Friday, 30 October 2009

Filipinis in Israel

I had mixed feelings this morning when Paula, a guest critic during our case study presentations said that the word Filipinis is used to refer to caregivers working in Israel.
Well, I presume she was just candid. The truth is, there are approximately 48,000 Filipinos in Israel today and most are caregivers. I met some while doing our field photo assignment in Hadar, in downtown Haifa. Shown in photo is a poster of local pop star Pilolo Pascaul displayed at the entrance of the only Filipino grocery story in Haifa, a favorite hang-out of caregivers where they sing karaoke during their break time.
There will be more coming with the recent turn over of the peace keeping duties from Poland under the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). The 1st Philippine Battalion officially started their official tour of duty in the Golan Heights on Oct 22. Specifically, about 1,000 military and police personnel will be stationed in the southern sector of a United Nations-controlled zone that has kept Israeli and Syrian forces apart.
Golan Heights is a plateau with an area of 1,200 sq km located on top of the Syrian mountains. After the Six Day War in 1967 (dubbed Yom Kippur War since it happened during this religious event), Israel has occupied the area. There is no peace treaty between the two countries.
From the Golan is the view of the Sea of Gallilee (right photo) which is the lowest fresh water lake in the world at 686 feet below sea level. The Sea supplies approximately about 40% of the country's annual water requirements. Isreal has been experiencing a drought in the last five years and thus, aside from the strategic military importance, Golan controls one of the main sources of water.
I suspect Filipinis may become a force to be reckoned with considering Israel's rising aging population and now troops for this peace keeping duties. 70 years back, the Philippines opened its doors to jews fleeing the Holocaust happening in Europe at the time. President Manuel L. Quezon allocated 10,000 visas and about 1,200 jews made it to Manila safely. Today it is the reverse. Filipinos finding a safe haven in Israel for economic reasons.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Mashav Media Workshop in Haifa, Israel

"Try to adapt and not adopt because what can be good for Israel may not be good for your country " says Golda Meier Mount Carmel International Training Center (MCTC) director Mazal Renford last Monday, Oct 19 when she welcomed all twenty-five of us from 20 different countries to the International Workshop on Media Srtategies for Social Change in Haifa, Israel.

Amazing to have this much diversity. I haven't been to half of the countries represented in the program. Photo above shows batch # 10 members (front row from left) Pan (Thailand), Charles (Cameroon), Anupa (Nepal), MCTC director Mazal, University of Haifa Media Chair Prof Sondra Rubenstein, Andrew (Malawi), Jamby (Kyrzystan), Khagendra (Nepal), Me (Philippines), Chichi and Grace (Nigeria), Zyann (Philippines), Giang and Thuy (Vietnam), Monika (Albania), Luis (El Salvador), Anna (MCTC), Merkurieh (Ethiopia), Khatuna (Georgia), Toby (Ghana), Pablo (Brazil), Alejandra (Mexico/Guatamela), Mykola (Ukraine), Bhakti (Azerbaijan), Cai (China), Hugo (Peru) and Joyce (China); not in photo are Claud (Chad) and MCTC Workshop Director Michel Khan.

MCTC was founded by the first woman prime minister of Israel, Golda Meier in 1958 when she saw in African countries that women were not part of development. 51 years after, Mazal says that "it is still a laboratory to share experiences because participants become agents of change for the benefit of their country.”

MCTC became the first training center for International Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or MASHAV for short. Its purpose was to train professional women from developing and transitional countries and to provide the necessary tools for women's empowerment. It was only in 1963 when men were accepted in the program upon the request of the then President of Malawi to accommodate four male participants.

The media workshop is an annual program held in cooperation with UNESCO. This year’s batch 10 was from October 19 to 30, 2009. The end goal was to analyze the role of media as a tool for social change, review communication theories and advocacy journalism as tools for changing public opinion, learn to use web 2.0 material and discuss transnational issues affecting participants' home countries.

The approach was "hands-on" training with lectures led by 72-year old Prof. Rubenstein (left photo), Distinguished Professor, School of Communications at University of Haifa and guest lecturers such as Prof. Niv Ahituv (Academic Director, Netvision Institute of Internet Studies and Chair for Research and Information Evaluation in Tel Aviv University), Eran Ketter (Branding Specialist), Yaheli Amit (photojournalist of the top newspaper “Haaretz”), Nir Barav (Producer, Labrador Records), and lastly, the workshop was closed with a geopolitics session with Ambassador Gershon Gan.

Prof. Sondra said she can never be a journalist. She described herself as someone with a lot of biases and a national memory that she can never forget. She was a child of four when the war broke out.

The workshop was interspersed with observation visits which included the holy sites in Jerusalem, Galilee, and Nazareth; Golan Heights; tête-à-tête at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Jerusalem with Andy David (deputy spokesman), Mark Regev (right photo, Prime Minister's Foreign press and Public Affairs adviser) and journalists from Israel Post, channel 2 and Jerusalem Post; a visit in a kibbutz in Beersheba and Dimona; and, a talk and tour with Iri Kassel (director of the Ben Gurion Heritage Institute) at Ben Gurion's memorial in the Negev Desert.

