by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
HANOI, VIETNAM–TRUE to their band’s name, four Filipinos here are carving Melia Hanoi hotel’s watering hole for fellow OFWs craving for a taste of home.
They call themselves the D’Sensations, now on their second month here in a years-long tour of gigs across Asia.
Hanging out here helps us get over loneliness for being away from our families in the Philippines, Cresliejoy Abiang tells the OFW Journalism Consortium.
Abiang, who said she works at a textile firm here as a technician, is a regular at the hotel’s Latino Bar where the D’Sensations play.
That night, Abiang and some of her Filipino co-workers tap their feet as the D’Sensation band belted out Gloria Estefan’s Conga.
This is where we really hang out, Abiang said as some customers took the floor to sway as D’Sensation’s lead singer Liza asked everybody to “feel the fire of desire.”
“Simple unwinding here helps us, especially when we feel we worked too hard this week,” Abiang said.
Abiang’s officemate Gina brought her two children, who vacationed in Hanoi for a month and were going back to their home in Bataan the next day.
“I keep in touch with them. I send them money,” Gina said.
This motive of overseas Filipino workers like Gina and the Abiang siblings is the reason why they work too hard.
Too hard that the 200 OFWs here can’t meet as a community, complains Philippine Ambassador Laura del Rosario.
Del Rosario was referring to Philippine holidays like the Independence Day on June 12 but which the embassy here celebrated June 8.
“They say they’d rather rest.”
Rest they need, as D’Sensation band reflects.
After the third of six sets of a total 48 songs for the night, the members who came from Bataan and Davao, grab the nearest bottle or glass of drink each can get their hands on.
Still, everybody here is easy to entertain, says Liza.
Indeed, it is since Hanoi has been considered Vietnam’s cultural center aside from serving as its capital.
As a hub for universities, Hanoi, 1,751 kilometers northwest of Manila, is perfect for Filipinos here who are mostly high-level professionals and executives in leading international and Vietnamese companies, restaurants, hotels, food industry, and special infrastructure projects.
“THANKS for the beer,” D’Sensation lead guitarist Jun salutes a group of six Filipinos who bought him a bottle.
Jun said that since they began doing gigs here, they were amazed by the spirit of hard work among Vietnamese.
Hence, they also prove Filipinos are equally hard-working.
For instance, their band begins their first set at 8:30 p.m. every day until their last set of eight songs end, or half-past midnight.
Jun says at least five of their regular customers are Filipinos.
“That’s why sometimes we play Filipino songs or Latina music with Filipino melodies,” he explains.
Indeed, on their fourth set, where they played “Manila Girl” by Put3ska, customers leapt on their feet.
Hence, the Thai-owned bar has been tagged a watering hole for Filipinos. It also helped that its manager and Cresliejoy’s brother Jay Abiang, is a Filipino.
“Hanoi is visibly progressing, so Filipinos work harder here,” he said.
Rising remittances from an estimated 1,300 OFWs in Vietnam (including those in Ho Chi Minh City) indicate their hard work.
From January to October 2007, more than US$0.667 million were sent back home, above the $0.471-million figure in the same ten-month period the previous year.
Deployment of newly-hired and re-hired OFWs to Vietnam also reached a record in 2006 with 1,348 workers, according to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration data.
The Commission on Filipinos Overseas reports two Filipinos are permanent residents of Vietnam.
Some 14 overseas performing artists were sent to Vietnam in 2006, POEA data reveals, making the communist country the ninth leading destination country of OPAs that year.
Some of these OPAs, Jun says, are performing in Vietnamese and foreign restaurants in downtown Hanoi.
Some Filipinos have also married Vietnamese nationals and have set up businesses there, while a few are unskilled workers and minors.
One rare time that the Filipino community in Hanoi became visible was during the November 2006 summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) when President Macapagal-Arroyo was in Melia Hanoi herself on a side event.
“Let’s try emulating that discipline Vietnam displayed,” Arroyo told the Filipinos there led by members of the group Pinoys sa Hanoi.
That discipline is mirrored by Jay’s fingers dancing on the frets of his electric guitar.
Hard work and discipline are what OPAs like him and the D’Sensation band members make labor migration a sensational success for the Philippines.