Naga City (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Filipinos who have long been away from their country can virtually “return home” through the popular social networking site Facebook.
The online pages have become venues for prospective “balikbayans” who want to be updated on happenings in the places they had left for work abroad or for good. They may give comments and suggestions on how their hometowns may improve.
"San Vicente is a little community in the Philippines, on the main island of Luzon, 350 kilometers south of Manila," reads a Facebook account of the town of San Vicente in Camarines Norte in welcoming "fan" or "friend" to view and post.
As of July 10, the page has been “liked” by 462 people, including the town’s mayor, Joseph Stanley Alegre. Persons who “like” the page can post.
Hundreds of people with roots in the small municipality have already posted.
"I miss Mananap," says one Facebook user, referring to a village that has a waterfall.
"Then go here so you won’t miss it," the page administrator tells the user.
The conversation goes on and on until the discussion boils down to the fiesta and the reunion of users who have liked the page.
Also posted are photos of tourist attractions or landmarks that, evidently, make people long for their hometown more.
In the Facebook page of Daet in Camarines Norte, one user says, “I am proud I am from Daet where the Bagasbas Beach, the number one surfing destination in Bicol, is found.”
But he was quick to say that he was missing his hometown. The user works as a management trainee in a food company in Qatar.
In the page of Milagros, Masbate, many persons are exclaiming love for their hometown.
"How is there in our place?" asks a user, who works as a security guard in Malabon City.
"I feel sad that I have to leave Milagros soon after the town fiesta. I miss the place," says another, who is working in a health facility in Quezon City.
In the Facebook page of San Ramon, Uson, Masbate, many have expressed gladness over the progress of the barangay in a photo of two traders on board a motorcycle that is overloaded with what appears to be farm produce.
"I salute San Ramon for the development," comments one user, an interior designer based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
"The people in San Ramon are lucky now. In my time, it’s hard because the road is very bad," replies another.
In the page “Cawayan Masbate Watch,” one user posts: “I really miss my birthplace … But I’m counting the days to be there again! Hope that it will be soon …”
"How are you Pio V. Corpus. My birthplace," says a user in the Facebook page of Pio V. Corpuz who is now living in San Diego, California.
"Wow, I miss the place. Maybe five years from now, I’ll go there on a vacation," says another now residing in Cebu City.
The Facebook page of the town of Balud, Masbate-the westernmost town of Bicol-is full of posts from persons missing the far-flung town.
"Things have changed in Balud. I’m missing it," says one user.
"Balud, I’ll be home soon. I’ve been gone for almost three years. You have changed much," says another.
Still another commented that he suddenly missed his hometown upon seeing a photo of its pasture lands. He now lives in Calamba City in Laguna.
In the Facebook page of San Fernando, Masbate, one user tells all other persons who like the page “The only thing that changed in San Fernando is the mayor [who runs it].”
Richard Gacu, 24, of Talisay, Camarines Norte, who has been a Facebook user since last year, “liked” the page of Camarines Norte in May.
"I did it because I am proud of my hometown," he said. He now works as a documentation officer in Metro Manila.
Dustin Sierra, 21, the administrator of the Facebook page “Tamban Camarines Sur” said he created the page to update all those who were born in and spent a part of their lives in Tamban on what has happened in the place long after they left.
"It is also meant to update them on important local developments."
The page, he said, was for those who who had ties to Tamban who were missing their families, looking for childhood playmates, craving for native fares and missing the good times of the bygone years.
Anyone who is not a minor can create and administer a page in Facebook, the social networking site founded by Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz and Eduardo Saverin in 2004.
As of July 2011, it has at least 750 million active users around the world.