The Philippines Promotes ‘Balik’ (Return) Scientist Program

Philippines ‘BALIK’ (Return) Scientist Program (July 2018)

The Bayanihan Foundation have always encouraged ‘pagbabalik’ or coming home as part of its long-term vision. The NEXTGEN Program encourages young Filipino Americans to return to the Philippines and uphold both US and Filipino traditions and cultures. In June 2018, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the ‘Balik’ (Return) Scientist Program, which seeks to provide incentives to Filipino scientists living in the US and around the world to return to the Philippines and share their knowledge and expertise (GMA News Online, June 2018).

Kaluluwa Kolectivo and NEXTGEN Fellows enjoy Maria Cristina Falls in Iligan City, Philippines (2015)

The consequences of ‘brain drain’, the emigration and flight of talented individuals to developed countries including the US is real and has negative, long-term consequences. On the other hand, programs like ‘Balik’ Scientist Program and the Bayanihan Foundation’s NEXTGEN Program might help reverse that trend. Besides remittances, return migration can have a positive impact on democratization and the quality of political institutions in the country of origin.

Signed into law on June 2018, the Philippines Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is actively recruiting Filipino scientists in the US to return to the Philippines to fill in the gaps in scientific and technological expertise in the country.

“The program shall aim to strengthen the scientific and technological human resources of the academy, public and private institutions, including locally registered enterprises in order to promote knowledge sharing and accelerate the flow of new technologies into the country,” the law read.

Returning scientists will be given an engagement ranging from 15 days to six months, while the medium-term program ranges from six months to one year. Returning scientists will be offered airfare for one round trip ticket, as well as a tax-exempt daily allowance as they take part in grants-in-aid (GIA) research.

The ‘Balik’ Scientist Program is supposed to encourage scientist to stay for a few weeks to one to three years, with airfare for one round trip for the awardees, their spouses, and minor dependents. Recipients will also receive special relocation benefits, participation in GIA research, and funding for the establishment and development of a facility or laboratory. Are you interested in coming back home and share your expertise? Additional info and application is found online at this LINK. The ‘Balik’ Scientist Program might help reverse the trend of brain drain into brain gain.

Posted in Diaspora Giving, Overseas workers, Philippines, Volunteerism, Youth leadership development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘Padala’ (Remittances): Top Seven Facts You Need To Know

The following blog entry is an excerpt from the World Economic Forum “How Migrants Who Send Money Home Have Become a Global Economic Force” (June 2018)

‘Padala’ (remittance) is a transfer of money by a foreign worker to an individual in their home country. These remittances have been recognized as an important developmental vehicle associated with migration. Since the 1990s, these financial remittance flows have steadily increased in volume. In 2017, migrants sent an estimated $466 billion to families in developing countries. Here’s the top seven facts you need to know:

  1. The Philippines shot to the no. 3 spot sending $29.9 billion, surpassing Mexico for remittances sent back home.

Top remittance receivers in 2016
Image: IMF and World Bank

2. Remittances from Filipinos in the diaspora saved the Philippines from economic malaise during the last great economic recession (CIA Factbook, 2018). “The economy has been relatively resilient to global economic shocks due to less exposure to troubled international securities, lower dependence on exports, relatively resilient domestic consumption, and the large remittances from about 10 million overseas Filipino workers and migrants.”

An immigrant’s mother in San Francisco Bay Area fills out the shipment invoice for the boxes she is sending to her loved ones in the Philippines (Philippine Inquirer July 2018)

3. Remittance flows for migrant families can be economic lifelines at the individual and community levels. These remittances not only include ‘padala’ (financial remittances) but also these balikbayan boxes full of goodies sent to families back home. An estimated 800 million people worldwide are directly supported by remittances from relatives and loved ones abroad, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Remittances lift families out of poverty, improve health and nutrition conditions, increase education opportunities for children, improve housing and sanitation, promote entrepreneurship and reduce inequality.

4. Money sent home from abroad is shown to be more stable than both private debt and portfolio equity flows, and several times larger than any international development aid.

5. ‘Social remittances’, apart from financial remittances, contributed to the flow and positive exchange from migrants living abroad. Transnational communities also contribute by way of ‘social remittances’ – the flow of skills, knowledge, ideas and values that migrants send home. For example, the impact of social remittances was most strongly felt in areas such as education, health, employment, business and aspects of governance, found a study conducted by IOM in Tanzania in 2014. There is also a broader development effect, as the recipients of social remittances extend beyond the migrants’ immediate circle of relatives and friends to the wider community beyond.

