer reneged on a P500,000 worth of orders, eventually leading her to bankruptcy. Eleseo died in 2000.

That’s when Merlyn shut down the business and fell into depression. “We had nothing. We could not borrow money from people since they knew we had no money and could not pay them back,” she recalled.

Until 2002 when she decided to rise up again. In the process of doing so, she met and fell in love with Ronnie Nolial, one of her workers. Ronnie is now her business partner.

A P5,000 loan the couple got in 2005 enabled them to expand the business. They now have 30 employees doing pattern-making, cutting, molding/folding, wrapping, drying, finishing touches and quality control.

They can also service a purchase order worth P400,000 in one month.

Ronnie said their edge against other paper mâché products is their products’ design and quality.

He creates the designs and samples they submit to exporters while Merlyn supervises the production.

“In this business you have to be creative. Usually, when we see beautiful products, we try to modify those and develop our own,” he said.

Even though their business is not really getting big profit, Merlyn and Ronnie still push through with it.

According to them, materials and labor costs account for about 60 percent of their total revenue.

For a product sold at P82, P50 is the cost of materials and labor and P32 will be their profit.

They also felt that their earnings dipped because of the rising cost of materials.

Ronnie shared that in 1993, a bundle of paper board cost them P160, but it has increased now to P1,080.

But still, they want to pursue the business because it is giving their neighborhood a livelihood.

“We don’t want them to be jobless. All of us are benefiting in this business,” Ronnie said.

In the future, they aim to increase their capital and expand the business.

10 Secrets of Successful Entrepreneurs

by Jenny Fulbright

Running a one-person business is a creative, flexible and challenging way to become your own boss and chart your own future. It is about creating a life, as it is about making a living. It takes courage, determination and foresight to decide to become an entrepreneur. From the relatively safe cocoon of the corporate world, where paychecks arrive regularly, you will be venturing into the unchartered territories of business.

Is there a way to determine whether you can be a successful entrepreneur, or you are better off to work for somebody else? Alas, there is no formula for success. However, most successful entrepreneurs share these ten characteristics. Check if you possess any one of them:

  1. Think success. To attain the kind of success that you want, you need to dream big. Every success story starts with big dreams. You need to have big dreams for yourself - which you want to be somebody rich, famous or fulfilled. You need to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. But it doesn t stop in dreaming alone. You should actively visualize success in your mind that you can almost feel it, touch it or it is within your reach. Play this image back at every opportunity. What does it feel to triple your current income? How will your life change? What will your business look like if you achieved the million-dollar mark?

    Successful entrepreneurs possess an attitude of openness and faith that you can have what you want if you can simply envision it as the first step on the path of action to acquiring it. Management gurus have taught us the power of visualization - seeing yourself in your mind as having accomplished your dreams. If you want to be a successful writer, envision yourself signing books for a throng of people who have lined up to have your autograph. If you want to be rich, picture yourself in luxurious surroundings holding a fat bank account. And the process of envisioning success for you should be a constant activity! You need to think that you are successful (or will be one) every single waking hour. A personal development coach shared me her secret to help her continuously visualize her goals for the moment: when climbing stairs, recite your goal with every step you take. So if you want more money, say I will have money in every step of the stairs. This technique will reinforce your goal and keep it fresh in your consciousness.

  2. Be passionate with what you do. You start a business to change any or all part of your life. To attain this change, you need to develop or uncover an intense, personal passion to change the way things are and to live life to the fullest. Success comes easily if you love what you do. Why? Because we are more relentless in our pursuit of goals about things that we love. If you hate your job right now, do you think you will ever be successful at it? Not in a million years! You may plod along, even become competent at the tasks, but you will never be a great success at it. You will achieve peak performance and do what you have to do to succeed only if you are doing something that interests you or something that you care about. Entrepreneurs who succeed do not mind the fact that they are putting in 15 or 18 hours a day to their business because they absolutely love what they do. Success in business is all about patience and hard work, which can only be attained if you are passionate and crazy with your tasks and activities.

  1. Focus on your strengths. Let s face it you cannot be everything to everybody. Each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses. To be effective, you need to identify your strengths and concentrate on it. You will become more successful if you are able to channel your efforts to areas that you do best. In business, for example, if you know you have good marketing instincts, then harness this strength and make full use of it. Seek help or assistance in areas that you may be poor at, such as accounting or bookkeeping. To transform your weakness to strength, consider taking hands-on learning or formal training.

  2. Never consider the possibility of failure. Ayn Rand, in her novel The Fountainhead, wrote, It is not in the nature of man - nor of any living entity, to start out by giving up. As an entrepreneur, you need to fully believe in your goals, and that you can do it. Think that what you are doing will contribute to the betterment of your environment and your personal self. You should have a strong faith in your idea, your capabilities and yourself. You must believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have the ability to recognize and fulfill them. The more you can develop faith in your ability to achieve your goals, the more rapidly you can attain it. However, your confidence should be balanced with calculated risks that you need to take to achieve greater rewards. Successful entrepreneurs are those who analyze and minimize risk in the pursuit of profit. As they always say, no guts, no glory.

  3. Plan accordingly. You have a vision, and you have enough faith in yourself to believe that you can achieve your vision. But do you know how to get to your vision? To achieve your vision, you need to have concrete goals that will provide the stepping-stone towards your ultimate vision. Put your goals in writing not doing so just makes them as intangible fantasies. You need to plan each day in such a way that your every action contributes to the attainment of your vision. Do you foresee yourself as the next Martha Stewart of hand-made home furnishings? Perhaps today, you need to see an artist to help you conceptualize the new line of hand-made linens that you hope to launch. Intense goal orientation is the characteristic of every successful entrepreneur. They have a vision, and they know how to get there. Your ability to set goals and make plans for your accomplishment is the skill required to succeed. Plan, plan and plan - because without which failure is guaranteed.

  4. Work hard! Every successful entrepreneur works hard, hard and hard. No one achieves success just by sitting and staring at the wall every single day. Brian Tracy puts it out this way, You work eight hours per day for survival everything over eight hours per day is for success. Ask any successful businessperson and they will tell you immediately that they had to work more than 60 hours per week at the start of their businesses. Be prepared to say goodbye to after-office drinks every day, or a regular weekend get-away trip. If you are in a start-up phase, you will have to breathe, eat and drink your business until it can stand on its own. Working hard will be easy if you have a vision, clear goals, and are passionate with what you do.

  5. Constantly Look for Ways to Network. In business, you are judged by the company you keep - from your management team, board of directors, and strategic partners. Businesses always need assistance, more so small businesses. Maybe the lady you met in a trade association meeting can help you secure funding, or the gentleman at a conference can provide you with management advise. It is important to form alliances with people who can help you, and whom you can help in return. To succeed in business, you need to possess good networking skills and always be alert to opportunities to expand your contacts.

  6. Willingness to Learn. You do not need to be a MBA degree holder or PhD graduate to succeed in your own business. In fact, there are a lot of entrepreneurs who did not even finish secondary education. Studies show that most self-made millionaires have average intelligence. Nonetheless, these people reached their full potentials achieved their financial and personal goals in business because they are willing to learn. To succeed, you must be willing to ask questions, remain curious, interested and open to new knowledge. This willingness to learn becomes more crucial given the rapid changes in technologies and ways of doing business.

  7. Persevere and have faith. No one said that the road to success is easy. Despite your good intentions and hard work, sometimes you will fail. Some successful entrepreneurs suffered setbacks and resounding defeats, even bankruptcy, yet managed to quickly stand up to make it big in their fields. Your courage to persist in the face of adversity and ability to bounce back after a temporary disappointment will assure your success. You must learn to pick yourself up and start all over again. Your persistence is the measure of the belief in yourself. Remember, if you persevere, nothing can stop you.

  8. Discipline yourself. Thomas Huxley once said, Do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you like it or not. Self-discipline is the key to success. The strength of will to force yourself to pay the price of success - doing what others don t like to do, going the extra mile, fighting and winning the lonely battle with yourself.

Friday, September 7, 2007

ISKO MORENO (Success Story)

Entertainment Former youth entertainer Isko Moreno is a pure example of extreme poverty to success.

