Notable Filipinos like boxing great Manny Pacquiao and veteran actor Lou Diamond Phillips have helped show that the Philippines produces some of the best talents the world has to offer. And increasingly, Filipinos’ footprint on the public stage is spreading into the musical arena.
According to a recent feature published in The New York Times, tens of thousands of Filipinos have left their native countries to pursue a career in music overseas, enabling them to send money to their families back home on occasion and at the same time establish themselves in the entertainment business. In fact, in 2002 and 2004, more than 40,000 Filipinos in each year went overseas searching for the break they needed to make it big, with most of these individuals moving to Japan.
U.S., Philippines musical preferences similar
Since then, Filipinos have been bringing the world the sounds that are favored by locals, including hard rock, reggae, jazz and the blues. Some have gone on to make it big, while others decided to walk away from their aspirations because they needed money quickly.
Domingo Mercado, Jr., told the paper that he was one of those people who may have been able to make it in the entertainment industry, but economic realities forced his hand, taking a job that paid him the money he needed to support his family.
“I resigned from the band and took a job in Korea,” Mercado told the Times. “I gave up on my dream.”
He added that he hasn’t given up on his musical career entirely, though, as he has performed in public settings for nearly 20 years, primarily in Asia.
As difficult as it may be for Americans to make it into the entertainment world, the same is true for Filipinos – whether they display their talents in distant corners of the earth or in the U.S. POEA notes that 1.6 million people left the Philippines in 2011 to live and work overseas, with most of those leaving pursuing careers in household services.
“A hotel might need many waiters, cooks and housekeepers,” Ceslo Hernandez, head of the POEA’s operation division, told The New York Times. “But they only need one or two musicians.”
A combination of luck and skill may help explain how some Filipinos have been able to successfully break into the entertainment business. People like Charice Pempengco. According to her official website, Pempengco got her break in 2007, after posting a variety of web videos of her singing. Her talent got her noticed almost immediately among the Hollywood elite, earning appearances on television talk shows like “Ellen” and “Oprah.”
“You are a force to be reckoned with,” Oprah once said of Pempengco. “That voice comes from something bigger than yourself.”
Then there’s Lea Salonga, a singer and actress that may be best known for her work in the Broadway musical “Miss Saigon” and for serving as the voice of Jasmine in the 1994 animated film Aladdin. Salonga recently released a studio-produced album, “The Journey So Far,” and her website is constantly updated with details on where she will be appearing next to sing or perform on-stage.
Prior to devoting much of their earnings to their families through an international transfer, there was a time in many Filipinos’ lives when they spent a lot of their money attending sporting events and purchasing gear representing their favorite teams. In a way, this was to give thanks to the professional athletes who performed at their peak and provided millions of Filipinos with entertainment and fun.
Today, the Filipino government is providing past sports heroes with their fellow countrymen’s appreciation in a more direct way.
According to the Philippines Inquirer, the senate has passed a piece of legislation - Senate Bill 3322 – that would provide government-sponsored health insurance benefits to professional Filipino athletes who have retired.
Aquilino Pimentel III, one of the main senators who supported the bill, indicated that many of today’s sports legends are facing serious health issues because of the sacrifices they made, stretching their physical exertion abilities to the limit.
“Many professional athletes have risked their health and sometimes their very lives for the nation,” said Pimentel III. “Their achievements have put the Philippines in the map. But our memories are short.”
He added that while these men and women were idolized when they were playing professionally, many have been forgotten since then and have few they can turn to for help when they need it most.
“This bill seeks to provide more than lip service to professional athletes who have dedicated their careers to the nation and who have brought prestige to our country,” he stated, according to the Inquirer.
Should SB 3322 gather enough votes to be signed into law, all Filipino professional athletes older than 50 years of age would be given a lifelong stipend that could be put toward healthcare services. Much of what they earn will depend on their level of achievement. For example, the paper notes that each member of a team that wins a championship after defeating another Filipino athletic team will get 10,000 pesos while championship team members will be awarded 15,000 pesos for winning an international crown.
2012 notable performances
Many of today’s Filipino coaches and athletes know what it’s like to be a champion. The Philippine Star recently put together a list of the world’s most-successful athletes, originating from the Philippines, who will long remember 2012.