6. Immigrants abroad bring positive effects and should address the overwhelmingly negative narrative about migration. We need to look at migrants as agents of change in their home countries who can contribute directly to human development at a grassroots level. The need to engage Diasporas effectively is becoming more and more expedient.

7. Financial and social remittances have an important role to play in the achievement of individual family goals, community and national development priorities. There is still work to be done but donations from the diaspora like the Bayanihan Foundation play a role in moving the needle for equity and sustainability locally and globally.

Posted in Diaspora Donors, Diaspora Giving, Overseas workers, Philippines, Remittances | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Awarding A Scholarship in Honor of Jolynne’s Spirit of Helping Others

the late Dr. Jolynne Andal, PhD – a social justice fighter for children’s rights, a mother of two children, and a friend

In 2017, my friend Jolynne Andal Biljetina PhD passed away peacefully at her home after a courageous battle with mesothelioma. The Bayanihan Foundation honors her indefatigable spirit by assisting in awarding a community scholarship award in her honor. On April 2018, her friends and family set up the Jolynne Andal Biljetina Community Leadership Award and Scholarship  The scholarship award honors Jolynne’s commitment to children and her community. On July 2018, the scholarship committee selected a scholarship recipient honoring Jolynne’s spirit by making this world a better place and her indefatigable spirit to help.

(left to right); Dale Asis, Bayanihan Foundation; Jocelyn Azada, Scholarship Committee Co-Chair: and Kristy Liu, recipient of the 2017 Jolynne Andal Biljetina Community Scholarship Award (July 2018)

On July 14, 2018, the selection committee awarded the Jolynne Andal Biljetina Community Award Scholarship to Kristy Liu. She was selected from a competitive list of applicants. Kristy embodied the community spirit of Jolynne and her dedication to help others. Kristy Liu recently graduated from Whitney Young High School in Chicago; she will be an incoming freshman and will be studying nursing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

(left to right): Dale Asis, Bayanihan Foundation; Jocelyn Azada, scholarship committee Co-Chair; Pastor Glenn Aguiree; and Pastor David Kokiong of Hinsdale Fil-Am Seventh Day Adventist Church (July 2018)

The scholarship awards ceremony was held at the Hinsdale Fil-Am Seventh Day Adventist Church where Jolynne was an active member of this vibrant faith community. Jocelyn Azada (pictured above second from left) heads as Co-Chair of the Jolynne Andal Biljetina Awards Committee. Other members of the committee include Ellen Wu; Jen Beach Zielinski; Celina Chatman- Nelsen, PhD; and Bayanihan Foundation board member Maria Ferrera, PhD. The Bayanihan Foundation is honored to play a small and critical role to make this scholarship award come true.

(left to right): Linda Andal, mother of the late Jolynne Andal Biljetina; Kristy Liu, recipient of the scholarship award; and Shirley Pintado looking on (July 2018)

Jolynne’s mother, Linda Andal (pictured right) also attended the ceremonies. Eric Biljetina, Jolynne’s husband and her two children also were at hand during the scholarship award ceremonies. The Jolynne Andal Biljetina Scholarship Award embodies the Bayanihan Foundation spirit of giving and the spirit of helping others.

I miss my friend Jolynne Andal Biljetina. In awarding this scholarship her spirit lives on. The Bayanihan Foundation hopes to continue supporting this scholarship award so it could continue helping young people pursuing their dreams of higher education in psychology, community health,  or a related field. It will also continue Jolynne’s spirit of helping others.

To learn more about the scholarship, click HERE.

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‘Salo salo’ The Spirit of Sharing Food With Others

San Juanico Bridge connecting Samar Island to Leyte Island

In June 2018, I went back to Samar. During my short visit, I enjoyed the fresh, tropical food there. I wanted to share with you the top 10 foods I enjoyed during my trip. But most of all, I wanted to share the spirit of ‘salo salo’ that I’ve encountered, the generous spirit of breaking bread with others. This spirit of sharing with others permeates all the food and delicacies that I’ve enjoyed.


Anthony Bourdain enjoying Philippine street food (photo courtesy of National)

The late Anthony Bourdain, American celebrity chef and author also enjoyed Filipino food. But most of all, he also experienced the joy of ‘salo salo’, the joy of sharing food with colleagues, friends, and family. Yes, the fresh tropical fruits were delicious. Yes, the fresh fish and seafood were terrific. But what’s really memorable are the conversations and friendship shared with the meal.

(left to right) Evelyn Castillo, Maria Grace Adina school district supervisor, and Marlefe Lo, teacher prepares impromptu ‘salo salo’ during visit (June 2018)

This is the spirit of ‘salo salo’ – the spirit of giving and sharing of food with others.

