Saturday, June 27, 2015

Some Ugly Truths About Some Filipino Migrants in Korea

Filipino migrants in Korea have their own share of controversial issues. If you see them shining, shimmering and splendid on their Facebook photos, that’s because they only choose what to show to people. The truth is, living as a foreigner in Korea is not 100 percent fun. There are also struggles, discrimination and challenges. Every Filipino living in Korea is prone to controversy because the challenge that everyone is facing here is pushing one to the limit.

Homesickness, temptations, racial discrimination and confusions are among the factors that lead some Filipinos to do things that maybe against the law of the people and the law of God. Because of that, I have noted here the top 5 issues that may put a scar to the dignity of Filipino migrants in Korea. I must issue a disclaimer first that I write this article not to degrade the Filipinos in Korea but to provide useful information based on facts so that those who are planning to come and live here have the idea not only about the good things that the Filipinos are enjoying in Korea but also some ugly truths that they could avoid.

Top 5: ARTISTA na yan!!!!

Artista is quite a derogatory word for some because it means “illegal alien”. While it means an actress or an actor, if a person is called Artista in Korea, that means the person has no legal document to stay in the country and he or she is just acting out like he or she is legal.

As of this moment, Philippines is rank 4 in countries with most numbers of illegal immigrants in Korea following China, Thailand and Vietnam respectively.  There are more than 12,000 undocumented Filipinos in Korea, that is why the country is limiting the hiring of Filipino workers.
From the point of view of an “artista”, the reason why they choose to stay here illegally is because they could not afford to go home just yet. Either they are paying something or they haven’t saved enough money during their legal years that is why they could not lose their job. Some illegal aliens intentionally go to Korea and work. What they did was, they came here in Korea as a tourist and looked for jobs instead of the tour. As much as I want to believe that they are wrong, I understand their sentiments and struggles. If only they could find a job that could pay a decent salary in the Philippines, they will gladly choose to surrender and go back home.

Top 4: Pinoy versus Pinoy

Filipinos are generally sociable people. That is why here in Korea, there are hundreds of communities organized just so to accommodate people with the same interest, likes and tribes. To build up camaraderie among the communities, some activities like Sportsfest or basketball game are being organized. However, instead of strengthening the bond between different communities, sometimes these activities are the reason why there are heated arguments between groups.

Sometimes, the misunderstanding goes out of hand that it leads to almost killing a fellow Filipino. Some Filipinos have the guts to bring their “ugaling kanto” here in Korea. They feel like they are gangsters and they think they are “astig” if they can form a group that will give a chill to the bones of anybody that will go against their way. How many times I heard stories about a basketball game that suddenly turns out to be a riot. And who are fighting? It’s a group of Filipinos fighting another group of Filipinos. Aren’t we supposed to help each other since we are all in a foreign land?

The usual drinking session that leads to fighting is a common scene in the Philippines, but guess what, some Pinoys are also doing it here in Korea. The next thing you see, they are already trying to slit each other’s throat.

Top 3: Filipina Prostitutes, anyone?

A guy from the Philippines asked me why his girlfriend was asked to pose and introduce herself in a VTR when his girlfriend is just applying for a factory worker. That right there is a clear case of human trafficking. So I advised him to double check it because VTR is not necessary if you want to work as a factory worker. Some were promised for a decent job, an office job or whatnot but when they arrived here in Korea, they are forced to “entertain” people in the bar.

I heard a lot of stories about Filipinas being sold as sex slave. For somebody who is foreign in Korea and not equipped with the language, these girls have no choice but to sell their soul to earn money. Some tried to escape, but where else to go?

But don’t blame the Koreans for this. Most of the Filipina prostitutes in Korea are in the area where the U.S. Military base is situated. So that means their markets are the Americans and not necessarily the Koreans. But what is alarming about Filipina prostitutes here is that they are forced to do it. They usually come to Korea under the E6 Visa or the Arts and Performances. They expect to dance and sing, but apparently, they are forced to serve drinks and provide sexual services to the clients.

Top 2: The Unfaithful Wife

I have once befriended a girl I met at Hyehwa-dong, an area in Seoul where Filipino usually go every Sunday. She’s attractive and she has an interesting personality, so I started talking to her casually. She talked a lot, and in a few minutes of talking, I already knew too much information about her. She confessed that she’s cheating to her Korean husband and they are currently filing a divorce because her husband caught her in the arms of another man. I was speechless as I could not believe an angel looking lady can do this.

