For as long as Daisy Sande can remember, she has never spent Father’s Day with her dad.
From the time her father first arrived in Saudi Arabia in 1983 to try his luck as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), he has never left the Arab state, except to visit his family during vacations.
Her dad now works as a lineman supervisor for the Saudi Electric Company.
“We try our best to at least video chat with him—on Skype most of the time,” Daisy told the Inquirer on Facebook. “It used to be phone calls with him.”
Skype is a popular social networking site that enables users to communicate via voice calls, chat or even video calls using their handheld devices.
Daisy said that through the lengthy video chats, she and her brother show off gifts they make for their dad, which they hand over to him when he comes home for his next vacation.
She said Facebook, Skype and phones are basically her family’s “best friends” during occasions like this.
With people all over the world celebrating Father’s Day today (Sunday)—depending on their time zones—social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have made it possible for families continents away to talk to their loved ones in real time.
Real time on social media virtually brings together families living apart. Mica Cortez and her brother thought of “dining” with their dad on Father’s Day by showing on video a home-cooked meal they prepared for their father who is working as country manager for Jollibee in Brunei Darusalam.
The National Statistics Office (NSO) has placed the number of OFWs in 2011 to 2.2 million. Male OFWs outnumbered females by 52.2 percent in NSO’s 2011 survey.
But even with social media’s popularity, phone calls are still the best thing for families who have loved ones working abroad but who are not as tech-savvy as others.
Bianca Bernardo’s father, who works as a foreman in Saudi Arabia, receives a call from his family early in the morning to greet him on occasions like Father’s Day. It’s the other way around for Charizze Abulencia and her family, who get a call from their dad, whose birthday is a few days away from Father’s Day.
Face to face
“With Dad’s birthday just around the corner, we celebrate it here and just tag him on Facebook with photos and videos of the celebration,” said Charizze, whose father works as a caregiver in Milan, Italy.
But nothing beats a face-to-face greeting, as what Larissa Nodalo got from her father, an OFW since 1992.
Alex Nodalo gave Larissa the biggest surprise of all when he arrived in the country just in time for her graduation on Saturday at La Salle, where she finished Commerce, major in Advertising.
Her father is an IT analyst at the National Bank of Kuwait.
“My dad is allowed to visit home only for a month every year,” Larissa said. “He already used his vacation leave in April.”
“Every year, my family does the usual activities of video chatting with my dad over Skype or even Yahoo! Messenger,” Larissa said.
Belinda and daughter Divine Grace are also planning a special treat for the special man in their life via Skype.
“My husband, Ruel, is not a techie, so this will be a surprise,” said Belinda, whose daughter Divine Grace is currently working as a teacher in Moscow.
Ruel, a former overseas Filipino worker himself, is more accustomed to traditional lines of communication to talk with his family. “Usually, we only talk on the phone. It has been a while since they last talked on Skype,” she said.
Being in different time zones also presents a challenge, and Belinda said it will take a fair amount of planning and coordination from both of them. “She told me she will be online at 8 p.m. Russia time—around midnight here,” she said.
The Philippines is dubbed as “the social networking capital of the world.” Millions of Filipinos currently abroad are now online to connect with friends and family.
According to the Nielsen Southeast Asia Digital Consumer Report released in 2011, Filipino “digital consumers” spent around 21.5 hours online in a week. These Filipinos were also active on social networking site Facebook, video-sharing site YouTube and microblogging platform Twitter.
More than 20 million Filipinos are registered on Facebook, according to estimates as of March 2011, making the Philippines one of the largest countries on the world’s most popular social network. Studies have shown that apart from social networking, Filipino netizens are also active in sharing their photographs and uploading and watching videos online.
But not only families separated by oceans and time zones are using social networks to convey their Father’s Day greetings. John Rey, for example, lives under one roof with his father, Raymundo, in Nueva Ecija, but he and his sisters are also taking to Facebook to greet him.
“We plan to post our photo with him and write a special heartfelt message as its caption, thanking him for being a loving father,” he said, adding that Facebook has become an avenue where they can say something they usually cannot say directly to their dad.
Justin, 21, said he will post edited photos with his dad and use hashtags on Twitter this Father’s Day. “When you explore trending topics on Twitter, you also discover how people in other countries and celebrities celebrate,” he said.
His aunt Marilou, on the other hand, is an advocate of “old school” greetings, like kisses and hugs, though she acknowledges that people’s ways of showing affection change with the times.
“Seeing your dad’s eyes light up when you tell him you love him—that is priceless,” she said.
Despite the convenience social media provides, Larissa said she prefers the traditional way of communicating, by writing letters to her dad, Alex, during special occasions.