Indeed, skinny Francisco Damacosog, who lived and breathed hunger and pain since his early childhood in one of the toughest sides of Tondo, rose from being a dance and sing "That's Entertainment" teenage talent of German Moreno to become Manila's vice-mayor in his late '20s.

He was discovered by a talent manager who saw a handsome kid beyond the dirt and difficult circumstances that surrounded him.

His discoverer brought him to TV host-actor Kuya Germs who took Isko under his wings and opened the wonderful world of showbusiness to his eyes.

But Isko was not so successful in the youth-oriented TV program and was not given the opportunity for marked roles that would pave way to stardom.

Having saved a little to make himself and his family comfortable, Isko thought of going back to school in the '80s because showbiz is not a lifetime career.

He started in politics as a Manila councilor --learning the ropes of the trade in a hard way. Having had difficulties expresssing himself in English, Isko often suffered humiliation and embarrassment whenever his critics ganged up on him in the session hall. His colleagues could see nothing extra-ordinary in the youthful, good-looking boy who was once featured near-naked in a poster.

But no amount of cruelties could stop him as he went on to finish college with a public administration major at the Pamantasan ng Lunsod ng Maynila while serving as an alderman.

Now, he is a sophomore law student at the University of the Philippines where he hopes to learn more about good governance and law administration.

One can now notice the absence of sheepishness in him as he has become eloquent in expressing his ideas --courtesy of his diligence and continuous learning process.

Going back to his childhood years, Isko remembers going about the big waste bins of McDonald's near his residence and rummaging for old food stuff like chicken bones and leftovers to be cooked for his poor family.

Movie reporter Morly Alino recalls seeing the child picking up spoiled food and bones to be washed and cooked again for their meals.

"Ay, we would sometimes meet each other between Tuazon and Kagitingan streets where Isko was always watchful of the McDonald's leftover garbage. Such an industrious and easy to get along fellow despite his youth," said Alino.

Veteran reporter-radio personality Tita Swarding also has nothing but good words for Isko.

"When Daddy Wowie wanted to hide Isko's extreme poverty, I advised him not to do that. I know the public will only love the youngster more if they know the truth about him since they will be able to identify themselves with a downtrodden being," said Tita Swarding. "I'm glad he took my words to heart."

How did Isko win against his heavyweight opponents in this year's vice mayoral race?

"I am a sincere man. I have no money. All I had was the people's trust and belief that I would do something good for the city when I make it to the top. I and my mayoral candidate, Danny Lacuna didn't have much financial or logistic resources except our clean records and the love of our constituents," he said.

He recalled going to campaign gatherings or house-to-house meetings and announcing, "Please lend me your votes in this election and I promise to serve you with my best effort if you give me the job."

"That's a promise I will deliver, I will not fail them who gave me a mandate," said the three-termer councilor who says he has always been active in serving barangays and the community as well.

He said that when he formally takes his seat at the City Hall with landslife winner, Mayor Fred Lim, everyone will be welcome to visit him and tell him their concerns.

Isko said not being a partymate of Mayor Lim is not a problem. "While he is from Pwersang Masa and I am from Kampi, I will fully cooperate with his rules and policies provided they are for the good of the majority."

"I am sure he will listen to what is right. Differences will only occur if he ignores what is true and what is correct". (PNA)

Maid in London returns home a multimillionaire

By Emman Cena

COME CHRISTIMAS time, Filipino workers around the world are likely packing goods in a box.

Back home, the air is filled with the scent of "Stateside" lotion, soaps, chocolates and the whiff of Americana deliciously trapped inside what have come to be known as balikbayan boxes.

To 59-year old Consuelo Valencia, the concept of the balibayan box inspired her to put up the Farochilen Group of Companies 10 years ago. The business venture eventually earned her millions.

No fairy tale
But the success of Manang Consuelo, as she's fondly called by friends was hardly a fairy tale at the start. It took courage for her to fly to London in May 1977 to work as a domestic helper.

She left her two young sons in the care of her husband who himself was trying to make ends meet.

Armed with the ambition and determination to give her family the best that life can offer, she rose from scrubbing floors to being one of most the most successful Filipino businesswomen in the United Kingdom.

"It was a matter of survival and sacrifice for me and my family," says Manang Consuelo, who arrived last week to spend the holidays with her family.

But the sacrifice eventually paid off. Several newspapers in the UK had carried her story on how a cleaner became a millionaire in 10 years.

How it all began
Her reversal of fortune started in 1986 when after nine years of scrubbing floors in London, Manang Consuelo was offered a job with a freight shipping firm.

"At that time, nobody was doing business with the Philippines," she says, "But I realized there were many people here (UK) who wanted to send parcels to their families."

When the owner of the firm retired, the business was handed down to her. Through her excellent PR skills and her determination to succeed, she managed to bring the company on top of the heap with an ever-growing list of customers.

The company now collects boxes and T chests from individual customers across the United Kingdom. Manang Consuelo says their weekly shipment averages 40 containers shipped door-to-door delivery to the Philippines. This time of the year is the busiest, she says, since the movement of the balikbayan boxes is at its peak.

Also in 1986, Manang Consuelo ventured in a door to door cash delivery service through the Farochilen Remittances.

"With Filipinos in the UK sending money once or twice a month to support their families back home, this is a perfect venture," she says. By offering a reliable face-to-face speedy delivery, high exchange rates and low remittance fees, Manang Consuelo gives the banks a run for their money.

Not content with the success of the remittance and freight business, in 1996 she also embarked on travel services, phone card dealership, real estate, recruitment and publishing house--all of which she never imagined she could ever have.

In just 10 years, the Earls Court-based freight (cargo) company expanded into a wide range of business venture now known as Farochilen Group of Companies, the biggest business of its kind servicing mainly the Filipino community in the UK.

Now its managing director, Manang Consuelo supervises the freight company and its subsidiaries including the widely known travel agency that mainly deals with flights to Asia, Singapore and the Philippines. She now also owns four house-buildings in London.

Tatak Filipino
She also launched Tatak Filipino in October 2002, a mini-supermarket specializing in food stuff imported from the Philippines and the Far East.

Once serving a single household doing household chores, Manang Consuelo, through her chain of businesses, now serves the whole Filipino community in UK.

But serving her fellow Filipinos doesn't end there. She has donated three libraries here in the Philippines, a Catholic chapel and classrooms in Iloilo--her way of giving back, she says.

With an outstanding profile as a business tycoon who rose from poverty, Manang Consuelo has earned for herself accolades here and abroad, recognizing her dedication to work.

She placed 11th in the 100 REAL Women of Achievement in UK in 2004 and also won the Woman into Businesss Awards sponsored by the Bank of Scotland in February 2003.

To date, the rags-to-riches story of Manang Consuelo has attracted various film producers and TV networks. In the UK, a known writer has offered to write about her life while the British Broadcasting Company will soon shoot a documentary film about her.

Manang Consuelo arrived Friday night straight from London to receive her award as one of the outstanding Overseas Filipino Entrepreneurs (OFEs) sponsored by the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE). The award was given yesterday by President Arroyo and Presidential Consultant for Entrepreneurship Jose Concepcion III at the "Go Negosyo Para sa mga OFWs at Balikbayans Fair" at Market! Market! Trade Halls A & B in Taguig City.

Go Negosyo awardee
The "Go Negosyo" para sa mga OFWs at Balikbayans is part of the continuing Go Negosyo campaign of PCE, encouraging the further development of entrepreneurship in the country. It also aims to complement the happiness of OFWs getting reunited with their families by exposing them to business opportunities.

The 59-year old is now a multimillionaire. Indeed, 29 years after leaving her family to become a maid in London, Manang Consuelo is literally made.

