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It’s been a couple of weeks since I arrived in sunny San Francisco and I am cherishing this bonding time with my family. The Filipino community here is welcoming, as always, but in the past few days, there has been a bit of excited buzz. President Bongbong Marcos will be arriving to attend the APEC CEO Summit. This is an important event where the 21 member-states of APEC convene for extensive discussions concerning global opportunities and challenges that are currently shaping economic, environmental and societal trends within the region.
Along with the APEC CEO Summit comes the opportunity for the President to connect with the thriving Filipino communities in the United States. The President’s visit is not only important for diplomatic reasons but also because it provides a platform for overseas Pinoys to have their voices heard and share their unique perspectives on the situation back home.
Overseas Pinoys, OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) in particular, are the lifeblood of the Philippine economy. Pinoys can be found in every corner of the world; in fact, it never ceases to amaze me when I hear stories of Filipinos residing in far-flung regions, proudly representing their heritage and making a positive impact wherever they go. During my visits to San Francisco, I have had the privilege of meeting numerous Pinoys who thrived in their chosen fields. They are admired for their strong work ethic, determination and resilience.
The success of overseas Pinoys is a testament to the potential of the Filipino people. It is a reminder that the Philippines is blessed with talented individuals who, given the right opportunities and support, can make a significant impact on our economy and society. While they may have left their homeland in search of better opportunities, I am certain that they carry within them a deep-rooted love for their country and a desire to contribute to its progress.
The diaspora of Filipinos has enriched not just Filipino culture but also the common Filipino’s awareness and understanding of the world. Many Filipino families, I am sure, got acquainted with the Middle East because a relative was once, or still is, working there.
Beyond this infusion into the Filipino culture, many OFWs, especially the entrepreneurial-minded, brought back best practices and business concepts that have worked well overseas and tried them out in our own country. We have witnessed this phenomenon in various sectors, particularly in agriculture, where returning OFWs used their knowledge and experience to establish successful businesses inspired by their time abroad.
It is these individuals that Go Negsoyo seeks to honor at the upcoming Balik-Bayan Summit, where we will present the Inspiring Balik-Bayan Awards.
The Balik-Bayan Summit is a platform to provide business opportunities and foster investment matches for OFWs, encouraging them toward entrepreneurship and ensuring that their hard work and resources are put to productive and profitable use. Too many times, we hear stories of OFWs being robbed of their hard-earned money through dubious investment schemes. When we set out to organize this special entrepreneurship event specifically for OFWs, we envisioned insightful discussions led by industry leaders, inspirational and learning sessions featuring successful entrepreneurs and free onsite mentorship sessions, where participants are presented with abundant opportunities to embark on their entrepreneurial journey. I think the lineup of the Balik-Bayan Summit this December will deliver on this vision.
One of the highlights of the Balik-Bayan Summit is the Inspiring Balik-Bayan Awards, which will celebrate and give recognition to the outstanding achievements and inspirational stories of the Filipino OFW-turned-entrepreneur.
I would like to think that “Balik-Bayan” extends beyond the usual Tagalog term that is used to refer to overseas Filipinos returning to their homeland. It is also a call for our expatriates to give back to the country – mag-balik sa bayan – by sharing their knowledge and resources with their countrymen and contributing to the progress of our nation.
OFWs are so much more than their remittances. Firstly, their experiences abroad have exposed them to different cultures, ideas and practices that can be valuable in addressing the challenges faced by the Philippines. They can help bridge the gap between local practices and global standards, fostering innovation and growth in various sectors.
Secondly, OFWs who become entrepreneurs can provide employment opportunities to communities. They can nurture talent and facilitate knowledge transfer, ultimately contributing to the development of a competitive and dynamic workforce.
Furthermore, giving back to the country helps create a sense of unity and solidarity among overseas Pinoys and those living back home in the Philippines. It strengthens the bond between the diaspora and their homeland, fostering a shared vision for the nation’s progress. By actively engaging with their fellow Filipinos, overseas Pinoys can inspire and motivate others, demonstrating that success is attainable through hard work, perseverance and a commitment to making a difference. Giving back to the country allows overseas Pinoys to reconnect with their roots and preserve their connection with their heritage.
Already, many overseas Pinoys are giving back through philanthropy, providing support and guidance to aspiring individuals who may not have had the same opportunities they had. By putting up businesses back here in the Philippines, they can empower others to chart their own path to social and economic upliftment, creating a ripple effect of positive change among many individuals and throughout entire communities, and perhaps across several generations. Entrepreneurship is an opportunity to multiply the blessings and leave a lasting legacy – one that extends far beyond remittances or personal accomplishments.