Recently, Korea has legalized adultery, but before the legalization of this, I heard a lot of stories about Filipina women being unfaithful to their Korean husband. I must say that not all are unfaithful. Of course I know a lot of Filipino Korean Spouses who are faithful and happy with their Korean husbands, but there are some who have the habit to blindside their husband. Some preferred a Filipino partner, so they are cheating their Korean husband to a Filipino. And yes, it is not a made up story.

Top 1: That thing Called “Ka-Couple”

I guess the “couple” thing is not only a top problem in Korea but also for other OFWs around the globe. Couple is a term to call a (excuse me for using these words) “Fvcking Buddy” or a friend with benefit. To add insult to the injury, a guy has a wife in the Philippines with 3 kids and a girl has a husband in the Philippines with 2 kids. Since they are longing for “sex” because of the long distance relationship, they decided to just do it together and keep it as a secret to their respective family.

However, some of the couples realize that their new found partner is better than their original partner, so they decided to leave their family behind and start a brand new life with their new partners here in Korea. It’s a very sad reality, but it is happening. How many times I received a private message on my Facebook page from a wife asking the whereabouts of her husband because her husband is no longer supporting them or calling them. Of course I have to ignore those kinds of messages because I don’t know how to answer.

As much as I want to remain oblivious about these ugly truths, you can’t deny the fact that Filipinos are not perfect human being. I am just hoping that everyone will become responsible of own action and will be willing to face the consequences of the mistakes made.

Nevertheless, I am still a proud Filipino.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

DMZ Tour Part 4: Visiting Dorasan Station

In front of Dorasan Station

After our enjoyable stay at Imjingak, the exciting trip to The 3rd Infiltration Tunnel and the memorable moments at the Dorasan Observatory, our shuttle bus took us to the Dorasan Station, this is the 3rd place we visited for our DMZ tour.

Dorasan Station is just like any other train stations in Korea. However, what makes this station special is that it symbolizes the hope of South Korea for the unification with North Korea. Despite the fact that both parties are not willing to give up their prejudices, South Korea is still looking forward to a day where they will become one with North Korea.

While the unification is not yet happening until today, the station is open for trains bound to Seoul. This is to give convenience for those who want to take a trip to the untouched natural environment of DMZ.

A non operational line to Pyeongyang at Dorasan Station

Aside from opening it's line for trains from Seoul, Dorasan station also operates a small souvenir shop which sells some products of North Korea. You can also buy some DMZ tour memorabilias from the shop like t-shirts and hats.

DMZ souvenir shop

There's also an exhibit in this part o the station so that visitors will have something to check out while they are on tour.

Photo exhibit at Dorasan Station

I am not Korean but I am sincerely looking forward that this station will become fully operational. I would love to go to Pyeongyang if that will happen and Dorasan Station will always be the symbol of that hope.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

MERS Update from Pyeongtaek (One of the First Cities in Korea Where MERS was Diagnosed)

Ghosttown-isque part of Pyeongtaek Korea Because of MERS Virus

MERS or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome has put South Korea into chaos these past few weeks. It all started when a 68 year old businessman returned to Korea from his trip to Middle East. He suffered severe coughing and fever causing him to visit several medical centers for treatment. He was later on diagnosed with MERS leaving trail of infections to the hospitals he visited and to the people he met.

Today, the virus has killed 14 people already and infected 138 people since the first diagnosis on May 20, 2015. The virus spreads fast all over Korea and the latest MERS-diagnosed patient is in Busan. The latest person who died from MERS virus is a 68 year old woman who contracted a virus from one of the hospitals in Pyeongtaek.

Pyeongtaek City is about 15 minutes away by bus from where I live. Despite the warnings, I went there just this afternoon just to see how the city looks like. Pyeongtaek City is one of the first 8 cities in South Korea where MERS has been diagnosed. In my mind, the city would look like a ghost town because people are afraid to go out and stores are all closed just to avoid in contact with people. But that’s just in my mind. I wouldn't really know how it looks like unless otherwise I go there and check for myself. So to put things into perspective, I went to Pyeongtaek City and here’s what I found out.

MERS maybe just around the corner of the city, but it’s still business as usual at Pyeongtaek. However, it is now as crowded as before. If you have been to Pyeongtaek before and you have tried going to the market, it’s not supposed to look like this. Yes, stores are open but I can only count people by my fingers.

Stores at Pyeongtaek City are Open But There are only few customers

Pyeongtaek Yeok is one of the busiest subway stations in South Korea. Usually, when I take subway train from Pyeongtaek Yeok, that would also means standing for hours because there are a lot of passengers from this station. But the number of people taking subway from Pyeongtaek has significantly decreased. It is not as crowded as before. These people are about to cross the pedestrian line to the Pyeongtaek Station, as you can see, you can count them easily. Prior to MERS outbreak, the number of people going to the subway station is double or triple the number of people you see in this photo.

Few people going to Pyeongtaek Station

I went to the market and I saw that it’s congested with people. Of course people need to buy food, and although it’s not safe to go to public places like the market, people have to go there for grocery.

A lot of people at Pyeongtaek Market

Some of the customers and vendors took precautionary measures to prevent MERS by wearing mask.

When going to public places like markets, people wear mask

Even at malls, vendors are seen wearing mask and they have plenty supply of hand sanitizers especially the cashiers. Some sanitizers are even put in public areas and in toilet rooms so that people can use it for free.

Sales Lady protected herself with a mask

Although business in malls especially the AK Plaza at Pyeongtaek Yeok goes as usual, I only saw few customers which I think make it safer to shop at malls because there are not a lot of people there.

Spotted few shoppers at the mall
MERS Virus maybe crippled the economy of the City, but Pyeongtaek is not totally damaged just yet. There are still people buying, there are still stores opening and business operates as usual. Although it’s not as vibrant and lively as before, the most important thing is, it’s still operational.

Pyeongtaek will surely bounce back once this virus is completely defeated. Just give it time and the night mare will just pass. All I know is that, Pyeongtaek is not yet a ghost city. Like what Pink said in her song, “We’re not broken, just bent”. MERS is a very dangerous disease because it has no vaccine or medicine just yet, but with proper knowledge on how to prevent it, Pyeongtaek or any other infected places in Korea, is not something we should avoid. And in case you don’t know some precautionary measures on how to avoid MERS, you can read my previous post about that HERE.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How to Avoid MERS Corona Virus in Korea?

It may sound cliché to some of us, but PREVENTION is always always always always better than cure. And it is not enough, I could even say it’s 100 times better than cure.

When I first heard about MERS virus spreading in Korea, I was like “ok, just another virus in the air”. However, I was convinced that this is a serious issue when I read that it is a viral respiratory illness that is new to humans. It was actually originated from the Middle East as the acronym suggests. MERS means Middle East Respiratory Syndrome and it was first reported in Saudi Arabia in year 2012 and suspected that the virus came from the camels. It became viral and spread to other countries.

The reason why MERS reached Korea is because of this one person who came back from his trip to Middle East. He brought the virus here in Korea (unintentionally of course) and so far has killed 2 people. What makes me worried even more is that MERS patients were diagnosed in the hospitals in the area where I live. Just the thought that the virus is just few kilometers or even meters away from me gives me chills.

If you are here in Korea, whether you are near the area where MERS was diagnosed or not, the best thing you can do now is to avoid it as much as possible. Aside from the 2 reported deaths caused by this virus, there are about 25 people infected with the virus and counting. So here are my friendly advices to avoid MERS-CorV in Korea.

1. Take some precautionary measures

Precautionary measures include guidelines on how to properly wash your hands, how to practice proper hygiene and some safety practices. The advisory of the Philippine Embassy in  Seoul has provided pretty good instruction on how to execute proper washing of hands and other important precautionary measures. I advice you to read this on the link provided below:

Philippine Embassy Seoul MERS Advisory

2. Avoid going to places where MERS-CorV victims were diagnosed

I guess it’s easy to understand why you need to stay away from places where there’s MERS. Of course it’s a virus, and you must not even dare to come near to it. The problem is, can you identify those places? Here is a list of hospitals where the MERS was diagnosed. If you are planning to go for a check up, avoid these hospitals for now.

*CMC Vincent (성빈센트병원)
* Dongtan Hallym (동탄성심병원)
* (분당제생병원)
* (삼성서울병원)
* 여의도성모병원
* 평택성모병원
* 평택 굿모닝병원
* 건양대 병원
* 충남대 병원

3. Always remember the prevention routine to avoid MERS

Doing some precautionary measures and avoiding hospitals where MERS was diagnosed may not enough. The CDC of United States of America has formulated a prevention routine that is very essential to prevent the disease. I have verbatimly copied the instruction from ther webpage and hopefully you will find this easy to follow

Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, and help young children do the same. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, or sharing cups or eating utensils, with sick people.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as toys and doorknobs

It is better to be safe than never. Let’s remember that MERS has no vaccine and has no cure as of this moment. As I’ve said, the disease is new to humans and nobody has formulated a medicine to cure it yet. For time being, let’s prevent it and keep yourself updated with news and information about the disease because Knowledge is Power. It’s the only thing you can do right now so you will not be infected with the disease.
Keep safe everyone.