FERDIE CAPILI (Success Story)

FERDIE CAPILI almost didn’t make it to Spain. Ferdie was working at the Imperial Hotel in Legazpi City when Lady Luck winked at him. One of the hotel guests, a Saudi Arabian national married to a Filipina nurse, was playing a round of golf. The Saudi guest didn’t like the coffee served and came looking for the F & B Manager to complain. Since the regular F & B Manager was absent, it was Ferdie who faced the guest. As luck would have it, the Saudi guest—who turned out to be the Manager of a Rolls Royce franchise in Saudi Arabia owned by Sheik Mohammed Al-Asmawi—was impressed with how Ferdie resolved the coffee issue. He straightaway offered him a job as personal F & B Manager of the Sheik, reputedly the tenth richest man in the world. Ferdie was to be based in Marbella, Spain.

Ferdie had to take the roundabout route going to Spain. Having been turned down when he applied for a visa, he flew to Morocco to establish the minimum 3-month residency to be eligible for entry to Spain. For three months, he was stuck in Sheik Mohammed’s magnificent villa in Tangiers, incommunicado from his family and unable to roam around. The food and the accommodation were fit for a king but he became so bored that at one time, Ferdie found himself talking to an Arabian horse owned by the Sheik. To this day, Ferdie won't tell what he and the horse discussed.

As the apex of his career in Spain, Ferdie became General Manager of the Marbella Resort Hotel, the first time in Malaga that a Filipino had risen to such a powerful position. After working for nine years for the Sheik in Marbella, he returned to the Philippines and now operates his Our Lady of Manaoag Montessori School system (pre-school, elementary, high school and college), in Balagtas, Bulacan.

“I’m proud to say that my school’s skills assessment standards are even higher than the standards of the industry and that of TESDA,” Ferdie beams. Why a school? As far as I knew, nobody in Ferdie’s family had any experience in running a school.

“I think this is the best way to return to society the many blessings I’ve received,” Ferdie answered my thoughts. “Education is the best way for the poor to improve their lives, and through my scholarship program, I am somehow able to make it happen for them.” Ferdie reminisces about the time when he struggled to make both ends meet as a student in UP. He remembers having to sell kangkong at the market place so he could earn fare money. In addition, he sold carabao milk at the UP Canteen in exchange for snacks. He joined the UP Repertory Company, a theatre group, not only for self-improvement but to earn extra money. He joined balagtasan contests for the same reason. Ferdie has come a long way since his batang kangkungan days, but for him, his humble beginning is a source of pride and inspiration, and he never fails to tell his story to his students.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mike Bolos (Success Story)

By Emman Cena

HE could have stayed in the United States where his family is or in the burning deserts of Saudi Arabia to rake in more money. But Mike Bolos opts to stay home and walk the road less-traveled.

“I’ve had enough overseas. Life’s comfort is obviously there but I’d like to get old here,” Mike Bolos tells the Inquirer in an interview.

Turning 53, Bolos obviously had enjoyed the prime of his life toiling 25 years as an accountant and chief financial officer in several companies in Saudi.

He had all the best. But in 2005, he decided to return and settle where, he says, his heart is.

“I’d rather spend whatever earnings I have here,” says Bolos who has put up a spa center in Manila and a commercial building in his hometown, Guagua, Pampanga.

The spa which started in August, 2005 employs 18 women, whom he says could have ended as domestic helpers had they gone abroad.

“They were merely high school graduates but they earn here as much as P20,000 monthly as masseuse,” he adds.

The P60-million, 3-story commercial building, on one hand, is expected to be in full swing this month. It will house various establishments such as a dance studio, an Internet café, a 7-11 convenience store and a modern American-patterned dental clinic run by one of his children.

“The mall type building will be the center of life (in Guagua). This is my way of paying back the people I grew up with. This will be a one-stop shop,” he adds.

Formula for success

But the success of Bolos didn’t happen in the blink of an eye.

“I was good in numbers and they never failed me throughout. But of course, it was sheer determination, hard work and patience,” he says.

His is a classic Cinderella story. He climbed the corporate ladder from being an ordinary Accounting board passer.

It was his brother who was looking for a job abroad but it was Bolos who was given the chance.

At 21, he worked as an accountant in a travel agency in Riyadh where he stayed for two years. He later moved to a health care company, the Gama Services Ltd., where he spent 23 years. He left Gama as corporate assistant comptroller.

At an early age, Mike learned how to juggle work with academics as business administration student at the University of the East.

But the hard times didn’t stop him from dreaming of a brighter life for his family. It was actually one of the goading forces behind his success.

He graduated high school valedictorian which qualified him for a business course at the University of Santo Tomas.

But after a year in UST, he decided to transfer to the University of the East where schedules were more suitable to him as a working student. After graduating and passing the CPA boards, he left the country in 1980.

He also had his own family to miss, being married to a fellow Kapampangan at an early age. “My first two years were miserable because I had no idea of the culture of the place. I was young and was thinking that things are done as they were done in the Philippines.”

But he eventually learned the ropes, he says. He later learned how to throw his hat into the fray, so to speak. He performed well ahead of his co-workers. He started earning good money, was provided free house and car by the company. “Everything was free. A lot of freebies. So my monthly check goes to my family tax-free,” he recalls. In fact, he admits, he was one of the highest paid Filipinos in Saudi at that time.

Children far from me

“Given a chance I would have tried to work out my relationship with my children. They grew up far from me. We’ve gone on our ways,” Bolos says.

Two of his kids are now in the US. Michelle, the eldest has a family of her own while Michael, 20, is studying law in Chicago. The middle child, Madelaine, is helping him run the family business in Guagua.

Business secret

Asked his business secret, Bolos could only say, “There are a lot of opportunities here. But the sad part is that the money that Filipinos work hard for are going to the hands of the rich people, most of them foreigners.”

These days, Bolos says he gets himself busy by doing the rounds of his businesses. He rarely gets rest days. “I don’t even have time to watch TV. I am always in front of my computer. I wake up at 8 a.m. to check e-mails then my day ends at about 3 a.m.”

“Until I get my team in place then I’d finally take a break,” he says. He is currently hiring people to man his commercial center in Guagua. “I’m happy but not content. I have a lot more things that I’ve wanted to do but not for myself though.”

Did he ever think of running for public office? “Yes, I’ve received feedback from some of my town mates. But it’s not really my turf. I’ll help out as a private individual.”

Friday, August 31, 2007

Everything Happens For The Good

There was once a King who had a wise advisor. The advisor followed the King everywhere, and his favorite advice was, “Everything happens for the good”. One day the King went hunting and had a little accident. He shot an arrow at his own foot and was injured. He asked the advisor what he thought about the accident, to which the advisor replied, “Everything happens for the good”. This time the King was really upset and ordered for his advisor to be put in prison. The King asked his advisor, “Now, what do you think?” The advisor again replied, “Everything happens for the good”. So the advisor remained in prison.

The King later went on a hunting trip, this time without the advisor. The King was then captured by some cannibals. He was taken to the cannibals' camp where he was to be the evening meal for the cannibals. Before putting him into the cooking pot he was thoroughly inspected. The cannibals saw the wound on the King’s foot and decided to throw him back into the jungle. According to the cannibals' tradition, they would not eat anything that was imperfect. As a result the King was spared. The King suddenly realized what his advisor said was true. The advisor also escaped death because had he not been in prison, he would have followed the King on the hunting trip, and would have ended up in the cooking pot.

Success Principles

It is true that everything in life happens for a purpose, and always for our own good. If you think about it, all our past experiences actually happened to bring us to where we are today, and it is always for the good. All the past experiences makes us a better person. So, whatever challenges that we may face today, consider it happening to bring us to the next level.

My Dog Can Walk On Water

There was a hunter who came into the possession of a special bird dog. The dog was the only one of its kind, because it can walk on water. One day he invited a friend to go hunting with him so that he could show off his prized possession. After some time, they shot a few ducks, which fell into the river. The man ordered his dog to run and fetch the birds. The dog ran on water to fetch the birds. The man was expecting a compliment about the amazing dog, but did not receive it. Being curious, he asked his friend if the friend had noticed anything unusual about the dog. The friend replied, “Yes, I did see something unusual about your dog. Your dog can’t swim!”

