philippines

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Out again with my high school friends for another Wednesday and tried out one of the two sprouting burger shops near our alma mater! We chose to dine in this one first because of our friends’ recommendations.

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Garahe is a burger and a burrito shop, as the label would say. But I would like to believe it’s just a burger store. (Burger x Burrito is so Army Navy. lol)

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Here’s the menu. I know, I know. It’s really affordable! However, I think there must be a larger variety so customers can really choose what to eat.

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All four of us ordered Bacon Mushroom Burger - P70 simply because… it seemed like there was no other option. The other two looked so basic. I didn’t go for the Double Burger because I wanted to get a burrito.

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I was intrigued by this Beef Burrito because it only costs P35! Where else can you get a burrito that cheap? Haha! It lacked a little flavor, tho.

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For a price of P105, that’s somewhat filling already. :)

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Mariel ordered Beef Taco - P35.

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They serve Strawberry and Chocolate Milkshake at P40 each. The strawberry one tasted really good! Mine was a bit milo-ish.

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Haha messy! I think they must serve their burgers in plates not in trays with holes. The paper just gets ruined each time I slice a piece of the burger.

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The store was really small with only four tables and a few chairs. They’re almost a big hit already and a lot of people would come by. So, be prepared to just take home your order if you couldn’t wait for so long.

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More and better food trips with them. We’re still trying to achieve our high school goals. Gastos pa friends, haha! :)

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Let’s not talk about their service. Haha. It was pretty bad. But just to give you a hint; they didn’t offer us a seat, the cashier shouted at me (lol), one of the boys argued with me about a changed order, they just tossed my burrito in the tray!!, and they didn’t even say thank you when we left. Okayyy. (Uhm hint lol.)

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After finishing our food, we went to Minandal, the other burger shop, for dessert. We just bought Bluberry and Oreo Cheesecake both for P75. We’re gonna try this place soon! We saw how they make their burgers and it brought a pretty good impression. :)

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It was a nice experience (aside from the crew part haha). I only spent a total of P145 for a good enough meal. Garahe is found along San Jose St. in Hulo, just a few blocks away from City of Mandaluyong Science High School and Hulo Elementary School.

For the love of burgers, rawr!

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz and DFA Senior Special Assistant Renato Villa during the IOM Migration Crisis Management conference.

More than 2,000 trafficked Filipinos trapped in Syria

By JAKE SORIANO | DECEMBER 18, 2014

A top foreign affairs official said some 2,000 overseas Filipino workers, all of them victims of human trafficking, remain trapped in Syria three years after civil unrest broke out there.

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Senior Special Assistant Renato Villa said during a migration conference earlier this week the Philippine government is still negotiating with Syrian authorities and employers for their repatriation.

“But first, before we can negotiate, we have to locate them,” said Villa, who spoke during the ‘Migration Crisis Management: The Duty Bearers’ Conference’ earlier this week.

“All our workers in Syria are trafficked victims,” he added.

The Syria crisis began in early 2011 and escalated throughout the country following the violent response of authorities there to protests and demonstrations.

The exact number of Filipinos in Syria is unknown but the DFA estimates 9,000 were caught in Syria when the crisis erupted.

“Ninety percent of our kababayans (fellow Filipinos) there are household service workers,” said Villa.

An April 2014 paper by the advocacy group Center for Migrant Advocacy-Philippines (CMA-Phils) reported that Filipino overseas workers are recruited by unregulated agencies or directly by Syrian employers.

Syrian law bans recruitment agencies despite the government legalizing immigration for domestic helpers.

Recruitment through these illegal channels renders undocumented workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, and neither Syrian nor Philippine law protects them.

“Syria in particular is notorious for its unregulated system for domestic workers. The living and working conditions are governed solely by the contract, which is often altered upon arrival,” the CMA-Phils paper said.

“Forms of exploitation range from withholding travel documents, prohibition to contact their families, lack of food, working excessive hours and underpayment to verbal, physical and sexual abuse.”

CMA-Phils further noted “illegal entry into Syria is punishable by prison sentences up to a year or fines.”

Over eight in 10 Filipinos in Syria are undocumented, according to CMA-Phils.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) imposed a total deployment ban to Syria on August 2011.

“Despite the deployment ban, reports indicate that 100 Filipinos are trafficked, illegally recruited or pursuing unregulated and unsafe ways to enter Syria every month,” CMA-Phils said.

On December 2011, the DFA raised alert level 4 in Syria, which meant the implementation of mandatory repatriation for all overseas Filipinos in the country at the expense of the Philippine government.

Villa said the number of Filipinos repatriated from Syria currently stands at 5,546.

Locating the remaining Filipinos remains a challenge, as there is a lack of reliable information on their whereabouts and total number.

Villa said that the DFA has already asked for the assistance of the immigration department of Syria.

“Before they are repatriated, they accomplish the usual affidavit for trafficked victims. And once they are repatriated, even at the airport, there is an IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) team which assists them to file cases against their recruiters.”

Alternative employment opportunities

More than 10 million Filipinos live and work overseas, which translates to a ratio of one for every 10 given the present population of the country.

Countries in the Middle East remain some of the top destinations for overseas employment.

“Civil unrests in Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria increase the risks faced by thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the region,” CMA-Phils noted.

Despite these risks, many still choose to go back to the country in crisis rather than remain in the Philippines after repatriation.

“Our experience is, their second choice is to still work overseas, outside of the crisis country,” said Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz during the same conference.

“Working in the Philippines is just the third option,” Baldoz said. “As far as the DOLE is concerned, we really discourage the women domestic workers to go back for work overseas.”

Unlike skilled professionals who have “competencies to really bargain for the best terms and conditions of their employment anywhere,” undocumented household service workers are most vulnerable abroad, she said.

What the labor department instead offers them are “livelihood projects as alternative income for them and for their families. We assist them to set these livelihood projects so that there will be incentive for them to stay.”

What would matter most, Baldoz said, would be the “protection and provision of alternative employment here in the country” for vulnerable overseas Filipinos like women domestic workers.

New forms of migration crises

Civil unrest and conflicts as in the Middle Eastern countries are not the only forms of crises governments and stakeholder groups should take note of when it comes to migration.

Natural disasters abroad as well as pandemics like the Ebola outbreak in West Africa or the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-COV) also endanger overseas Filipinos.

Villa said that two new phenomena, in addition to these three, should now be considered in migration crisis management.

First are labor nationalization policies like the Saudization program and the crackdown on illegal migrants in Sabah, Malaysia. And second is the insolvency of companies who hire migrant workers.

The International Organization of Migration (IOM) noted that historical record on “Filipino migrants caught in crisis serve a strong signal for the necessity of a more inclusive involvement of all concerned sectors, in every phase of crisis and post-crisis situation.”