‘Salo salo (sharing food with others)/ Top 10 Foods I Enjoyed In Samar:

(left to right) Dale Asis enjoying tuba palm wine with Evelyn Castillo and Marlefe Lo (June 2018)



10. ‘Tuba’ (palm wine)  – wine made from coconut and palm trees

‘Langka’ (jackfruit) related to breadfruit








9 – ‘Langka’ (jackfruit) a tropical fruit related to breadfruit. The ripe jackfruit has naturally sweet, subtle flavors. The flesh and seeds are also edible and sometimes cooked in coconut milk.





‘Saging’ bananas sold at a ‘sari sari’ (convenience store) in Giporlos, Samar


8 – ‘Saging’ (bananas). Bananas are found everywhere and it often comes in different sizes, shapes, and colors.

‘Biko’ sticky rice dessert served at a fiesta in Samar (June 2018)







7 – ‘Biko’ (sweet rice) dessert, made with sweet sticky rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. It is often topped with toasted, shredded coconut.





Marlefe Lo enjoyed picking guavas (June 2018)



6 – Fresh guavas right off the tree.

Evelyn Castillo checking out the mangoes (June 2018)








5 – Fresh mangoes ripened from the tree. It could not be any better than this.

Dale Asis holding fresh tuna caught in Guiuan Bay





4 – Fresh fish caught right off the bay.

Grilled, fresh fish in Guiuan, Samar (June 2018)








3 – ‘Inihaw’ (Grilled) Fish caught right off Guiuan Bay

Tinitim, local dessert made with cassava and brown sugar







2 – ‘Tinitim’, local dessert made with cassava and brown sugar

(left to right) Evelyn Castillo, Maria Grace Adina school district supervisor, and Marlefe Lo, teacher prepares impromptu ‘salo salo’ during my visit (June 2018)








1 – ‘Salo salo’ the spirit of sharing food with others is alive and well in Samar and the rest of the 7,000 islands of the Philippines.

TV food networks in the US celebrate the latest trendy cuisine or heralds the hottest celebrity chef. The Philippines celebrates ‘salo salo’, the community spirit of sharing and giving with others.The spirit of ‘salo salo’ is what makes food special – the spirit of giving and sharing of food with others.

Posted in culture, Philippine travel, Philippines | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

It’s Always Fiesta Time in the Philippines: A Lesson in Resiliency

Santacruzan, a religious historical pageant held in many towns usually in the month of May

Last June 2018, I went to visit Samar to check on the many projects the Bayanihan Foundation have donated there. In 2014, the region was hit hard by super typhoon Haiyan, the strongest typhoon ever recorded to hit landfall. After the typhoon, the foundation responded quickly to help with the recovery efforts. During my visit, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that all the books, computers, fishing nets, and many other donations are still being used today. I was really surprised by the colorful fiestas (festivals) happening in Samar and all throughout the 7,000 islands.

Santacruzan (a religious historical pageant) in Marabut, Samar

We were driving towards Giporlos, Samar and we passed by the highway an impromptu “Santacruzan,” a colorful pageant of young people dressed in colorful costumes. The festival is often held in many barangays (villages) where young people dressed up re-enacting the finding of the holy cross by Empress Helena in 336 AD. The Filipinos seem to know how to turn a boring historical fact in to a colorful fiesta.



The next day, Evelyn Castillo, Bayanihan Foundation Liaison and I visited the Giporlos Elementary School to check on the books and the computers we donated there a couple of years ago. During our unannounced visit, the principal, Oscar Sabarillo, and the school officials put together a potluck lunch during our surprise visit. All the sudden we had an impromptu lunch fiesta.

Before we left the school, the principal, Oscar Sabarillo, invited us to his town’s fiesta. So the following weekend, we went to another barangay (village) fiesta in Lawaan, Samar.

Town fiesta banner in Lawaan, Samar

We enjoyed a feast at the school principal’s home and at least 300 people were in and out of his house enjoying the lechon (roast pig). Evelyn, and her sister-in-law, Marlefe Lo, also joined in the festivities. I also had some tuba, an alcoholic beverage created from the sap of various species of palm tree.

(left to right); Dale Asis enjoying tuba, palm wine at a town fiesta, with Evelyn Castillo and Marlefe Lo (June 2018)

I did not expect to be joining so many fiestas and impromptu parties during my visit. It seems hard to believe that Samar was hit hard by a devastating typhoon with the residents celebrating fiestas and enjoying life. What is really amazing are the residents’ ability to bounce back from adversity. The lesson of resiliency is an important lesson to be learned. But most of all, the Philippines and its 7,000 islands isn’t the Philippines without its colorful fiestas. It’s always fiesta time.