The workshop concluded with the presentation of case studies on specific prevailing transnational issues by each team: territorial disputes (team 1, left photo), global impact of terrorism (team 2), media impact on swine flu (team 3), challenge to prevent violation of human rights in domestic violence (team 4) and global crisis impact on migrant laborers (team 5, photo below).

If it weren’t for the diversity of the team, we wouldn’t have a global perspective of the realities in each countries. The issues presented were timely and relevant especially the impact of migrant laborers coming back home and territorial disputes. There are 11 million overseas Filipino workers representing 11% of the population contributing over 18 billion dollars annually or 13 % GDP. What will happen to the families of these returning workers, will the workers be able to reintegrate back home? What will be the effect on GDP with the decline in remittances? Israel is experiencing contentions at all sides –Golan Heights with Syria over control of the Sea of Galilee, West Bank with Palestine, Gaza with the extremist group Hamas. And of course, the Philippines has its own dispute down South in the province of Mindanao with the militant Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which has been pushing for a formation of an independent Islamic state.

The net take away of the program is not only the training but the exchange of learnings from each of the participants and through friendship, the possibility of cooperation and collaboration in projects. I strongly suggest that people take this program. The next one is slated in 2010.. The workshop is intended for women and men between the ages of 30 and 50, “who hold positions as journalists, television presenters reporting on socio-economic issues, public relations officers in service, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and planners of media strategies for grassroots organizations.” If you are interested in a scholarship, contact the course director Michel Kahn at

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Warning to all: Facebook can be hacked!!!!!

I was happily sitting here in Golda Meier Training Center in Haifa (Israel) listening to author and consultant Eren Ketter discussing Media Strategies when I got this chat text from Rogy. it seemed harmless since he started off with a "how are you?" greeting until he said that he was "in a deep mess." The chat went as follows:

good!! hot here.
how are you?
2:35pm Rogy
i see
well am not good
am in a deep mess right now
2:35pm Rosan
what do you mean?????
2:36pm Rogy
I'm in london right now
for a quick business
I got mugged last night at gun point,all cash,phones,credit card gone!
2:37pm Rosan
oh my god!! can you go to the embassy??? are you ok?
2:38pm Rogy
thank God i still have life to live and my passport
2:38pm Rosan
do you have a place to stay?
2:38pm Rogy
i'm in a hotel
2:39pm Rosan
your mum knows?
2:39pm Rogy
i need your urgent help
nobody knows,i dont want to scare anyone
i will tell them when i get back
2:39pm Rosan
what do you want me to do... workshop starting now.
2:41pm Rogy
could you spare me some $$$$,i need to settle the hotel bills and then take a cab down to the airport
2:53pm Rosan
will tell your sister. Thanks.
2:56pm Rogy
dont tell her
i dont want to shock anyone
dont tell Sussan ok

Bingo! His sister's name is not 'Susann' so this is obviously a scam. I should have been tipped off with the language. "Deep mess" is not normally used in the Philippines. I thought Facebook is one of the safer sites. But then again, I guess nothing is 'safe'. Be warned. Change your passwords often and be careful with what you post. Your site can be hacked.
For more info, visit:

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Pepeng off-track: noetic science in action?

Fans of Dan Brown will be happy to note that many attribute Pepeng's change in direction to noetic science - collective prayers, positive vibes, healing energy that somehow veered the super typhoon (defined as more than 240 kph winds) away from battered-Manila.
The aftermath of last week's typhoon Ondoy is worst than Afghanistan. Submerged areas like Pasig (which is a stone's throw from my office!!!), Cainta, Marikina, etc. depict mountains of debris and the smell is unbearable due to apparently a mix of trash and animal cadavers.
The death toll of Ondoy has reached 280 and still counting plus notwithstanding Pepeng's fatalities which wreaked havoc up North (i.e. Baguio, Tugegarao, Benguet, etc). I heard in the news of a looming food crisis next year since most of the crops have been wiped out.
The post-typhoon operation here has been dubbed as 'People Power 3" as thousands have come out to help and volunteer in relief centers and gone out of their way to distribute packages to afflicted areas and now, setting up medical missions and soup kitchens in evacuation centers. Netizens have been non-stop posting on FB, twitter, plurk, etc and sending texts to mobilize and coordinate. FB lately has been likened to a mini-DZMM (a local AM radio station) with all the reports - from goods needed, transport available (including boats and ten-wheeler trucks), volunteers needed and lately, weather reports and power interruptions! Gosh, sometimes I tune out on FB because of the alarmist-type posts.
Well, we need more noetic action because there's another super typhoon in the horizon spotted up North in Basco called Quedan with 250kph winds. I don't think Manila or Luzon can take another beating.