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I deplore products labeled "new and improved" more so when I've been accustomed to the "former," which didn't need any improvement in the first place.

Well, I chomp at my own deploring words.

In this issue we introduce the new and improved look of Our Own Voice. We would have come out sooner if we weren't so engrossed in the new and improved icons. In short, we were busy pushing buttons and clicking at screens. Our webweaver believes that you, dear reader, will experience a smoother ride from page to page. We wholeheartedly agree with her. We will need your feedback for the new look to qualify as "improved."

This issue took shape in the midst of an electronic cocktail party where olives and toothpicks were thrown "across the room" in cyberspace. Hosting an editorial board meeting, the associate editor from Singapore, took on all comments and digressions from Regina, Canada and from Davao City; while here in Virginia, USA the hub was fastened to a birdcage as the editor flew the coop. An editor on the lam is a great excuse to bring in more of the overflowing creative "spirits."

In this paradoxical environ, we bring you an issue marked by a strange and engulfing sobriety on a subject too often seen from one angle only: the plight of the overseas contract worker.

The essays, poetry and short stories here offer a diversity of OCW experiences. Filipino migrants who toiled the fields in the west coast of the United States in the early 30s are remembered in the frontispiece, Jon Pineda's initial submission to Our Own Voice. We anticipate many more poems from this wonderfully succinct poet.

Early this year, The Economist featured a spread on the Filipino domestic worker in the global workplace. It was a documentary piece to break one's heart, having to read about the nannies' resilience and their inexplicable, underlying sense of joy, so common among Filipinos eking out a living abroad. We carry the shame—if Philippine political leaders do not—of seeing a form of exported slavery in semi-permanent exile. And the wonder of it all is that the exiles exude a joy in living. What is the saying? Ang babaw naman ng kaligayahan mo! But it is "kaligayahan" nonetheless. Joy untrammeled.

Yet the literary outpouring in this issue articulates a deep and unexpressed loneliness—an almost ignored futility caused by self-imposed exile. Loneliness is assuaged in communities formed among the workers themselves. Whether in Sunday gatherings in public places or in get-togethers (salu-salo) and in homespun financial transactions called paluwagan, the overseas contract workers survive. And quite a number have survived with indomitable grace.

To the nannies in Europe and Americas,

To the amahs and the japayukis in Asia,

To the toilers in oil rigs and workers in the Middle East,

To the hotel and restaurant workers in Aruba and in the Dutch Indies,

To teachers and workers in Papua New Guinea,

To teachers in elementary and high schools in various cities in Africa,

To the stewards, bartenders and service staff in cruise liners in the Caribbean—

To you who are said to be responsible for "floating a sinking economy," we bring a small segment of your stories that tell of a need to fulfill filial and parental duties: a sense of obligation that is imbedded in the Filipino psyche for better or for worse.

Remé-Antonia Grefalda
March 27, 2002

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