Perhaps no athlete is better known among Filipinos – or more revered – than boxing champ Manny Pacquiao. The Fighting Congressman has experienced few losses and setbacks over his professional boxing career, but 2012 was not a year that will likely go down as one of his best. In June, Pacquiao lost in a split decision to Timothy Bradley, though many ringside experts as well as viewers watching from home thought Pac-Man had the better performance.
Six months later, Pacquiao return to the ring, only this time facing Juan Manuel Marquez. In a stunning upset, the 34-year-old was knocked out in the sixth round, giving Marquez the match and sending Pacquiao to his fifth defeat.
Faring better performance wise was Erik Spoelstra, head coach for the NBA Champion Miami Heat. Spoelstra led the Heat to their first NBA title since 2005 after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in a best-of-seven series.
Another headliner cited by The Philippine Star was the entire Philippine Volcanoes Rugby Team. Their respective performances in the Philippine Rugby Football Union were so impressive, they earned the attention of some of the game’s most respected experts. Many say the Volcanoes are among the best in all of Asia.
When immigrants leave their native countries so they can pursue their careers in the U.S. – and in the process, send money back home to their loved ones – family is almost certainly the component of life they missed the most about the comforts of home.
But in the conversation for the joys of life that immigrants long for the most is home cooking, be it Mexican, Indian, Thai or Chinese.
While many of these options are available in the U.S., some are less popular than others, such as Filipino fare. But according to various news outlets, Filipino cuisine is all the rage in 2013.
As noted recently by the website The Food Channel, “Today” show contributor and Travel Channel host Andrew Zimmern recently penned a blog posting about Filipino food becoming more commonplace in the U.S., both among individual consumers and in restaurants.
“It’s just starting,” said Zimmern. “I think it’s going to take another year and a half to get up to critical mass, but everybody loves Chinese food, Thai food, Japanese food, and it’s all been exploited. The Filipinos combined the best of all of that with Spanish technique.”
He added that between now and 2015, he wouldn’t be surprised if Filipino food earns the distinction as the country’s “next big thing.”
Filipinos attempt to make cuisine more easily recognizable
BBC News reports that there’s been a concerted effort among Filipinos, both in the U.S. and abroad, to make Filipino cuisine more mainstream.
Rolando Laudico, a chef based in Manila, told the international news source that he and his wife are determined to take food that’s typically only found in the Philippines to a wider audience.
“We base our flavors on traditional Philippine flavors, and we get inspired by them,” said Laudico. “We innovate, we do our own style, and we make it accessible for foreigners.”
He added that because Filipino food is among the most flavorful varieties of food in the world, clearly taste is not the reason it’s not more popular than it could be. He suggests that its unpopularity may derive from Filipinos not giving it the respect that it deserves. As such, dinner hosts should not apologize to their guests when dishes like adobo, sinigang, lumpia and pancit on the menu, which people have been given to do for many years.
Perhaps one of the best U.S. cities to frequent for fine Filipino cuisine is Chicago. Recently, USA Today did a feature on Filipino restaurants in the Windy City, which is increasingly becoming a major metropolitan area for residents native to the Philippines. Restaurants like Meral’s Kitchen, Isla Filipino Restaurant, Little Quiapo Restaurant and Ruby’s Fast Food are all located within the city’s borders and feature dishes that exemplify Filipino cooking, including empanadas, barbeque pork and various chicken dishes.
The paper further notes that the many of these dishes are extremely affordable. For instance, at one restaurant located near Chicago’s historic Lincoln Square, lunch plates are no more than $5.99 on weekdays during the traditional lunch-dining hours.
How quickly Filipino food becomes synonymous with Chinese food in terms of its pervasiveness is anyone’s guess, but if it bears any resemblance to the rate at which the Filipino population has increased in the U.S., it could be soon. According to the Census Bureau, Filipinos are the second-largest Asian group in the country, totaling 3.4 million people based on 2010 estimates.
Millions of people who send money to their families back home originate from China or live in a different country but have Chinese heritage, like the Philippines. Some of these people may have come to the U.S. so they can earn a living and perform an online money transfer. Due to a variety of circumstances, though, they may encounter issues in which they would like to bring a family member of theirs to the U.S. as well. This may be difficult, though, for people who are fluent in Chinese and have a limited understanding of English.
