Dubai Filipino groups break with umbrella organisation

Sixteen Filipino groups band together to form umbrella organisation to provide training and community projects.

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Sixteen Filipino leaders in Dubai, disillusioned with the umbrella organisation representing their community groups, have split to form an alternative organisation.

The Overseas Filipino Workers for Leadership, Excellence, Action and Development will officially launch in Dubai next month. Its member organisations are accredited with the Philippine consulate in Dubai.

In recent months, some leaders have been disappointed with the way the governing council Filcom, an umbrella group for 67 Filipino community groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, was being run.

“We’ve been referred to as the opposition,” said Albert Suerte, 43, the president of Overseas Filipino Civil Engineers Association and a co-founder of the new group. “Many organisations no longer want to be part of Filcom. They have lost interest in participating in its meetings and activities.”

Harry Viterbo, 31, a civil engineer in Dubai, said the factions within Filcom put him off. He serves as the president of United Hilongosnons in the Emirates, comprising 50 members from the Hilongos town of Leyte in the Philippines.

“Filcom is too crowded and our voices weren’t even heard,” Mr Viterbo said.

But Matilyn Bagunu, the president of Filcom, warned that the new group would split the Filipino community.

“This is sad since some leaders [of the new group] helped draft Filcom’s constitution,” Ms Bagunu said.

Melvin Mendoza, 42, the president of the Filipino Dubai Teachers Association, said the alternative group, which was formed last month, has a board of directors rather than a set of officers.

When a group applies and qualifies to be a member, its president is given a seat on the board, Mr Mendoza said.

Some of its planned activities include financial literacy workshops, a fashion exhibition, an environmental clean-up campaign and a Christmas celebration for domestic workers at a women’s shelter.

“Our mutual and healthy relationship defines the true meaning of community service and bayanihan,” the new group said. “It’s about time Filipino organisations in the UAE exercised their freedom of choice.”

Bayanihan is derived from two Filipino words: bayani, meaning hero, and bayan, meaning nation. In a wider sense, it refers to helping people in times of need and the spirit of leadership, volunteerism and a sense of unity.