Monday, October 19, 2015

The Culture of Filipino Christian Communities in Korea and Why You Should Join

Filipino Christian Communities in South Korea
Filipino Christian Communities in South Korea

If there’s one Filipino trait that we could never ever get out of our system, it’s the value of taking responsibility for fellow Filipino especially abroad. We feel like accounted for each others, and though there is no formal instruction that we should take care of each other, it’s our innate nature that has been deeply rooted to our culture to look at each other’s welfare. This is one reason why Filipino communities exist around the world. There is always a reason that binds the Filipinos who are living abroad. It could be the ethnicity like a community of Ilonggos, Bisaya, Batangueno and more. It could also be a passion like a group of travelers, or photographers, or even dancers. Whatever it is, Filipino could always find a reason to form a community.

In the context of Christianity, Filipino believers of Christ have also communities in Korea in the form of a church. People can freely express their faith and belief here in South Korea, that is why joining or attending a church is not a problem. Like any other Filipino communities in Korea, Filipino Christian churches have been the comfort zone of some OFWs in terms of nurturing their spirituality. This is where a believer could feel the sense of belonging.

As a Christian, one of my primary concerns when I came here in Korea was to join a Christian community. It took me almost one year before I was finally invited by a friend to attend the church at Sinwoldong Sungkyul Church Foreign Ministry which is by the way 3 hours away from where I work. Attending a church in Korea with fellow Filipinos are no different from the church I was attending in the Philippines. There’s the usual praise and worship, devotional, and of course listening to pastor’s preaching.

Praise and worship by PRASIA

But unlike in the Philippines, there’s always extended fellowship here. Most churches here offer free lunch to the churchgoers since worship service usually ends up at around lunch time. This is one of the best times to talk to fellow OFWs, listening to their concerns and whatnot. I find this somehow therapeutic because you will get to realize that your hardships are no different from the others. It’s one way of saying “I feel you brother” without saying the exact words. And sometimes, you get to pray for each other since you both understand the situation.

Christians in Korea fellowship though sharing and praying
Christians in Korea fellowship though sharing and praying

I guess if there’s one advantage of joining a Christian community over any other communities in Korea, it’s the assurance of being taken cared of without compromising anything. I mean, when you are in a community, most often than not, you talk problems over bottles of soju and beers. Or you help each other escape reality by partying and drinking all night. I don’t judge communities doing these activities. What I am saying is, Christian community has better approach of dealing difficult situations. It’s the same “pakikisama” but different meaning.

Extended fellowship after dinner

Let’s take for example last Chuseok. A holiday like this is a perfect time to meet up with communities or group of friends to do whatever activities they have in mind. However, churches find this a good opportunity to gather and do spiritual retreat. The church I am attending joined the other group of churches for a 2 days and 1 night Chuseok retreat at Incheon with the theme “Follow Me As I Follow Jesus”. The event was attended by 5 other churches that travelled all the way from Ulsan and as far as Busan. Rev. Jessie Arce of Good Shepherd Baptist Church flew all the way from Delaware, USA to grace the event as the guest speaker. There were a total of 169 attendees, 169 people who chose to nurture their spirituality first rather than going to holiday parties. In the retreat, we learned the true meaning of being Disciple. That it is not just all about modules and lessons and memorizing verses. Discipleship is a lifestyle, it is sacrificial but also rewarding. And learning lessons like this makes attending the event more productive than doing any other activities.

SSCFM attendees topic discussion

 In gatherings like this, you will see how every member of the community reach out to each other and how the fellowship, worship service and singing of praise lifted the spirit of everybody. For me, it’s one good way to temporarily forget the hardships of living abroad and to improve the perspective in life.

Aside from nurturing the spirituality of every member of the church, Christian communities also help improve the social aspect of everyone by going on trips with fellow believers. Activities are not just all inside the church building. As a group, they usually go out of town trips to enjoy, relax and sometimes bond with nature seeing that Korea has a lot of tourist destinations that must be visited.
I can’t guarantee that Christian communities are all perfect. Of course, misunderstanding and arguments also happen and these are just inevitable. But a cup of coffee and a session of prayers can always do miracles to bickering members of Christian community.

Christian community at Everland Korea

So if ever you are in the area and you are looking for a church to join in here in Korea, I have here a list of churches, the missionary in charge and their contact numbers to reach them.

Ptr. Henry Arce
Ptr. Jug Cepe
Ptr. Leo Taguan
Ptr. Nick Cepe Sr.
Ptr. Jessie Ignacio
Ptr. Rai Sotang
Kwangju (Prov.)
Sis. Sheryl Diaz
Ptra. Sara Hong
Sinwoldong (Seoul)
Ptr. Jerry Yusi
Ptr. Tito Seril
Ptr. Moises Shin
Ptr. Joel Caranay Sr.
Ptr. Nick Cuevas

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Understanding Racism in Korea Through Sunday Academy (일요학원) Exhibit

I have a lot of horror stories when it comes to racism in Korea. As I find it deemed controversial and at the same time complicated, I rather choose not to speak about my experiences as one blog post could not handle it. I guess Korea is not yet ready to become fully diverse when it comes to culture. 

As a foreigner living in Korea, all I can do is to understand their culture. I am not sure where they are coming from that but I guess it's them being so much loyal to their country that they tend to close their doors to make friends with the foreigners, let alone sit beside them in the subway. For me, Koreans are not aware sometimes that they are racists. I mean, it just comes out naturally which is of course a bad thing. Of course this is just me speaking out my mind in a stereotypical mode of thinking. Not all Koreans are racists, this is just one of my prejudices about Korea.

To have a better understanding about racism in Korea, there's an upcoming event in Seoul where foreigners can openly discuss about this topic. This is an educational language exhbition called Sunday Academy 일요학원.

