Why Google launched 'Balikbayan' campaign for OFWs

by Fidea Encarnacion, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Dec 18 2014 04:34 PM | Updated as of Dec 19 2014 01:14 AM

Google Philippines Country Marketing Manager Ryan Morales and Blas Ople Center President Susan Ople. Photos by Jonathan Cellona for ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA - A website tailored for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their families in the Philippines was launched by Google earlier this week.

During a round table with the media on Thursday, Google Philippines Country Marketing Manager Ryan Morales revealed the campaign was triggered by an increasing trend of OFWs looking for more ways to connect with families and friends back home.

Google worked with the Blas Ople Center to further understand what kinds of online tools OFWs need.

"Although OFWs have been around for a long time, the online community is still very young, and we're looking into having this as one of the tools that they [use]," he said.

"We've heard mothers that tell their sons, 'Alam mo anak, pagdating mo sa bahay, i-on mo lang yung tablet mo tapos ilagay mo lang sa kusina... just put it there so I can see what's happening in the background'."

Morales said that according to surveys conducted, Filipinos value communication the most, ranking higher than money and other concerns or factors.

"We've looked at surveys and we've looked at data and the number one thing that Filipinos look for beyond money, beyond anything, is to still remain connected and close with their families and friends back home," he said.

'Balikbayan' Google page

Google Philippines Country Marketing Manager Ryan Morales and Blas Ople Center President Susan Ople. Photos by Jonathan Cellona for ABS-CBNnews.com

The "Balikbayan" campaign, which can be accessed at g.co/balikbayan, has three main sections: 'Explore,' 'Share,' and 'Get Ready.'

The first section, 'Explore,' contains a special feature called the 'OFW Circle' where content such as news and tips can be accessed.

The section also has a special Youtube playlist that features trending videos in the Philippines.

The second section, 'Share,' focuses on what Filipinos mostly seek and use. It includes Google Hangouts, Drive, Street View for Maps, and Photos.

Lastly, the 'Get Ready' section provides more simple tools such as 'Current Time,' 'Weather,' 'News,' 'Language,' 'Currency Exchange,' and general search.

Blas Ople Center President Susan Ople said that these sections have proven to be useful, especially for those who are on the process of planning a new life abroad.

"Those of us in the NGO sector see the value of having this website where we can just direct those about to leave and their families here to the Balikbayan website, [so] they can see and visualize --andito yung embassy, andito yung simbahan," she said.

With the website, OFWs, as well as their families, are given an idea of how living in another is like.

"A lot of them leave the country without basic research on where they're going... It drives the message that migration is a very difficult and major life choice, and you have to prepare for it," Ople shared.

Google Philippines launched the "Balikbayan" website on Monday.

The campaign included the subsequent release of its promotional video, 'Miss Nothing' which shows how the site will be able able to help OFWs keep in touch with their loved ones in the Philippines.