Hoy Pinoy, IT'S DUBAi!
Dubai - Think you know everything about kabayans? We give you the lowdown on what's popular in the 700,000-strong Filipino community in UAE.
Filipinos are no strangers to leaving their home country to work abroad. In fact, for decades now, the Middle East has been not just a workplace for kabayans - it is their home away from home.
Overseas Filipino workers - or OFWs, hailed as the bagong bayani, or new heroes - play a pivotal role for the Philippines. And this moniker is befitting: Millions of Filipinos sacrifice being near their loved ones and endure living apart, all to work abroad, earn money so they can provide for their families back home.
As for the stereotype that Filipinos are kind, fun-loving, cheerful, dedicated, generous and reliable? It has a ring of truth! Pinoys even have this admirable - though some might say weird - trait of being able to smile and laugh through adversity. Filipinos are the third-largest expat community in the UAE with over 700,000 kabayans. We spur curiosity, fascination thanks to our unique, often amusing behaviour and habits. For one, basketball is to the Philippines what cricket is to India and Pakistan.
The professional Philippine Basketball Association has taken its act to Dubai in recent years, even featuring boxing icon and Senator Manny Pacquiao (too bad he didn't score a bucket during his stint here). There's also the Round 10 Boxing Club in Al Quoz, where up-and-coming boxer Larry Abarra trades some punches. There are also sports that even some Filipinos - especially the millennials - might not be aware of. Sepak takraw, or kick volleyball, has been a fairly popular sport in the past decades. Hand-to-hand combat is also considered a Filipino specialty. One great example is arnis - also known as eskrima and kali - which is the national sport and martial art of the Philippines.
Matt Damon popularly used this during the knife versus-pen fight scene in The Bourne Supremacy. And going back to ballin', Filipinos are known sneakerheads. You'll know what we mean when you check out queues at malls 24 hours before the launch of a new release of Air Jordan 11 basketball shoes!
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TRADITIONS: A BIG DEAL FOR US
Being the only predominantly Catholic country in Asia, the philippines' traditions are deeply rooted in religion. the Sinulog and Ati-Atihan, held in the cities of Cebu and Kalibo, respectively, are festivals that celebrate the Santo Nino (baby Jesus). Another festival celebrated with much funfare is the Salubong, which re-enacts the meeting between mary and risen Christ, and kicks off easter sunday celebrations. some of the cultural dances include the very popular tinikling - where skilled dancers rhythmically hop in and out of the gaps made by parting two, four or six bamboo poles held at each end by people keeping the beat. Watch a Youtube video of it right this instance and you'll see what we mean. A handful of Filipino schools in the UAe are actually teaching these traditional art forms to the next generation.
HOW WE PARTY AND 'VIDEOKE'!
Filipinos love to sing. At any given point, we can hum lyrics aimlessly. the most popular music-related activity though is the videoke, or karaoke-sing-along combined with a screen where lyrics can be seen and followed. It's most popular during celebrations such as birthdays, fiestas and even simple weekend get-togethers. In the philippines, you can rent a videoke machine where you can slot in five-peso coins (roughly Dh0.40) for each song. Here in the UAe, videoke bars are becoming more popular, especially during weekends where Filipinos duke it out, and everyone competes to get the highest score for their vocal talents. As they say, no Filipino occasion is complete without the good ol' reliable videoke battle! For a first-hand experience, check out makati bar at Asiana Hotel in Deira. One visit and you will be enthralled!
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OUR TIGHT-KNIT COMMUNITY
Nothing gets the kabayan going like meeting other kabayans! These gatherings foster a spirit of community and bonhomie and impart a much-longed-for feeling of home. Aside from the usual weekend gatherings, several organisations have been founded to serve various needs of the community. Groups such as the Maranao Community in the UAE (pictured; and that traces its history to 14th-century Arab traders) regularly meet in Dubai. Anyone can join the community - provided of course that they are Maranaos living/working in the UAE. Other groups include the Alpha-Phi-Omega-UAE Alumni Association, which has been involved in projects like blooddonation camps. There are also numerous groups on social media, connecting all kabayans. It just makes Filipinos feel like they're back in the Philippines with their own kind.