Here is the press release of the event.

Sunday Academy 일요학원

Minyung Im Solo Show
October 18 - 27, 2015
Mon - Sun, 11am - 7pm
Opening Performance : Free Korean language lesson “How to talk to Korean”
October 18, 4pm

Space Aka (스페이스 악어)
258-11, Changgyeonggung-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea

Sponsored by Seoul foundation for arts and culture

Sunday Academy is a language educational exhibition and performance which attempts to reveal the racism directed towards immigrants in South Korea. The exhibition will be in Hyehwa-dong where the Philippine market is held every Sunday in Seoul. There will be lecture performances on “How to talk to South Koreans” on 18th of October, 2015.

One DVD video will be screened. It is an educational video shown to migrants working in South Korea. It claims to show the events of their daily lives. It reveals a situation where racism has been internalized so deeply that it is very difficult to talk about.

As immigration becomes more common, racism becomes better hidden. Usually it can be found within seemingly innocent conversations, which is why the project deals with language education. All migrant workers in South Korea have experienced discrimination from South Koreans but it is not something they are allowed to talk about. Sunday Academy aims to be a pressure-free opportunity for this issue to be openly discussed.

This project is opposed to the violence of making aliens, and asks why we do.

■Minyung Im

How to talk to Korean, 15’ 16’’, DVD, Performance, 2015

‘How to talk to Korean’ is an educational video shown to migrants working in South Korea. It claims to show the events of their daily lives like in the restaurant, company, and hospital. It reveals situations where racism has been internalized so deeply that it is very difficult to talk about.

How to get there:

If you are free on October 18 and you wish to know more about this issue, feel free to RSVP on their Facebook Event Page. CLICK THIS LINK and JOIN.

See you there!!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Study And Learn New Skills While Working in Korea FOR FREE

A group of Filipino migrants learning CNC Programming

Here’s the routine of a typical student in Korea:

Usually, students get up at around 6:30 in the morning. At 8:00 AM, they should be in school until 4 PM, the usual school days, you know. Then they go home and eat dinner. But the day is not over yet. At around 6pm, a student will go to their second shift of schooling. Yes, there’s a second shift! They usually go to private centers or they call it “Hagwon” to learn more. They learn Taekwondo, music, swimming, English and anything in the world they think they need to learn, they spend extra hours and extra money to enroll. Usually, they end up at around 9 pm. Then they go home and spend another 2 hours to do self study for the next day’s lesson.

This routine shows how big deal is the education in Korea. They value it because they believe this will play a vital role in achieving their dreams in life. No wonder why there are a lot of Hagwons in Korea. School for them is not enough, there should be some centers where they can enroll and learn more.
Luckily, these centers meant to educate young people in Korea are not only exclusive for them. The Government of South Korea is kind enough to open training centers and migrant centers that would let foreign workers study more and learn new skills, FOR FREE. I have to emphasize that one. The government of Korea will pay for your training fee for as long as you commit to attend the classes.
What can you get out of this?

Well, obviously, you gain new knowledge and skills. Of course, when you finish the classes, you will get a certificate issued by the Korean government. And you meet new people and make new friends. I am sure there are still a lot of benefits when you enroll to these training programs. Anyway, it’s for FREE, so there’s no harm in trying right?

Usually, classes designed for foreign workers are scheduled every Sunday so that it will not interrupt your working schedule. If you are free on Sunday, why not enroll yourself to the different courses these training centers offer?

You don’t know how to enroll?

The first thing you should do is to find a training center near you that offers free courses to the foreign workers. I have so far attended different courses from three different centers and I am going to share here how to contact these centers and check the courses they offer.

1. 4th Generation Academy

Vietnamese and Filipino students of Korean Language class at 4th Generation Academy

The first training center I have ever attended is the 4th generation Academy located in Gangnam. Technically, this academy helps foreign workers to achieve certification in different computer courses and skills such as PC repair, Networking, etc. But I enrolled in their Korean language class because I want to learn how to speak Korean. Plus the computer courses were not available that time yet.
For those who want to enroll in this academy, it is located at Gangnam in Seoul, it is about 20 meters away from the exit 1 of Hanti Station. Click THIS LINK to inquire.

4th Generation Academy also offers Free lunch and snack for an 8 hour class every Sunday.

2. Yangcheon Global Migrant Center

Awarding of certificate for completion of course at YGMC

I obtained my certificate in Photograpy and Korean Language in this center. I also enrolled in other courses like HTML programming and Barista but I failed to finish the courses. Most of the students in this migrant center are Filipino workers, so if you are a Filipino, this is perfect for you. What is good about YGMC is that they offer variety of courses and you can take up to 4 courses every Sunday. YGMC is about 100 meters away from the exit 5 of Omokyo Station.

To know more about YGMC and the courses they offer, go to the YGMC FACEBOOK PAGE and inquire.

YGMC also offers Free Medical check up once a month.

3. KPTII & Ssangyong

Graduation ceremony of CNC programming course at Ssangyong

The latest certificate I obtained was for CNC programming courtesy of KPTII and Ssangyong located in Incheon. Like YGMC, they also offer diverse courses like automotive, heavy equipments, CNC programming and more.

If you are in the Incheon area or near, you can join the KPTII & Ssangyong Facebook page and get information about the latest course offering.

KPTII & Ssangyong also offers FREE LUNCH AND SNACK and a refund for fare if you have completed the course.

There are a lot of training centers like these in South Korea for foreign workers. I could not just list all because I don’t have information about the others. If you know a training center that offers courses to foreign workers, feel free to let me know so I can include in this list.

If you are free during Sundays, why not enroll yourself. It’s always fun to learn and it’s a good investment.