Success Principles

More than 90% of the people that we face everyday are negative. They choose to look at the hole in the middle rather than the doughnut. Do not expect compliments or encouragement from them. These are the people who cannot pull you out of your present situation. They can only push you down. So be aware of them, spend less time with them, and do not let them steal your dreams away from you.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves


On June 25, 1980 (a date he would remember), a good-natured Filipino pool-maintenance man gathered his wife and five children for an upsetting ride to the Manila airport. At 36, Emmet Comodas had lived a hard life without growing hardened, which was a mixed blessing given the indignities of his poverty. Orphaned at 8, raised on the Manila streets where he hawked cigarettes, he had hustled a job at a government sports complex and held it for nearly two decades. On the spectrum of Filipino poverty, that alone marked him as a man of modest fortune. But a monthly salary of $50 did not keep his family fed. Home was a one-room, scrap-wood shanty in a warren of alleys and stinking canals, hidden by the whitewashed walls of an Imelda Marcos beautification campaign. He had borrowed money at usurious rates to start a tiny store, which a thief had plundered. His greatest fears centered on his 11-year-old daughter, Rowena, who had a congenital heart defect that turned her lips blue and fingernails black and who needed care he could not afford. After years of worrying over her frail physique, Emmet dropped to his moldering floor and asked God for a decision: take her or let him have her. God answered in a mysterious way. Not long after, Emmet’s boss offered him a pool-cleaning job in Saudi Arabia. Emmet would make 10 times as much as he made in Manila. He would also live 4,500 miles from his family in an Islamic autocracy where stories of abused laborers were rife. He accepted on the spot. His wife, Tita, was afraid of the slum where she soon would be raising children alone, and she knew that overseas workers often had affairs. She also knew their kids ate better because of the money the workers sent home. She spent her last few pesos for admission to an airport lounge where she could wave at the vanishing jet, then went home to cry and wait. Two years later, on Aug. 2, 1982 (another date he would remember), Emmet walked off the returning flight with chocolate for the kids, earrings for Tita and a bag of duty-free cigarettes, his loneliness abroad having made him a chain smoker. His 2-year-old son, Boyet, considered him a stranger and cried at his touch, though as Emmet later said, “I was too happy to be sad.” He gave himself a party, replaced the shanty’s rotted walls and put on a new roof. Then after three months at home, he left for Saudi Arabia again. And again. And again and again: by the time Emmet ended the cycle and came home for good, he had been gone for nearly two decades. Boyet was grown. Deprived of their father while sustained by his wages, the Comodas children spent their early lives studying Emmet’s example. Now they have copied it. All five of them, including Rowena, grew up to become overseas workers. Four are still working abroad. And the middle child, Rosalie — a nurse in Abu Dhabi — faces a parallel to her father’s life that she finds all too exact. She has an 18-month-old back in the Philippines who views her as a stranger and resists her touch. What started as Emmet’s act of desperation has become his children’s way of life: leaving in order to live. About 200 million migrants from different countries are scattered across the globe, supporting a population back home that is as big if not bigger. Were these half-billion or so people to constitute a state — migration nation — it would rank as the world’s third-largest. While some migrants go abroad with Ph.D.’s, most travel as Emmet did, with modest skills but fearsome motivation. The risks migrants face are widely known, including the risk of death, but the amounts they secure for their families have just recently come into view. Migrants worldwide sent home an estimated $300 billion last year — nearly three times the world’s foreign-aid budgets combined. These sums — “remittances” — bring Morocco more money than tourism does. They bring Sri Lanka more money than tea does. The numbers, which have doubled in the past five years, have riveted the attention of development experts who once paid them little mind. One study after another has examined how private money, in the form of remittances, might serve the public good. A growing number of economists see migrants, and the money they send home, as a part of the solution to global poverty. Yet competing with the literature of gain is a parallel literature of loss. About half the world’s migrants are women, many of whom care for children abroad while leaving their own children home. “Your loved ones across that ocean . . . ,” Nadine Sarreal, a Filipina poet in Singapore, warns: Will sit at breakfast and try not to gaze Where you would sit at the table. Meals now divided by five Instead of six, don’t feed an emptiness. Earlier waves of globalization, the movement of money and goods, were shaped by mediating institutions and protocols. The International Monetary Fund regulates finance. The World Trade Organization regularizes trade. The movement of people — the most intimate form of globalization — is the one with the fewest rules. There is no “World Migration Organization” to monitor the migrants’ fate. A Kurd gaining asylum in Sweden can have his children taught school in their mother tongue, while a Filipino bringing a Bible into Riyadh risks being expelled. The growth in migration has roiled the West, but demographic logic suggests it will only continue. Aging industrial economies need workers. People in poor countries need jobs. Transportation and communication have made moving easier. And the potential economic gains are at record highs. A Central American laborer who moves to the United States can expect to multiply his earnings about six times after adjusting for the higher cost of living. That is a pay raise about twice as large as the one that propelled the last great wave of immigration a century ago. With about one Filipino worker in seven abroad at any given time, migration is to the Philippines what cars once were to Detroit: its civil religion. A million Overseas Filipino Workers — O.F.W.’s — left last year, enough to fill six 747s a day. Nearly half the country’s 10-to-12-year-olds say they have thought about whether to go. Television novellas plumb the migrants’ loneliness. Politicians court their votes. Real estate salesmen bury them in condominium brochures. Drive by the Central Bank during the holiday season, and you will find a high-rise graph of the year’s remittances strung up in Christmas lights. Across the archipelago, stories of rags to riches compete with stories of rags to rags. New malls define the landscape; so do left-behind kids. Gain and loss are so thoroughly joined that the logo of the migrant welfare agency shows the sun doing battle with the rain. Local idiom stresses the uncertainty of the migrant’s lot. An O.F.W. does not say he is off to make his fortune. He says, “I am going to try my luck.” A kilometer of crimson stretched across the Manila airport, awaiting a planeload of returning workers and the president who would greet them. The V.I.P. lounge hummed with marketing schemes aimed at migrants and their families. Globe Telecom had got its name on the security guards’ vests. A Microsoft rep had flown in from the States with a prototype of an Internet phone. An executive from Philam Insurance noted that overseas workers buy one of every five new policies. Sirens disrupted the finger food, and a motorcade delivered the diminutive head of state, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who once a year offers rice cakes and red carpet to those she calls “modern heroes.” Bleary from the eight-hour flight, a few hundred workers from Abu Dhabi swapped puzzled looks for presidential handshakes on their way to baggage claim. Roderick de Guzman, a young car porter, took home the day’s grand prize, a “livelihood package” that included a jeepney, life insurance, $1,000 and a karaoke machine. Too dazed to smile, he held an oversize sweepstakes check while the prize’s sponsors and the president beamed at his side and a squad of news photographers fired away. When it comes to O.F.W.’s, politics and business speak with one voice. Message: We Care. On the way to the photo op, I squeezed into an elevator beside Arroyo. A president and daughter of a president, she is a seasoned pol who attended Georgetown University (Bill Clinton was a classmate) and has a Ph.D. in economics. I asked why she called migrant workers “heroes” and gathered from her impatient look that it was all she could do to keep from saying “du-uh.” “They send home more than a billion dollars a month,” she said. “O.F.W.’s get V.I.P. Treatment, Treats,” reported the next day’s Philippine Daily Inquirer, which runs nearly 600 O.F.W. articles a year. Half have the fevered tone of a gold-rush ad. Half sound like human rights complaints. “Deployment of O.F.W.’s Hits 1-M Mark.” “Remittances Seen to Set New Record.” “Happy Days Here Again for Real Estate Sector.” “5 Dead O.F.W.’s in Saudi.” “O.F.W. 18th Pinay Rape Victim in Kuwait.” “We Slept With Dog, Ate Leftovers for $200/month.” Nearly 10 percent of the country’s 89 million people live abroad. About 3.6 million are O.F.W.’s — contract workers. Another 3.2 million have migrated permanently, largely to the United States — and 1.3 million more are thought to be overseas illegally. (American visas, which are probably the