Philippines, faith and family to overcome economic crisis and unemployment

Manila, Philippines - In a time of global economic crisis, Christians in the Philippines are finding comfort in faith and family ties, the only ways to overcome this difficult period. The churches of the country are crowded and the intentions reflect the changing times: prayers are for a job, for a successful interview, to pass the exams at the university and have better opportunities to find a job.

"The Filipino is like a bamboo, for during storms he bends without breaking," Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) Emmanuel Briolo tells AsiaNews. Briolo has a degree in chemical engineering, and last January he lost his job in Saudi Arabia because of the financial crisis. After returning home, Briolo started looking for a job that will permit him to support his three young children; at the moment he is still unemployed.

Many of the multinational companies in the Philippines have reduced their full-time staff, and tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs because of the collapse in exports in the electronics and clothing industries. According to recent estimates from the Department of Labor and Employment in the Philippines, in the first six months of 2009 up to 300,000 people could be left without a job. The situation is similar for emigrants, many of whom have had to return to their country.

"The spirit of the Filipinos remains strong," Emmanuel Briolo says, "tested especially in the dark hours of Philippine history, from the Spanish, American and Japanese colonization. So resiliency is nurtured by one's faith, like popular Catholic devotions, such as the 'Black Nazarene' and Our Lady of Perpetual Help." Thousands of people participate in the novenas on Wednesday, and at Sunday Mass; they are seeking comfort in prayer. "Filipinos know that their lives are guided by Providence," says Angelica Cruz, a youth leader, "and they experience this as a tangible presence. Another essential factor is family ties, an element of strength in a period of crisis."