The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) presented recently 19 people with the Migration Advocacy and Media (MAM) Awards for using various media to pay tribute to, chronicle the accomplishments of, or expose the sad plight of overseas Filipinos.
In simple blended ceremonies held on March 16, 2022, at the Manila Hotel, with some awardees participating via Zoom, the CFO also awarded the first winners of the HiMigrasyon Songwriting Contest, a competition to celebrate overseas Filipinos and to produce music to call attention to migration issues.
In his opening remarks, CFO Secretary and Chairperson Francisco P. Acosta said the MAM winners advocated for overseas Filipinos amid a global crisis.
The composition of the recipients of the MAM Award, now on its eighth run for over a decade, was a reflection of the Filipino diaspora. They came from Japan, China, the United States, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, United Arab Emirates, South Korea, and the Philippines.
“We celebrate the efforts of outstanding members of the global community – media practitioners and institutions worldwide – that have dedicated their time and effort in raising awareness of the plight and triumphs of our kababayan and making them known across the globe through various media channels,” Sec. Acosta said.
The CFO head pointed out that there were over 10 million Filipinos living abroad, in every continent. Given this, the media played a crucial role in mainstreaming the discussion of their struggles, pains, victories, and accomplishments.
He said, “Retelling their stories through various channels and formats also serves as a support system for them (overseas Filipinos) even though they have settled elsewhere – giving them comfort, familiarity, and a sense of home.”
The MAM awardees, Acosta said, used their talents and skills to tell the stories of overseas Filipinos’ struggles with personal identity, cultural barriers, and social integration.
President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, the Secretary pointed out, had always been an ardent advocate, ally, and champion of overseas Filipinos as they fought for better working conditions and to assert their rights and promote their welfare abroad.
Sec. Acosta cited the 2021 Republic Act 11641 that created the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), as another step to provide assistance and services to Filipinos in the diaspora. “We hope that with the creation of the DMW (expected to be fully operational in 2023), many of the struggles you face (overseas Filipinos) expressed in your art are alleviated, and that, with the help of the government, a stronger connection can be forged between our Filipinos overseas and the Motherland.”
In a video message, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, the main sponsor of RA 11641, said the awards ceremonies paid tribute to the sacrifices and achievements of Filipinos abroad.
Before the MAM awards were presented, CFO Undersecretary Abdulgani M. Macatoman acknowledged and thanked the members of the panel of judges that chose the latest winners. Plaques of appreciation were presented to the judges.
Wendell V. Dimaculangan, CFO Head Executive Assistant, introduced and thanked the judges of the first HiMigrasyon competition.
The awarding ceremonies were attended by Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto and his wife Jo C. Alonto, former Executive Director of CFO now Deputy Executive Secretary for Internal Audit – Office of the President Ricojudge Janvier Echiverri, and former CFO Head Executive Assistant now Chief Prosecutor of Cabanatuan City Xerxes Cortel.
Singer and Makati councilor Tosca Camille Puno-Ramos, daughter of the late singer-actor-politician Rico J. Puno, and award-winning actor and singer Cesar Montano performed during the ceremonies.
1. Print Journalism Award-Best Book (Non-Fiction/Guide) – Bridging the Gap: A Young People’s Guide to Living in Japan (Japan) by Kakehashi, in partnership with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation. The book, which is available in three languages – English, Filipino and Japanese – is written primarily for Filipino-Japanese children who have migrated to Japan. Providing a comprehensive, straight-to-the-point, and practical guide to living in Japan, it is meant to help young migrants face personal identity and social integration challenges, as illustrated through the retelling of real-life stories of individuals who overcame those challenges.
2. Print Journalism Award-Best Book (Non-Fiction/Anthology) – The Diaspora Journey: Stories of Migration in Hong Kong (Hong Kong), by Leila Rispens-Noel, Joy Tadios Arenas, Heda Bayron, Cindy Wong (Hong Kong), is an anthology of 32 stories of success in overcoming struggles of Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong. They present the pros and cons of migration to Hong Kong. The book also discusses the multi-dimensionality of Filipino life and the economic, social, and human rights accorded to migrants in the Chinese Special Administrative Region.
3. Print Journalism Award-Best Book (Non-Fiction/Reference) – Kain na Kabayan: The Kusina ni Kabayan Philippine Cookbook (China) by Kusina ni Kabayan, Perlita Pengson, Armando Peñafuente III is the first-ever culinary publication produced by KnK Filipino volunteers in Beijing. It features recipes made by KnK member home cooks and other stories in line with the Philippine food culture. The cookbook is the culmination of KnK’s mission to break the notion that Philippine cuisine is not at par with other Asian cooking.
4. Print Journalism Award-Best Book (Fiction) – Imelda’s Secret (USA) by Liza Gino is a historical fiction novel about the experiences of young girls and women who were abducted and forced into sexual slavery during World War II. They were known as “Comfort Women.” Systematic abuse and human trafficking were committed not just in the Philippines but in more than 30 countries, including China and Korea.