hardest to get, are also the most coveted, both for the prosperity they promise and because the Philippines, a former colony, retains an unrequited fascination with the U.S.) There are a million O.F.W.’s in Saudi Arabia alone, followed by Japan, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. Yet with workers in at least 170 countries, the O.F.W.’s are literally everywhere, including the high seas. About a quarter of the world’s seafarers come from the Philippines. The Greek word for maid is Filipineza. The “modern heroes” send home $15 billion a year, a seventh of the country’s gross domestic product. Addressing a Manila audience, Rick Warren, the evangelist, called Filipino guest workers the Josephs of their day — toiling in the homes of modern Pharaohs to liberate their people. For the sheer visuals of the O.F.W. boom, consider Pulong Anahao, a village two hours south of Manila that has been sending Filipinezas to Italy for 30 years. Cement block is the regional style, but these streets boast — the only verb that will do — faux Italianate villas. For the social complexity, turn on “Dahil sa Iyong Paglisan” (“Because You Left”), a Tagalog telenovela. Each show explores a familiar type. “Dodgie,” a driver in Dubai, is livid at his wife’s profligacy. “Dennis” gets fleeced by crooked recruiters on his way to Singapore. “Carlos,” with a wife in Riyadh, is a hapless househusband; he cannot cook or wash, and his son is left out in the rain. Manila Hospital was aflutter one morning with the taping of the episode about “Wally.” A seafarer home from Greece, he demanded to know where his money had gone, only to discover that his pregnant wife had spent it on antiviral medication. His port-of-call promiscuity had given her H.I.V. “Qui-et!” the director bellowed, with Wally about to learn of his own infection. It took the actor five takes to summon a sufficiently chilling mix of fear and remorse. A giggly nursing student, fresh from a cameo, paused to chat. She was getting a degree to — what else? — “go abroad and try my luck.” While the Philippines has exported labor for at least 100 years, the modern system took shape three decades ago under Ferdinand Marcos. Clinging to power through martial law, he faced soaring unemployment, a Communist insurgency and growing urban unrest. Exporting idle Filipinos promised a safety valve and a source of foreign exchange. With a 1974 decree (“to facilitate and regulate the movement of workers in conformity with the national interest”), Marcos sent technocrats circling the globe in search of labor contracts. Annual deployments rose more than tenfold in a decade, to 360,000. The “People Power” revolution of 1986 replaced him with Corazon Aquino, who as the widow of his slain rival was a figure as un-Marcosian as they come. But the surge in labor migration continued. By the end of her six-year term, annual deployments had nearly doubled. There is no anti-migration camp in Filipino politics. The labor secretary, Arturo Brion, greeted me by saying that he, too, had been an O.F.W., having worked as a lawyer for seven years in Canada. When I asked how a nationalist candidate might fare with a vow to keep workers home, he looked confused. “Nobody would vote for him,” he said. The political issue is not migration but migrant safety. The formative moment in O.F.W. history, its Alamo, was the 1995 hanging of Flor Contemplacion, a Filipina maid in Singapore. Though she confessed to killing another Filipina maid and a Singaporean child, she did so in an uncertain mental state with weak legal representation; an 11th-hour witness fingered someone else. President Fidel Ramos’s calls for mercy failed, and the martyred maid’s coffin received a hero’s welcome at home. Congressional elections followed, and the new Legislature passed what is variously called Republic Act 8042 and “the migrant workers’ Magna Carta.” It pushed the government’s responsibilities beyond migrant deployment to migrant protection. Woe now to the Filipino pol who appears not to have migrant welfare in mind. After a Filipino truck driver was kidnapped in Iraq in 2004, Arroyo not only banned all contract work there but also withdrew from the American-led military coalition. Even state visits have the tenor of bail runs. The president triumphed in Saudi Arabia last spring when King Adbullah freed more than 400 workers who had been jailed for petty crimes. But the war in Lebanon last summer threw the Arroyo government into a crisis by displacing thousands of Filipina maids. They returned home with harrowing tales of prewar abuse, including beatings and rape, endured in pursuit of salaries that averaged $200 a month. Embarrassed (and seemingly surprised), the government proposed a “Supermaid” program, a short-term training regimen that would lift the maids’ skills and demand a doubling of their wage. Those not cringing at the name fretted that a pay raise would leave the maids displaced by Bangladeshis. While every country’s migrants face risks, what makes the Philippines unique is a bureaucracy pledged to reduce them. There is no precise analog for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration — O.W.W.A. — or its savvy director, Marianito Roque, who is one part international rescue worker and one part domestic fixer. A bureaucratic survivor who rose through the ranks, Roque understands the imperative of making the president look good. Christmas offered plenty of opportunity. With legions of workers coming home, Roque staged thank-you fiestas nationwide. I pictured them as sedate affairs until I arrived at a mall in Cebu City. Five thousand people pressed against police barricades, aiming cellphone cameras at a fluttering pop star who urged them to buy her music and clothes. O.W.W.A. has its own chorale, which offered the workers “Lady Marmalade” — “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?” — an odd choice in a country saturated with fears of overseas adultery. Roque raffled off a mountain of rice cookers and electric fans, and the crowd responded with game-show shrieks. He caught an early-morning flight the next day and stormed through two more fiestas. When the last rice cooker had been claimed and the last voulez-vous belted out, I spotted a man grinning mischievously, as if he were in on his own private joke. An attractive woman hung on his arm with what I mistook as reunion bliss. The bliss, she happily explained, was in the pay. The man, Pepito Montero, boasted that he earned $8,000 a month on a Saudi oil rig, and a flicker of doubt must have crossed my face. His smile broadened at the chance to produce his retort — a mass of $100 bills the size of a tennis ball. Emmet Comodas migrated to Manila before he migrated abroad. His parents, tenant farmers in the province of Leyte, died before he finished grade school, and he was handed off to an aunt in the capital, 600 miles away. She lived in a muddy squatters’ camp called Leveriza. The alleys were ruled by drunks and gangs, but Emmet wore his geniality as a shield and was quick to make friends. Drawn to commerce more than to school, which he left at 16, Emmet spent much of his youth dodging traffic to sell newspapers and cigarettes. When he grew weary of his aunt’s strictures, he slept on a city bridge. Among his favorite vending sites was a nearby stadium, Rizal Memorial, though without a sales license he had to sneak in early and hide before events. The canteen manager, admiring his pluck, hired him as a cook. With a bounce in his step from his first real job, Emmet was walking home to Leveriza one day when he spotted a woman, beautiful but frail, in an alley ironing clothes. He was afraid to say hello. Teresita Portagana came from a higher echelon of the Filipino poor. Her father was a farmhand in nearby Cavite province who managed to buy a few acres of coffee trees. Tita was raised on the farm, the oldest of 11 kids in a close-knit family who shared a single thatched hut. She left school after sixth grade to help her mother manage the growing clan, and when she turned 16 her father sent her to work in a Manila glove factory. She would live with an aunt and send home most of her pay. Her excitement at the prospect of city living vanished when she saw her aunt’s neighborhood. Leveriza was not just crowded and dangerous; it stank. Stagnant estuaries, which doubled as sewage pits, were filled with discarded bundles of waste dubbed “flying saucers.” When her father learned that Tita was drawing looks from Leveriza boys, he hurried to Manila and moved her out. “One relative in Leveriza is enough,” he said. By then Emmet was pressing his case. Tita considered him plain-looking and “poor as a rat,” but his persistence carried the day. They married on the farm and moved back to Leveriza, where Emmet would be close to work. He was 23, and she had just turned 21. Similar slums were spreading across the developing world, greeting provincial migrants with welcome mats of squalor. How people survived, and at what cost, was a mystery and a concern. As Tita and Emmet were settling in, F. Landa Jocano, an anthropologist trained at the University of Chicago, moved nearby in search of answers, which eventually formed a noted book, “Slum as a Way of Life.” The setting of his Leveriza-like camp was predictably grim — “wet and muddy,” with a “nauseating smell” and “cardboard hovels” holding six to nine people to the room. But what really stood out were the social conflicts. Despite the Filipinos’ reputation for prizing social accord, husbands beat wives, gangs murdered gangs and tsismis — gossip — was a constant preoccupation. “Envy, jealousy, hatred and other forms of ridicule” coursed through the alleys, and it took a special deftness to thrive. Tita, lacking it, withdrew into