Fortunately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will soon conduct a national Chinese-language engagement on how people who live in the U.S. can petition on behalf of a family member.
On October 18 from 2 to 3 p.m., Eastern Time, USCIS will host a question and answer session for people with a Chinese background, focusing on how they can petition for an immediate relative. People can participate either through the web, or if they live in the New York City area, in person.
Previously, USCIS has conducted similar engagements with people who have Hispanic heritage, through the quarterly Spanish-language program called "Enlaces." Due to the high demand among people with Asian heritage, though, the government agency will host "Jiao Liu" – which is the Chinese equivalent of the word "engagement."
Taking part in the program will surely be of great benefit to those who may be trying to learn English but are still working on it.
While being fluent in English may be one of the best ways to secure a job so you can send money to your family back home, being able to speak multiple languages is a supremely marketable skill that may give you an advantage in the interview process. And though there may be many thousands of languages spoken, few could argue that Chinese may be one of the best ones to know.
One in every five people in the world are Chinese
That's because China is the most populous country in the world. In fact, one in every five people in the world are Chinese, meaning that individuals are likely to encounter someone whose family originates from there every day.
This may explain why Chinese is spoken in so many places, as statistics indicate that Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world, used not only in the U.S. and China, but also in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Specific to the U.S., though, according to a Newsweek article, Chinese is the third most commonly spoken language in American homes, beaten out by only English and Spanish.
And more people are realizing the advantages that come with being multilingual. According to a recent survey from the Modern Language Association, enrollment is up in many different language courses offered at American Universities. Since 2002, enrollment in Chinese languages courses have jumped 51 percent, making it among the top 10 language courses studied at U.S. universities.
Many Filipinos send money to their loved ones with Xoom’s cash pick-up service. Xoom has literally thousands of pickup locations in the Philippines. From M.Lhuillier to Metrobank, BPI to BDO, there are close to 10,000 banks, retail locations and financial service institutions ready and willing to give what your relatives have waiting for them.
But “waiting” may not be the best term to use, as once you complete your online money transfer, your recipient’s money will often be ready in 15 minutes. In other words, in the time it takes for some to walk to their nearest pickup location, there’s a pretty good chance that their money will be waiting for them instead of the reverse.
Another perk that comes with picking up money sent through Xoom is the availability of the banks your recipient will be going to. It seems that everyone has a hectic schedule – no matter where they live – so many locations, such as retailers such as Cebuana Lhuillier and M.Lhuillier are open round the clock – 24 hours a day, seven days per week. This benefits both your recipient and you, as you won’t have to worry about sending something too late and your family member can go pick it up at their convenience.
Find out why Xoom’s cash pickup is one of the more popular ways customers complete their international money transfer by signing up today.
While the ability to transfer money to the Philippines is a top priority for U.S.-based Filipinos, its taken on a heightened sense of urgency in recent days, as much of the country has been gripped by severe flooding.
According to radio station WNYC, money transfer services have been a top priority for Filipinos in New York, as many people who live and work in the region have friends and family in the Southeast nation. While some people in the Philippines have been more adversely impacted than others, several Filipino natives told the station that they are looking to send money just as soon as the high water levels have subsided, as locals have been confined to their homes because the waters have been too high.
Cholito Arce, a 58-year-old freight service manager who lives in Queens, told the radio station he will wire money to his Manila-based family the second they are able to retrieve their funds.
"They'll just wait, probably, for a message," said Arce. "What do they need? Do they need some money to repair the house? Or somebody's sick. That's the time when they’ll be sending."
He added that he's in constant communication with his family, primarily through his cellphone when he either sends them a text message or calls them directly. He also indicated that he's able to stay in top of everything that's happening in his home country thanks to a local radio station that delivers the latest information on the flood.
"It concerns us because most of our relatives are there," Arce told WNYC.
Someone else whose family has been impacted by the high water levels is Jade Manuel, a resident of the Queens borough of Woodside. She's already made an attempt to send money to the Philippines, but like Arce, the flooding has made pick up difficult.
"They are just inside the house," she told the New York-based radio station. "Good thing they have canned goods for them to eat."
