Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Diva resigns!
National (as of 10:30 PM)
Society columnist quits over OFW bashing
Complaints sent via the Internet and through othery types of media led a Manila-based society columnist to resign from her job following her negative comments about overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau reported Thursday.
Bureau chief Dindo Amparo reported that Filipinos in the Middle East proved they can make a difference by uniting for a cause against columnist Malu Fernandez.
In her column titled "From Boracay to Greece," which saw print on "People Asia" magazine, Fernandez detailed her unusual and spur of the moment Holy Week vacation in Greece.
Fernandez said that following a friend's advice, she flew on economy class to Greece. The plane made a stopover in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates. It was her written observations during the flight and while in the city that got Fernandez in trouble.
“I forget that the hub was in Dubai and the majority of OFWs were stationed there. The duty-free shop was overrun with Filipino workers selling cell phones and perfume. I wanted to slash my wrist at the thought of being trapped in a plane with all of them,” she wrote.
Fernandez said this was aggravated when one of her fellow passengers spoke to her and said, “Hey there? Where are you from? Are you a domestic helper as well?"
The columnist went further by insinuating that due to the large number of OFWs in the plane wearing cheap perfumes, the expensive brand she had on immediately evaporated into thin air.
“I had resigned myself to being trapped like a sardine with all these OFWs smelling of AXE and Charlie cologne while my Jo Malone evaporated into thin air,” Fernandez said.
Based on prices from the Jo Malone Web site, a 100 ml bottle of cologne ranges from 30-59 British pounds (around 2,800-5,500 Philippine pesos).
Who's the diva?
Fernandez's statements spread like wildfire on the Internet and earned the ire of communities of Filipino workers abroad, especially in the Middle East.
The migrant workers immediately issued statements and sent e-mails to blogs expressing their anger against Fernandez.
The statements can be found at this special blog (http://selvo.wordpress.com/2007/08/08/mahaderang-matapobre-sa-ofws/#comment-1042).
To make matters worse, Fernandez wrote in her succeeding column in the "Manila Standard Today" that she was only being true to herself.
"Many people often find my direct attitude to be rude or obnoxious. I really don't mean to be anything but true to myself," she said.
"Now, I seriously ask you, am I being a diva or are people around me just lacking in common sense? Perhaps it's a little of both!" she added.
Her statements further enraged the Filipino workers. She later apologized.
“I am humbled by the vehement and heated response provoked by my article. To say that this article was not meant to malign, hurt or express prejudice against the OFWs now sounds hollow after reading through all the blogs from Filipinos all over the world,” Fernandez said in her latest statement on the online version of Manila Standard Today.
She added: “I am deeply apologetic for my insensitivity and the offensive manner in which this article was written, I hear you all and I am properly rebuked.
It was truly not my intention to malign hurt or express prejudice against OFWs.”
Fernandez admitted being insensitive and offensive, as she apologized to the OFWs for whatever she had written.
Sought for an interview by ABS-CBN, Fernandez declined.
She, however, sent a letter, saying, "I take full responsibility for my actions and my friends and family have nothing to do with this. To date I have submitted my resignation letters to both the Manila Standard and People Asia, on that note may this matter be laid to rest.”
Not yet finished
Meanwhile, abs-cbnNEWS.com received dozens of feedback e-mails against Fernandez after news broke out about her anti-OFW statements.
“We are already having a hard time here working under the hot climate, then we get a strong below the belt blow by our own kabayan who has totally no idea on being an OFW,” Francis Sangalang wrote from Dubai.
Another OFW, who declined to be named, said: “I seldom come across articles that bring my blood pressure up to a record high. This article by Malu
Fernandez has led me to set a new personal record. To say that this is ‘nakakakunsumi’ (troubling) is an understatement of the highest degree.”
The special blog was also created to compile comments against Fernandez. The comments ranged from defending her column as being about perfumes to to downright below the belt statements.
Contract worker Florencio Laron wrote from Saudi Arabia and said, "All I have to say is that may breeding siya (masama nga lang) (only, it's bad) and she [doesn’t] deserve to be a Filipino.”
An anonymous e-mail sender, meanwhile, said, “Her side comments were uncalled for. She should have kept them to herself. This is bigotry at its purest. What’s worst is she did it to her fellow Filipinos. The bad part is her pathetic attempt to justify what she wrote.”
Information from the Web site of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said a total of 462,545 OFWs or 58 percent of the total number of Filipinos employed abroad were in the Middle East as of last year.
Last year, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said OFWs sent a total of US$12.6 billion in remittances to their families in the Philippines.