herself. “I was talkless,” she said. Tita and Emmet had three children in four years, and two more later. Their second child. Rowena, was born seven weeks early with a heart defect that went undiagnosed for years. All they knew was that she was constantly sick. The family lived in rented shanties until Emmet won $90 on a horse race and bought a shanty of his own. It was so bug-infested that he burned the walls and rebuilt with secondhand wood. He moved to a pool-cleaning job at the stadium and sold cigarettes on the side. Still, the holes in the roof meant the children got wet on rainy nights. When she lacked money for vegetables or fish, Tita served the children rice, and when she lacked enough rice for three meals, she served two. A Sikh they called the “boom-bay” lent money at the standard interest rate, 20 percent per month. Emmet borrowed about $130 to open a tiny grocery store, which he planned to run as a sideline with Tita’s help. The thief who robbed it during Holy Week seemed to know that they were busy with a marathon reading of the “Pasyon,” a 24-hour life of Christ. A few months later, Tita became pregnant with their fifth child. By then the Marcos labor decree was five years old, and the machinery was humming. Saudi Arabia was modernizing overnight. It needed roads, schools, apartments, hospitals and laborers to build them. Filipinos worked hard, spoke English and took orders. Tita and Emmet had seen the workers coming home with the Look — leather jackets, Ray-Bans and enough gold around their necks to turn their skin yellow with a case of Saudi “hepa.” But most of the jobs were controlled by recruiting agencies, which charged placement fees of a month’s salary or more. Only the privileged among the poor could leave. In the spring of 1980, Tita’s brother Fortz took a loan from his father to try his luck in Riyadh. He had just landed when Emmet’s boss asked if he wanted to do the same pool-cleaning work in Dhahran. “Yes, yes, yes,” Emmet said. The firm that managed the stadium had a contract there, so there were no recruiters’ fees. Tita’s brother Fering came the following year, and soon after, her brother Servando. Of the 11 siblings in her generation, nine either became overseas workers or married one. “First timers” have it rough. Emmet shared a comfortable company apartment and a cook with three other Filipinos, but the loneliness was worse than anything he had known. Outside of work, there was nothing to do. Alcohol and churches were banned. Looking the wrong way at a Saudi woman was an invitation to arrest. (That is one theory behind the Ray-Bans.) Emmet paced Dhahran malls and stared at Dhahran skies, fantasizing that the planes overhead had come to take him home. Tita’s loneliness was costly, too, but she had Emmet’s earnings. With a monthly salary of $500, he made as much in two years in Dhahran as he did in two decades in Manila, and he sent two-thirds of it home. Tita bought better food, and she bought Rowena medicine. She bought each child a second school uniform, so she would not have to wash every night. She bought an electric fan and a television — her habit of watching through a neighbor’s window was a source of alleyway discord. Emmet, who talked to the family on cassette tapes, surprised Tita by sending one with a $100 bill inside. When Emmet got home in 1982, he gave himself a party, patched the walls and replaced the leaky roof. Then he signed another two-year contract. After his second tour, he replaced the wooden walls with cement block and added an upstairs. After his third contract, he paid the government $2,000 and got title to the land. Though neither Tita nor Emmet finished high school, all five children started college; four got degrees. Emmet, overseas paying the bills, missed every graduation. It takes a lot to move him to anger, but even now he gets furious when someone says that overseas workers leave their children to grow up without love. “You cannot look at each other and say it’s love if your stomach is empty,” he said. “I sacrificed!” I first met Tita and the kids in 1987, as Emmet was finishing his third contract. I had a fellowship from the Henry Luce Foundation to study urban poverty; a Leveriza nun, Sister Christine Tan, introduced us, and Tita agreed to let me move in. With Cory Aquino finishing her first year, the country was in transition, and Tita was, too. She was no longer quite so talkless. I awoke in the mornings to the blare of Tagalog news radio and once found her studying an English newspaper with a dual-language dictionary. “What’s imperialism?” she asked. When Congress wanted a witness for a hearing on urban poverty, Sister Christine had Tita testify. Tita told me she had been asking God, “Why are so many Filipinos poor?” When I asked if God had answered, she laughed. “Not yet,” she said. Much of the credit belonged to Sister Christine, who had organized a network of prayer groups and cooperative stores and groomed Tita as a lieutenant. Tita bought and distributed 2,000 eggs a week for the group’s co-op stores, placing them under a fluorescent light at night to keep the rats away. The unpaid work, undertaken in the spirit of community service, brought Tita new confidence. But so perhaps did the modest comforts made possible by Emmet’s wages. By now she had a toilet. Her oldest two children spent less time mulling the meaning of life — Rowena, still poised between sickness and health, was addicted to celebrity gossip — and her two youngest were little boys. But Rosalie, the middle child, was on a quest. At 16, she was ambitious, sometimes brooding, beautiful and devout; while her sister squealed about movie stars, Rosalie wrote Tagalog plays about class conflict. One depicted Imelda Marcos conniving to raze Leveriza and put up a discothèque. Emmet returned a few months into my off-and-on stay. He had missed half the life of his 11-year-old, Roldan, and nearly the whole life of the 7-year-old, Boyet. He wanted to stay. With jobs scarce, frustration rose all around. Emmet scolded Tita for running up the light bill with her stewardship of the eggs. Tita got angry when she heard Emmet urge their oldest child, Rolando, to join the U.S. Navy, and furious when she caught him encouraging Rosalie to go abroad. Emmet wanted her to be an O.F.W.; Tita wanted her to be a nun. Though Emmet found a temporary job, he was back in Riyadh within a year. One day he opened the door to find his son Rolando on the steps. He had quit tech school to try his luck as a driver for a Saudi family. His luck proved mediocre. The salary was low, his hours were long and his secret courtship of a Filipina maid could have landed him in jail. He quit after his second contract. By then, Rosalie had finished nursing school in Manila, a milestone for the family. She had set her sights on a job in the United States, but narrowly failed the licensing exam. Four years after graduation, she still earned $100 a month. Saudi hospitals paid nearly four times as much. After borrowing the recruiters’ fee from an aunt, Rosalie was Jeddah bound. No one fully understood that a baton was being passed. With the kids grown, Tita soon rented out the house in Leveriza and started building another on her share of the family farm. At 55, Emmet had given his prime years, nearly 20 of them, to a succession of Arabian pools. Rosalie, renewing her contract, insisted he go home. The responsibility of supporting the family was hers. As an Islamic state that bans socializing between unmarried women and men, Saudi Arabia held out few hopes for marriage or kids. Rosalie approached her 30th birthday resigned to a dutiful life alone. She celebrated at a Jeddah restaurant with Filipino friends; one of them, knowing they had a private room, disregarded the gender rules by bringing along her nephew, a construction engineer. The nephew, Christopher Villanueva, took Rosalie for an after-dinner walk, trailing her by a few paces in case the religious police happened by. “I was trembling!” Rosalie said. With both of them living in guarded single-sex dorms, their 18-month courtship occurred largely by cellphone. When they flew home in 2002 to marry, they had never been alone. In the Philippines the following year to deliver her first baby, Rosalie saw an ad seeking nurses in Abu Dhabi. At $1,100 a month, the job paid twice what she made in Jeddah, and Abu Dhabi had no religious police. She aced the test and caught another plane to the Middle East, this time as a mother. Christine — “Tin-Tin” — was 7 months old when Rosalie tore herself away. The baby stayed on the farm and soon called her Aunt Rowena “Mama.” When a second daughter, Precious Lara, followed, she considered Rowena her mama, too. The girls cried when Rosalie held them on visits, filling her with worry and regret. Overseas prosperity is a gift and an obligation. “Everyone needs help, and you cannot say no,” said Rosalie, who seems not to mind. She paid to complete her parents’ new house and sends them $400 a month. She sent money for her cousins’ school supplies and helped her uncle buy a cow. She lent hundreds of dollars to godparents, knowing she would never be repaid. Migration operates like compound interest, building upon itself. Capitalizing on permissive visa laws, Rosalie has now brought a cousin and three siblings to Abu Dhabi. Rowena will soon start a secretarial job, and Roldan and Boyet are working with computers. Rosalie has also gotten Tin-Tin back, though not without some continuing distress: the girl, now 4, still treats Rowena like her real mom. Already the family benefactor, Rosalie recently got a big promotion. As a charge nurse at the Al Rahba Hospital, she now earns $2,000 a month — 20 times what she earned a decade ago when she left the Philippines. Plus she has free health care and housing. Nonetheless, she is determined to stamp one more visa on the passport page. After a decade of trying, she has passed the American nursing exam and will soon retake the English test, which she narrowly failed. “The U.S. is the ultimate,” she said. “If you make it to the U.S., there is no place else to go.” Once upon a time — say five years ago — remittances were considered small potatoes, and possibly rotten ones. Experts saw them as minor amounts, “wasted” on consumption, and to the extent they came from professionals, as reminders of brain drain. That began to change early this decade, when research by the Inter-American Development Bank (commissioned by a remittance enthusiast named Don Terry) showed the amounts in Latin America were three or four times higher than supposed. That work got people talking, but interest surged in 2003 when Dilip Ratha of the World Bank showed the eye-popping sums extended across the globe. Migration has been a prominent development topic ever since. Of the $300 billion that migrants sent home last year, about two-thirds came through formal channels like banks, while the rest is thought to have traveled informally, in pockets or cassette tapes. By contrast, the world spent $104 billion on foreign aid. While the doubling of formal remittances in the past five years partly reflects improved counting, Dilip Ratha argues that most of the gain is real. There are more migrants; their earnings are growing; and plunging transaction fees encourage them to send more money home. The Philippines, which received $15 billion in formal remittances in 2006, ranked fourth among developing countries behind India ($25 billion), China ($24 billion) and Mexico ($24 billion) — all of which are much larger. In no other sizable country do remittances loom as large as a share of the economy. Remittances make up 3 percent of the G.D.P. in Mexico but 14 percent in the Philippines. In 22 countries, remittances exceed a tenth of the G.D.P., including Moldova (32 percent), Haiti (23 percent) and Lebanon (22 percent). Despite fears that the money goes to waste, a growing literature shows positive effects. Remittances cut the poverty rate by 11 percent in Uganda and 6 percent in Bangladesh, according to studies cited by the World Bank, and raised education levels in El Salvador and the Philippines. Being private, the money is less susceptible to corruption than foreign aid; it is also better aimed at the needy and “countercyclical” — it rises in response to slumps and natural disasters. By increasing reserves of foreign exchange, remittances reduce government borrowing costs, saving the Philippines about half a billion dollars in interest each year. While 80 percent of the money sent to Latin America is spent on consumption, that leaves nearly $12 billion for investment. And consumption among the poor is hardly a bad thing. The downside is the risk of dependency, among individuals waiting for a check or for rulers (like Marcos) who use the money to avoid economic reforms. The cash could have a stultifying effect, like the “curse” of too much oil. No country has escaped poverty with remittances alone. “Remittances can’t solve structural problems,” said Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington research group. “Remittances can’t compensate for corrupt governments, nepotism, incompetence or communal conflict. People have finally figured out that remittances are important, but they haven’t figured out what to do about it.” Drawing boards are filled with schemes to leverage the money for development, in ways large and small. A small Manila nonprofit group, the Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos, has a plan to get overseas workers to buy cows; a dairy farm in the Philippines would raise them, splitting the profits and creating jobs. More grandly, commercial banks in Turkey and Brazil have used the expected flow of future remittances as a form of collateral to issue billions in corporate bonds. This lowers the banks’ borrowing costs and increases the amounts they can lend, making it easier, in theory at least, for businesses to borrow and expand. A goal atop everyone’s list is getting more families “banked.” Opening an account (as opposed to just wiring money) lets migrants establish credit histories for future mortgages or business loans. The deposits expand capital pools. And bank accounts boost savings rates. Some banks turn migrant deposits into tiny loans to village entrepreneurs, linking remittances to the popular realm of microfinance. Migrants contribute to development in ways that go beyond remittances. Many countries tap their diasporas for philanthropy. Affluent migrants make investments back home. And the increasingly circular nature of migration means that some migrants return with knowledge and connections. This is a countertrend to brain drain — “brain gain” — with Taiwan the most obvious case. The Hsinchu Science-Based Industrial Park, a government-subsidized Silicon Valley, has lured home thousands of skilled Taiwanese with research and investment opportunities. The key is having something to lure them to; brain gain has not come to, say, Malawi. Casting migration as the answer to global poverty has some people alarmed. It risks obscuring the personal price that migrants and their families pay. It could be used to gloss over, or even justify, the exploitation of workers. And it could offer rich countries an excuse for cutting foreign aid and other development efforts. “This is a new version of trickledown theory,” warned Stephen Castles of Oxford University at a recent conference in Mexico City. “It wants to make the poor pay for development.” Rodolfo GarcÃa Zamora, a professor at the Autonomous University of Zacatecas in Mexico, warned the conference against remittance “fetishization.” Even in the remittance-happy Philippines, national law states that the government does not see migration as a development strategy — though it obviously does. Certainly, soaring remittance tallies cannot measure social costs, to migrants or to those left behind. (So many Africans die at sea each year trying to reach European soil that the Straits of Gibraltar have been dubbed “the largest mass grave in Europe.”) I was with Emmet and his brother-in-law one day when they broke into a nostalgic version of “It’s So Painful, Big Brother Eddie,” a Tagalog classic from the 1980s that immortalizes every migrant’s fear: My child wrote to me I was shocked and I instantly cried. “Father come home, make it fast Mother has another man She’s cheating on you, father. . . .” But what’s painful, I’m wondering Why our two children are now three? Among the biggest worries, in the Philippines and beyond, are the “left behind” kids, who are alternately portrayed as dangerous hoodlums and consumerist brats. Some people fear that their gadgets and clothes, sent from guilty parents abroad, corrupt village values. A U.N. envoy, examining Filipino migration, had a different concern: “Reportedly children of O.F.W.’s are more likely to become involved in delinquency or early marriage.” (Note “reportedly.”) One episode of “Because You Left,” the television show, depicts an adolescent boy whose father is abroad, leaving no one to help him with his first crush. He bonds with the school bully, steals from his mother and tries to rob someone. In addition to the “left behind,” researchers speak of a more disadvantaged class — the “left out.” Lacking the money or connections to go abroad, they are marooned on the wrong shore of what is, among the poor themselves, a growing divide. Fear about the children is inevitable (and laudable), but the modest social science that exists offers some reassurance. At least three studies have examined “left behind” families in the Philippines. All found the children of migrants doing as well as, or better than, children whose parents stayed home. The most recent, from the Scalabrini Migration Center in Manila, involved a national survey of 10-to-12-year-olds. The migrants’ kids did better in school, had better physical health, experienced less anxiety and were more likely to attend church. “For now, the children are fine,” it concluded. Joseph Chamie, editor of The International Migration Review, an academic journal, calls the finding typical. “There’s not much scientific evidence that children have developmental difficulties when a parent migrates,” he said. One theory is that remittances compensate for the missing parent’s care. The study found migrants’ kids taller and heavier than their counterparts, suggesting higher caloric intake, and much more likely to attend private school. The extended family can also act as a compensating force. And so can modern technology in an age of cellphones and Webcams. There is no doubt that migration has costs. “We don’t have a focus group without people crying,” said the Scalabrini researcher, Maruja Asis. The point is that not migrating has costs, too — the cost of wrenching poverty. The Philippines, more than most places, claims to be skilled in managing these costs. As the rare bureaucracy devoted to migrant care, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration draws admirers from across the globe. Any agency pledged to tame a force as brutal as labor migration is bound to have its failures. O.W.W.A. has 300 employees to watch over 3.6 million workers. The general Filipino view is that the agency does a serviceable job during crises abroad (it evacuated 30,000 workers from Kuwait during the first gulf war), while playing politics at home — investing funds in cronies’ businesses and helping politicians get out the vote. But there is an especially sordid chapter of migrant history that this forgiving account omits, the shipment of bar girls to Japan. Spotting a growth market a decade ago, Philippine recruiters marched armies of young Filipinas through short courses in song and dance, then sent them off to Japanese clubs, with the Philippine government certifying them as “overseas performing artists.” Club owners typically grabbed their passports and told them to do what it took to keep customers drinking; what it took was a mix of tableside affection, off-duty dating and outright prostitution. As both governments lent a hand, Filipinas in skimpy clothes became an export commodity. Their numbers rose from 17,000 in 1996 to more than 70,000 in 2004, as remittances from Japan hit more than $350 million. Sex work is often a byproduct of extreme poverty. “A man is on top of me,” writes Corazon Amaya-Cañete, a Filipina poet in Hong Kong, in the voice of a woman who distracts herself by resurrecting a childhood habit of counting sheep. In exchange for this is money for Mother’s medicine Building the house and Buying food for my six siblings Clothes, shoes, books and tuition for school . . . Seventy-seven white sheep! Seventy-seven white sheep! The Tagalog wordplay emphasizes the cruelty of her fate: she starts life as a girl counting tupa and awakens to find herself a puta. “Oh! I am prostitute!” she screams. (The poem, “Seventy-Seven White Sheep,” was published in a Webzine of Filipino diaspora writings, Our Own Voice.) It was not the Philippines but Japan that finally cleaned things up. It acted only after the U.S. State Department placed it on a 2004 watch list of countries lax toward human trafficking. The embarrassed Japanese now demand two years of performing experience for an entertainer’s visa, which has cut the flow of Filipina bodies by about 95 percent. Remarkably, it did so over the objection of the Philippine government, which sent a protest delegation to Tokyo. Or perhaps it is less remarkable than it seems. A handful of advocates condemned the flesh trade, but most Filipinos see it as a consensual, if regrettable, economic exchange, and inevitable in a country where nearly half the population lives on less than $2 a day. Gina gawa ko dahil para sa familya ko goes the Tagalog saying. “I do this for the sake of my family.” I asked Nito Roque, the country’s chief migrant protector, how to square the sex trade with the government’s pledge (in Act 8042) to protect workers’ “dignity and fundamental human rights.” His answer says something about the limits of migrant protection, in the Philippines and beyond. “The contract does not say anything about prostitution — that is a private matter between the employer and the employee,” he said. “Nobody forces anybody to go abroad. It’s the applicant who comes forward and applies for the job. “Do they know what they’re getting into? I think so.” About 30 miles south of Manila, just outside the town of Silang, a dirt road ends at a residential compound carved from a small coffee farm. For decades it held nothing but the thatched hut where Tita and her 10 siblings were raised. Now a dozen cement blockhouses are clustered in a U, some little more than shells and others, like Tita and Emmet’s pink cottage, boasting faux marble tile and lace curtains. One look at each home yields a fair guess of how long the owner worked abroad. Nine families in the compound sent workers overseas, and collectively those workers stayed for 131 years (and counting). A walk across the compound cuts through a century of rewards and regrets. Tita’s brother Fering is thankful that he returned from Saudi Arabia in time to see his children’s first days of school. Another brother, Fortz, is one of two men in the family (by some counts, three) whose extramarital affairs overseas produced kids. He left for Saudi Arabia with a daughter named Sheryl and returned with another named Sheralyn. Conscripted as a stand-in mom, Tita raised the girl for 10 years — resentfully at first, because of the cost — and wept when her real mother took her away. “She is like having another child,” she said. Tita’s sister Peachy learned that her husband had a girlfriend — and a son — when she received a package meant for them. The first time I asked her whether the time apart had strained their marriage, she politely lied. “No — we’re loving each other for ever and ever!” she said. The following day she sought me out with a more candid account. Peachy is a large, cheerful woman, who seems as if nothing could daunt her. “I almost died,” she said. “I couldn’t lose my husband to someone else. That was the saddest moment of my life.” Peachy’s sister Patricia thought all was well until a stranger called two years ago and said her husband was having an affair with his wife. “Your husband and his mistress,” the man wrote on the photograph that followed. When Patricia called her husband in Saudi Arabia, he denied all and then stopped taking her calls. He sends little money, and she suspects he has a new child. Their son Jonvic, a dimpled 9-year-old, renders judgments of his father with innocent cheer. “What he did to us was worse than if he died, because he violated the Ten Commandments of God,” he said. It was not infidelity that moved another relative to tears but fidelity at any cost. We were breezing through the family photo album when she pointed at a picture from Saudi Arabia that showed her husband at an evangelical church. Church? That is a ticket to deportation or worse. Alarmed that her slip might place him in greater dangers, she started to sob. “I can’t stop him — that’s where he found his happiness,” she said. When I reached him, he encouraged me to mention his preaching, saying it was his way of thanking God for the chance to work abroad. “I promised the Lord I’ll share the Gospel under any circumstance,” he said. The nine families of overseas workers raised 35 kids, some of whom scarcely saw their fathers. Their combined stories could fill a whole season of “Because You Left.” One became pregnant at 17 and is now a single mother. Another became addicted to video games and dropped out of school. Yet another started drinking after his father disappeared. One of Tita’s sisters sold a house and a cow to place her son in a Taiwan factory. The son squandered his parents’ life savings within a few months, and his drinking and gambling got him expelled from the country. By any measure, the price was high, yet there it stands — a semicircle of blockhouses where there once was a mere thatched hut. Bookshelves sag with encyclopedia sets. More diplomas appear each year on freshly plastered walls. There are bunk beds and Bugs Bunny sheets, cellphones, stereos and big televisions. Having nearly lost her marriage to labor migration, Peachy is scarcely heedless of its social costs. “A good provider is someone who leaves,” she said, without ambivalence. One irritant of life in the compound has been the shared well, which dries up and causes contentious waits. Three of the families have drilled wells of their own, with electric pumps. One belongs to Peachy, a gift from her daughter, Ariane, who used her father’s overseas earnings to get a degree in hotel management and earns $1,000 a month as a maid on a cruise ship. Another tank belongs to Tita and Emmet, whose cottage is the compound’s jewel. It has a patio, a beamed ceiling, a tiled sala floor, two kitchens and two toilets that flush. It was built by Rosalie and is a monument to the tenacious child who wrote plays about the rich exploiting the poor and willed her way into the nascent middle class. Although she is thousands of miles away in Abu Dhabi, she hovers over the compound; no household there is heedless of her example or generosity. The house is nicer than any that Tita and Emmet have known but quieter too, with four of the couple’s five children a continent away. “I am sad,” Tita said, “because they’re in a far place.” She is often weak with ulcers, and Emmet’s hearing has started to fade. They had a chance to sell the fixed-up house in Leveriza for a princely sum, $16,000, but unwilling to part with the place where their children were raised, they rent it to relatives. Restless without work, Emmet is especially susceptible to nostalgia for the bad old days. “I was happier then because I was with my children,” he said. Going abroad is difficult, but so is coming home. Since Emmet returned for good, the kids have noticed less tenderness between their parents and more quarreling. They each grew accustomed to being the boss. One reason Rosalie left her second daughter, Precious Lara, in the Philippines is that she thinks her parents need a child to love. Tita and Emmet sleep beneath a malaria net with the 18-month-old beside them, and Rosalie often calls home two or three times a day. She and her husband have an infant son, Dominique Edward, in Abu Dhabi, whom her parents have never seen. Armed with her first cellphone at 60, Tita has sent so many text messages that she has worn the numbers off the keys. Yawning one night, she laughed and said of herself, “Low batt!” Off the sala is a guest bedroom with a large framed photograph of Rosalie, taken on her wedding day. The woman in that picture shows no trace of a birthright of poverty. She turns to the camera wearing an enormous gown and a confident face. Two generations of labor migration have given her more education, more money and more power and prestige than her mother could have dreamed of on her own wedding day. Precious Lara rarely plays in that room and hardly knows the face, much less the sacrifices her mother has made for the blessings of a migrant’s wage.

Jason DeParle, a senior writer for The Times, last wrote for the magazine about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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