5. Print Journalism Award-Best Magazine – Roots & Wings (Switzerland), with Elizabeth von Atzigen, as Editor in Chief, is a Filipino e-magazine in Europe. The bi-monthly publication seeks to enrich, inspire, and entertain the Filipino Community in Europe. It covers stories as diverse as the community it serves—the diplomatic community, academics, entrepreneurs, young professionals, retirees, third-generation Pinoys, and everyone in between. Roots & Wings is one of the longest-running chroniclers of the Euro-Filipino experience still in publication.
6. Radio Journalism Award-Best Regular Radio Program – Pinoy Life (Hong Kong) hosted by Aileen Alonzo and Ron Lacson and airs on Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) Radio 3 / AM 567, Sunday 04:00 PM to 06:00 PM (HK). The program features the life and journey of migrants in Hong Kong and other countries. It discusses the struggles that migrants face and their accomplishments, going into the experiences of these Filipinos and extracting lessons that will help every listener improve their quality of life. Music is played in between stories, mostly Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and features as well as materials and compositions of talented Filipino artists living in Hong Kong and other places overseas.
7. Television Journalism Award-Best Regular TV Program – So Jannelle TV (USA) hosted and produced by Jannelle So-Perkins for The Filipino Channel (TFC), KNET Channel 25.5 Southern California, ANC North America, YouTube.com/SoJannelleTV. It airs on Sunday 04:30 PM (PT) / 07:30 PM (ET) on TFC, Monday 06:00 PM (PT) on KNET, Saturday 07:30 PM (PT) / 10:30 PM (ET) on ANC. The magazine talk show features issues, current events, and highlights a variety of aspects of the Filipino lifestyle in North America—from fashion to politics, to sports and community affairs. It is committed to advocating for Filipinos’ rights, welfare, and well-being.
8. Television Journalism Award-Best Episodic TV Program – Maalaala Mo Kaya: Saudi Survivor, “Tubig” (Philippines) by ABS-CBN and directed by Ruel Naval with Mae Rose Balanay-Batacan as the writer. The episode, which was aired on July 27, 2019, revolved around Sarah (Shaina Magdayao) who gave up her dream of finishing her studies and reluctantly married Nelson (Mon Confiado), who turned out to be an abusive and unfaithful husband. Motivated to provide for their family, Sarah left her children with a heavy heart to work in the Middle East. However, her life turned upside down when her employer maltreated and drove her away without giving back her legal documents. To make matters worse, the people she turned to for help sexually abused her. Although feeling like all hope was gone, Sarah put up with everything and fought for justice and her dignity.
9. Television Journalism Award-Best TV Special – Entrepinoy Abroad (Philippines) by GMA Pinoy TV and produced by Gerald B. Vista, EntrePinoy Abroad is an original work by GMA Pinoy TV that highlights the stories of Filipinos abroad who, despite the challenges, boldly put up their businesses in a foreign land. They continue to persevere and promote Filipino products to the world.
10. Television Journalism Award-Best Interstitial – Global Pinoy Unlimited (Philippines) by GMA Pinoy TV with Cheri Domingo as overall in-charge, the show has aired weekly since 2020. It features updates on trailblazing, successful, and inspiring Filipinos around the world. It also spotlights relevant community news and Pinoy headliners and their significant contributions to the community. Episodes are completed by mobilizing GMA’s network of global stringers, while select interviews are filmed from the Philippines via Zoom (during the pandemic). GMA Programming takes care of all scripts and final post-production. To date, almost 20 episodes have aired on GMA Pinoy TV.
11. Film Media Award-Best Full-Length Film – Lingua Franca (USA) directed by Isabel Sandoval, is the story of Olivia, an undocumented Filipino transwoman who works as a caregiver for Olga, an elderly Russian woman in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. When Olivia runs out of options to attain legal status in the US, she becomes romantically involved with Alex, Olga’s adult grandson, to try to get a marriage-based green card. The film looks into the plight and struggles of an illegal Filipino transwoman immigrant in the US, who is financially supporting her family back in the Philippines, and the sacrifices and desperate measures she makes to become a legal citizen.
12. Film Media Award-Best Documentary – Kontra Corona Docuseries (United Kingdom) hosted by Rose Eclarinal, Gene Alcantara, and Crystal Dias. In September 2020, with the support of The National Lottery Community Fund, Juan EU Konek produced a six-part docuseries (which ran from September 2020 to February 2021). The first of its kind, the docuseries leaves an invaluable legacy that current and future generations of Filipinos can reflect on and learn from. It told the story of how COVID-19 affected and continues to affect the Filipino community in Europe, highlighting the crucial role Filipino frontliners had played in the battle, including those who sadly lost their lives and those who survived and continue to put themselves at risk to perform their duties.
13. Interactive Media Award-Best Website – Filipino-Japanese Journal (Japan) by Florenda Corpuz is a website that has been a source of information, particularly for Filipinos in Japan, for the past 10 years. To reach a broader market, the team behind the website launched a print magazine for sharing their compelling stories to change the way news is delivered in the community. Published every third week of the month, the Filipino-Japanese Journal has a team of exceptionally passionate and dedicated journalists, photographers, and graphic designers.