Because of the flooding waters, the best means of transfer may be by bank deposit. Typically, the money that's sent with Xoom is deposited within a few hours for accounts with Bank of the Philippine Islands. Filipinos who live in the U.S. may want to get in touch with their family before they make a transaction, as well as the financial institution their recipient has an account with. They may be able to provide additional, up-to-the-minute information as it pertains to operating hours and when transfers may be completed.
According to news agency Agence France-Presse, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos have been forced to abandon their homes due to the flooding waters. While some of the flooding has lessened, as much as 80 percent of Manila was flooded during the first week of August.
Remittance flows to the Philippines may not finish ahead of previous years after all, as a new projection indicates the rate of growth will be slower in 2012 due to trying economic circumstances in Europe.
According to financial services firm DBS Group, remittances from those who send money to the Philippines will grow 5 percent, which is down from the 7.2 percent rate of growth experienced in 2011 and 8.2 percent in 2010. This latest projection conflicts with what the financial group projected earlier this year, indicating that remittances bound for the Philippines "may perform even better [than in 2011] on the back of higher economic growth in the United States this year." However, it is in line with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' projection, which recently downgraded its forecast from earlier this year.
There is some evidence to suggest that the estimation may turn out to be accurate. According to the report, so far this year, there's been a 6 percent drop in remittances being sent to the Philippines from Europe. Meanwhile, workers in the U.S. have sent more money home, with remittance flows jumping by 11 percent when contrasted to the same period of time in 2011.
"Resilient numbers from Asia and the United States helped to prop up the overall figure," DBS pointed out in a research note.
Philippines-based online news portal InterAksyon.com indicates that through the first part of the year, Filipinos and others who send money overseas have spawned a significant growth in the number of people who are spending money on various purchases in the country. Roughly two-thirds of the Philippines' gross domestic product – which is the total value of goods and services produced in a given year – emanates from consumer spending. More specifically, about 4.6 percent of the country's 6.4 percent economic growth spurt in the first quarter was due to the things Filipinos bought.
While these numbers suggest the Philippines places a great deal of reliance on remittances, it needs to rely on other means to keep its economy operating at its best, a recent report indicated.
Last month, the Business Mirror reported that because remittances are such a significant source of growth for the Philippines, the country may be putting a dependence on them, according to researchers from Oxford Business Group.
"The dependence on [overseas Filipino workers] to provide revenue and mitigate poverty leaves the Philippines open to external shocks over which the government has little control," the report noted.
OBG added that to guard against this overdependence, the country's leaders need to encourage people in the private sector to invest more in training, research and innovation, which will help serve as an additional source of economic growth for the Filipino economy.
In less than three weeks, the man many boxing analysts and fans view as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet will step inside the squared circle, looking to notch his 55th win in 59 fights. And with Xoom, you can watch the action for free.
Manny Pacquiao – or "Pac-Man" as many like to call him – will square off against Timothy Bradley Jr. on Saturday night, June 9, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. Naturally, boxing enthusiasts might be willing to put up the $55 to order the pay-per-view event. However, you can watch the two go at it for free simply by signing up with Xoom.
The program is really quite simple. All you have to do is send your first money transfer to the Philippines by clicking this link and then again on the green "Get Started" button. That will take you to a screen where you'll enter your username – which is your email address – and a password.
After going through the step-by-step transaction process, check your email. Within about an hour or so after the transaction has been completed, you'll receive an email from Xoom confirming your eligibility and to inform you that the transfer has gone through. Then, simply order the June 9th Pacquiao-Bradley fight on pay-per-view with your television remote or by calling your local cable provider. Within 14 to 15 days, you should receive your $55 prepaid VISA gift card that you can use to pay for the pay-per-view event.
But don't wait – this offer is for a limited time only – extending from May 21 through June 9 – and is only available for customers who send their first transfer through this page.
As you may already know, Pacquiao has performed well in previous fights. He boasts a record of 52 wins and just three losses and 38 of his wins have been by knockout. He's also won numerous titles over his career, including flyweight, super bantamweight, featherweight light middleweight, light welterweight and light middleweight.
Timothy Bradley is no pushover, either. Though younger at 28, he's never had a loss, as his record currently stands at 27-0, six of them being KOs.
Will this be Pacquiao's latest in a long line of victories or could the younger Bradley upset the Fighting Pride of the Philippines? The world will be watching on June 9th!