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Fisherfolk community in Guiuan, Samar: promoting sustainability

(left to right): (standing left) fisherman receiving fishing net provided as a microloan from Dale Asis (center) and Evelyn Castillo (standing right)

In 2014, the Bayanihan Foundation and the Worldwide Filipino Alliance (WFA) donated fishing nets to fisherfolk community in Samar right after the super typhoon Haiyan hit the island. Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest typhoons in recorded history to hit landfall.

Dale Asis enjoying Guiuan, Samar (June 2018)




In June 2018, I went back to Guiuan, Samar. I was completely surprised how the town has recovered so well from the super typhoon. Evelyn Castillo, the foundation’s Liaison and I visited a fisher folk community.

They named themselves Hook & Line Fishermen’s Association. I was impressed by the infrastructure they have put together. But most of all, they have not only incorporated economic livelihood for all the fisher folk members but also holistic sustainability measures to take care of the bay and the environment.

Freshly caught yellow tuna from Guiuan Bay



Evelyn and I even got to eat some freshly caught tuna right off the bay.

Dale Asis holding fresh tuna caught in Guiuan Bay

(Standing in the middle) Dale Asis and officers of the fisherfolk community in Guiuan, Samar


This fisherfolk community sets a fine example of “Bayanihan”, people working together for a common good, providing livelihood, and at the same time promoting environmental sustainability for the long-term and the good of the community.

Posted in climate change, Disaster Relief, Environmental conservation, environmental sustainability, Typhoon Haiyan | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

It’s The Right Thing To Do: US Should Return the Bells of Balangiga

(left to right): Will Dix and Dale Asis attending the Chicago Philippine Consulate Philippine Independence Day event, June 14, 2018

On June 14,2018, Will Dix and I attended the Philippine Consulate of Chicago’s Philippine Independence Day event at the offices of the Philippine Consulate in Chicago. Will and I got to wear our barong, embroidered formal shirts and considered the national dress of the Philippines.

Philippine Independence Day June 12

The Philippines proclaimed its independence from its colonial masters, Spain and the US, on June 12, 1898. However, the country’s path to independence was complicated and arduous. Part of that fight for independence was the war between the Philippines and the US from 1898 to 1902. In 1901, the townsfolk of Balangiga, Samar launched one of the few successful surprise attacks against the Americans, claiming more than 40 US soldiers.  In reprisal, the US Army murdered every male over the age of 10 years in town during which the church bells were taken to Wyoming (For Whom The Balangiga Bells Toll, Huffington Post, April 2015).

Balangiga Church, Balangiga, Samar (June 2018 photo)

In 2018, it’s about time the US return the bells to Samar. The US should not keep them as war booty. On February 20, 2018, the US Ambassador to the Philippines even said, “that this would be the right thing to do” (ABS CBN News, February 20, 2018).

Balangiga statue depicting the Balangiga Massacre (June 2018)



On May 2018, I visited the Balangiga Church and the statue in front of the church plaza depicting the massacre. I was surprised myself to learn about this forgotten part of history (Ignacio, The Forbidden Book, 2004). I always thought the US was helpful and benevolent towards its former colony, the Philippines.

political cartoon during the Philippine American War (courtesy of The Forbidden Book by Ignacio, 2004)

political cartoon during the Philippine American War (courtesy of The Forbidden Book by Ignacio, 2004)


In 1898, the conflict arose when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the Spanish–American War.[15][16] The war was a continuation of the Philippine struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution. It is estimated that were 34,000 to 220,000 Philippine casualties with more civilians dying from disease and hunger brought about by war.

Depiction of Balangiga Massacre, painting at Tanuan, Batangas (August 2017)

At the end of the US Philippine War, soldiers of the 11th Infantry brought two church bells from Balangiga back to the base where they were stationed at the time—Fort D.A. Russell outside Cheyenne, now F.E. Warren Air Force Base. A third bell from the Balangiga church, owned by the 9th Infantry, remains at the U.S. Army’s Camp Red Cloud, Uijeongbu, South Korea. These bells need to go back home to Samar. It’s about time and the right thing to do.

The Church Bells of Balangiga currently in Ft. Russell, WY

The Church Bells of Balangiga in Ft. Russell, WY

In August 2018, I will travel back to Samar with young Filipino Americans as part of the 2018 NEXTGEN Program. I will take them to visit the Balangiga Church and let them know about this forgotten part of Philippine American history. And perhaps they would join me in the chorus to demand the return of the bells of Balangiga. It’s the right thing to do.

Posted in history, Philippines, Youth leadership development | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments