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JULY 7, 2018

NEWS FEATURE

The “Third Culture Kids” of the Middle East Share Experiences of Transition and Adjustment

by Rose CRUZ CHURMA

Art as Reality: the Transition of Filipino Migrant Children in the Middle East, published by the Philippine Embassy in Muscat, Oman in 2013, is the subject of a talk given by its editor, Araceli C. Jimeno, at the June 16 meeting of the Filipino Association of University Women (FAUW).

The book is a collection of essays and drawings by children of Filipinos working in the Gulf countries of Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman. The kids, ages 8 to 18, relate their tales of arriving, thriving and adjusting in environments and cultures that in many ways differ greatly from what they know and are accustomed to in the Philippines. The editor worked with the Philippine schools in the region to cull the essays and art works from children of professionals who are allowed to bring their families overseas, unlike domestic and other OFWs who must leave families behind.

The book project began in July 2012 with an art and literary competition held by the Philippine Embassy in Muscat for OFW children in the Gulf region. The children were asked to describe their experience of transition and adjustment in a new country through painting, drawing, digital and other art forms, essay and poetry. The competition attracted over 550 students from 21 Philippine schools all over the region. The winning entries selected by the judges gave Jimeno, who was then the spouse of the Philippine ambassador to Oman, the idea of publishing them into a collected volume. In the end, nearly 60 essays and poems, and 90 paintings and drawings were chosen for the book.

In 2013, the book won “Best Print Award – Book Category” at the at the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Migration Advocacy and Media Awards held annually in December every two years. Former Department of Foreign Affairs secretary Albert F. del Rosario also cited the book for providing “valuable insights which contribute greatly in the discourse on migration and its effects on families, especially children.”

Vice Consul Joy Espinosa Santos, who attended the June 16 meeting posted an interesting comment on her Facebook page when she notes—“The book deeply resonates with those of us in the foreign service, as we move from one place to another and raise the so-called ’third culture kids’. While we rear children who develop a more expanded worldview, heightened interpersonal sensitivity, multilingualism, increased tolerance, and the capacity to adjust more easily to constantly changing circumstances, these are not without challenges - feelings of rootlessness, confused cultural identities, difficulties creating a sense of belonging and, at times, albeit rare, exposure to physical hardship and danger.” But she also poses the question—”Sometimes I think, is the trade-off worth it?” For our foreign service personnel, and other Filipinos who choose to bring their families overseas, this is a recurring question.

“Third Culture Kids” are those who are unable to relate or adjust to their own Filipino culture nor to a host country’s culture, but retain a culture they acquired as they navigate and cope with needed adjustments as they are transplanted in different countries during their growing years.

In the preface to her talk, Mrs. Jimeno observes that “Filipino overseas children are profoundly affected when they leave behind friends, family members, and the only home they know, to migrate to a different country to join their parents. Yet the children’s voices are the least heard and often taken for granted.” The book gives these children and youth a unique chance to tell their stories of transition using their own voices and visual interpretation of their unique experience.

The book’s editor, Araceli C. Jimeno, obtained her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines in Diliman. While at Bern, Switzerland, she served as editor of the magazine to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Philippines-Switzerland diplomatic relations. She was also a contributing writer for the Guangzhou Women’s International Gazette in China and worked as the assistant to the director for International Trade and Development Economics at the World Bank in Washington D.C.

Born in Baguio City, Araceli is the spouse of the current Philippine Consul General Joselito A. Jimeno and the mother of three children. Aside from writing and editing, her stints abroad as a diplomat’s wife included volunteering for refugees from the Middle East and serving indigents and homeless people. She also worked as the assistant to the director for international trade and development economics at the World Bank in Washington D.C.

The book is out-of-print. Most of the copies have been distributed to various Philippine consulates and embassies and no copies are available for purchase. Those who are interested to review the book for research purposes can call the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu.

The Filipino Association of University Women (FAUW) is an IRS 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based in Honolulu. Its meetings are held every third Saturday of the month and is live-streamed via its Facebook page — www.facebook.com/ FAUWHawaii. Inquiries can be directed at fauw1987@gmail.com.

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