14. Interactive Media Award-Best Vlog – rrdancel (Canada) by Rachel Dancel. Rachel went to Canada as an international student and eventually became a permanent resident. She created a YouTube Channel to vent her frustrations over the difficulties she had on the way to becoming a permanent resident. Her vlog, which aims primarily to educate and inform international students wanting to move to Canada, quickly gained momentum and support from the viewers. By creating content around the issue of immigration agencies, she helps prepare students for the issues or roadblocks ahead.
15. Media Advocate Award – Karen Remo (UAE), Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of New Perspective Media (NPM), a group of media and marketing agencies based in Dubai with four offices in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific. Under her leadership, the group has helped more than 1,000 brands and companies reach their target customers across 36 countries. Through NPM, Dr. Remo became the Managing Editor of 999 Magazine, the official publication of the UAE Ministry of Interior. Remo is also the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Filipino Times (TFT), a subsidiary of NPM. TFT is the largest digital news portal for Filipinos in the Middle East and the biggest free newspaper in the UAE.
16. Media Advocate Award – Buena Bernal (Philippines), a multi-platform enterprising journalist of Channel News Asia with a decade of field reporting experience. She has traveled around the Philippines to cover stories on development and human rights. As an international news correspondent, she has focused on labor migration stories, amplifying the contributions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in their countries of destination and to nation-building at home. In the past two years, Ms. Bernal produced TV and text stories that aired internationally on the plight of stranded and returning seafarers amid the pandemic, the technology-related solutions to fight contract substitution, and other OFW-related issues, as well as the need for social protection of migrant domestic workers. She helped raise funds and call attention to a group of workers in Singapore who figured in a holiday vehicular accident.
17. Media Advocate Award – Nash Ang (South Korea) is a Filipino actor-director based in Seoul, South Korea, and California, USA. He appeared in numerous Korean dramas and movies such as “Arthdal Chronicles” where he represented the Philippines on another level by integrating Filipino languages as part of the script for Korean actors. His first film as director won the grand prize at the ASEAN-Korea Multimedia Competition 2010. He was also named Best Director at the 13th Pyongyang International Film Festival in North Korea. He is the director of the first-ever Filipino-Korean Feature Film “Seoul Mates”. His commitment to upholding Filipino artistic excellence in the International Film Scene earned him in 2011 and 2016 the “Ani ng Dangal” award for Cinema grantees in the Philippines.
18. Media Advocate Award – Annalisa Burgos (USA) is an international news anchor, Asia correspondent, and freelance content creator with 20 years of experience in news, business, and lifestyle reporting, producing and news anchoring across Asia and the United States, including Singapore, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. From 2013-2016, she was an anchor/correspondent for Channel News Asia and host of “What’s Cooking,” a weekly food and travel show. In 2017, she launched ABS-CBN News Channel’s morning newscasts Early Edition and News Now as the lead anchor and managing editor and hosted the popular “Food Diplomacy” segment. Since 2019, she has been a TV news anchor/reporter for the KITV-4 Island News in Hawaii and anchors Good Morning Hawaii Weekends. Her segments on media platforms primarily focus on Philippine politics, the Filipino diaspora in many countries, and the welfare and well-being of Filipinos overseas and/or their families in the Philippines.
19. Media Advocate Award – Rhia Luz (USA) is the pioneering figure and host of Buhay sa Amerika, a Filipino radio show with an online presence based in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. It has become the Filipino-American Community’s voice since its founding in 2017. Broadcast at a Spanish radio station, Entremujeres Radio, the show promotes stories of Filipino-Americans that inspire and share positive lessons with the audience and the community.
1. Grand prize winner – Edwin Dimaculangan for “Pangarap”. Inspired by the labor migration story of his wife, Susie, “Pangarap” is about a child’s dream to work abroad when she grows up so she can take her family out of poverty. She prepared herself academically and acquired various skills that she needed in working abroad. While working abroad, she experienced a lot of challenges and difficulties and made sacrifices but she was able to overcome them; she succeeded and fulfilled her dream for her family with God’s help.
2. Second Place winner – Anthony “TJ” Paeldon for “Miss”. The song is about his struggle of missing his loved ones while in Singapore as an OFW musician/pianist, who doubled as a waiter at a Japanese restaurant after his band’s gig, then wore a third hat as a janitor for the same restaurant at closing time. Before the global pandemic, many musicians in his time in Singapore were side-lined as waiters or other hired help at the restaurants.
3. Third place winner – Hemmady and Ian Mora for “Bayaning World Class”. The song pays tribute to the overseas Filipino/Filipina hailed as “modern-day heroes” for accepting all labor migration challenges–from fitting in and making cultural adjustments to overcoming feelings of loneliness from leaving their homes and families. Branded as “world-class”, their skills and craft are also celebrated in the song have earned the respect and admiration of their employers across the globe.