LAST May 12, I attended for the very first time the anniversary celebration of Kabayan Weekly. The publication celebrated its 5th year and was attended by Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Constancio Vingno Jr., Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes and Deputy Consul General Giovanni Palec.
I was one of the founders of Kabayan Weekly in 2011. Veteran photojournalist Paolo Vecina introduced me to Mr. Atallah Habib in February to be the consultant and by April we were able to form the editorial team led by Ria Mendoza as managing editor, who was later on joined by Cheng Iman as editor-in-chief as he came all the way from the Philippines. On May 10, we launched the newspaper.
“Tonight, we are very much honored to have all of you as we launch the UAE’s first Filipino weekly publication. We strongly believe that Kabayan Weekly would soon become the main communication platform for the various UAE and Philippine government agencies to be able to reach out to the more than 600,000 Filipinos in the country. We are also confident that not only the Filipinos will benefit from the publication, but also the advertisers who can directly communicate with the fourth largest ethnic group in the UAE. Filipinos here are everywhere and anywhere.”
This was the major part of Mr. Atallah’s speech five years ago.
Ambassador Vingno, in his remarks as Guest of Honor, commended: “For the past five years, Kabayan Weekly has been an indispensable part of the lives of the Filipinos in the UAE. You have been an instrumental medium for Filipinos in getting updated with significant news from back home, guiding them in making decisions related to their families who are left behind. More importantly, Kabayan Weekly has also chronicled both the challenges and accomplishments of Filipino expatriates. By doing so, it has served as a guide and provided lessons for kababayans across the Emirates.”
His statement made me realized that, indeed, Kabayan Weekly has really contributed to the wide recognition of the Filipinos’ immense talents. That night the publication was honoring the best of the best among nurses, teachers and private individuals in the UAE.
One of them is prominent accountant Mercedes Macalalad who was one of the nominees for Kabayan of the Year. Macalalad is a Controller/Financial Auditor in one of the leading certification bodies in the world where she rose from the ranks. She is a former president of the PICPA Dubai and Northern Emirates Chapter.
Five years ago I invited the Macalalad couple at the launching of the publication. It was a wonderful coincidence that evening.
“Thank you to Kabayan Weekly for being one of our media partners in this historic endeavor. With your help, we had a very respectable 31.74 percent turnout in the whole UAE which translates to 62,103 votes,” Ambassador Vingno continued in his speech.
He noted that the Embassy and Consulate clocked in a combined 921 hours – 304 hours by the Embassy and 617 by the Consulate – during the month-long elections to ensure that kababayans would have the opportunity to cast their votes.
A few days after the anniversary celebration I asked Consul General Cortes for his comments on the initiatives they had done to ensure voters were able to cast their ballots. He replied: “I laud the untiring efforts of the officers and staff of the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai to render, with the highest moral integrity, electoral service to the more than 120,000 registered voters in Dubai and the northern emirates. Their honest, systematic, and selfless dedication to ensure the sanctity of the ballot highlights the spirit of supreme professionalism personnel of the Philippine foreign service have been long characterized and whose ethical repute has shaped the norm by which Philippine civil service is to be judged.”
Looking forward, Ambassador Vingno enjoined everyone to support the next national leaders of the Philippines. “As we turn another page in our political history, I call on all overseas Filipinos across the UAE to support the next leadership of our beloved Philippines. Let us do our share in contributing to the progress and stability of our country.”
In addition, Consul General Cortes is urging everyone “to encourage other overseas Filipinos to likewise be mindful of what they could contribute as participants in our unique brand of a vibrant and healthy governance. Only when all stakeholders in society are active elements in our government can our democracy be true to its original intent – a government that is for the people, of the people and by the people.”
I now look forward to Kabayan Weekly’s next five years as it witnesses and records a new chapter in our lives with a new administration taking over on June 30.