Saluyot. Do you know what saluyot is? This green leafy vegetable, also known as jute, is found everywhere in our warm, tropical Philippines. It's easy to ignore the fact that saluyot is rich in calcium, phosphorus, iron, and potassium because of its gooey appearance when cooked. But go beyond its slimy characteristic and you'll surely get loads of vitamin and minerals needed by your bodies to build resistance and defense against communicable diseases. Such richness for such a lowly, simple plant you hated as a kid? For blogger Nelson Bandiez, the saluyot is love.
Nelson Bandiez, more popularly known as Nebz (NEB from his name initials with a feisty letter Z to finish), like one of his favorite veggies, coins "simplicity" as his main characteristic. He describes himself as "shallow" and "light" because he enjoys the simplest of things like a sound sleep, a lulling music, a good movie, a good book, and a good laugh with friends. He's so low-maintenance that he considers himself "easy." (That is not to say he's easy-to-get though!) His weekends start at 9 in the morning to catch Jeopardy and Wheels of Fortune in MBC 4. He’s so “mababaw” he laughs heartily at emailed jokes. The vainest element in his life is his fondness of putting lotion on his feet before his face. Yeah, that’s not even vain because vain people do it the other way around. Told you he is that simple!
A laidback person with a happy outlook, bred in Anao and raised in Antipolo, this is the man behind Isla de Nebz.
His blogging story started with his Friendster blog some 3 years ago followed by a Blogger blog in 2008, which he had the mistake of deleting. His desire to write like Isabel Allende weaving magical characters out of life and Anne Tyler waxing bestsellers about a much-loved place fueled his passion for blogging. He found his own voice through his ISLA DE NEBZ, an island he built with his story and the stories of his fellow OFW friends. (His island is devoid of snakes though, because he’s afraid of them!)
"My blog has no clear concept. Initially, I wrote whatever is in my head - mostly about myself. Only later did I notice that what I'm writing is also the same stories of most of my friends in Saudi. Our being abroad is not that rosy but it is rewarding," Nebz explained. "So my blog became a narration of an OFW's life in Saudi." Just to clarify though, his blog’s name did not come from an island per se but from someone whom he used to work for in the Philippines and who labeled his shirt “Isla de Nononia.”
Blogging for Nebz has become his after-dinner mint. He types away, ignoring the hours spent online just to set his fresh opinions and ideas in cyber ink. In the office, he blogs when the boss is away (don't we all? :P). He gets inspiration from his experiences and from what he hears about. He also blog hops and reads Granta, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, The New York Times, and The New Yorker for topics. He also reads Web Designer Wall where he gets inspiration and information, two things that he's looking for in a blog. Among the OFW bloggers, he reads everyone on his blogroll.
Though he doesn't see anything that sets his blog apart from the blogs he reads, other bloggers, readers, and online personalities begged to disagree. They awarded him the top plum at the recent Pinoy Expats Blog Awards 2009. A very much well deserved win that still surprised him. "At the back of my mind, I know that Isla de Nebz will somehow be among the top 10, but I never thought of it winning the top award!" With this win came the fear of being more responsible of what to write about. "Prior to PEBA, I had lots of things in mind. When I got the award, the ideas seem to vanish in thin air. I thought of going bigger; of being different. And then I lost track of things. I forgot the reasons why I won: the judges liked the way I write - simply, personally, lightly." Nebz is now thinking of going back to that same style and perhaps the same old look.
It's not surprising to know that his PEBA entry is his favorite entry but not because it won him the award. Titled "Where my OFW Dollars Go," this entry is a colorful take on an original topic. While on vacation in the Philippines, he asked his niece to draw the graphics but she met some difficulties with the concept. He turned to a fellow OFW but his friend did not get the grip of what he wanted either. Nebz took the matter on his own hand, literally, and bought a sketchpad and drew. Macromedia Fireworks helped him color his scanned drawings. His niece sighed when she saw it saying "Yun lang naman pala ang gusto mo eh!" This entry was a product of hard work, the same way that it depicts the hard work of all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the world. Remittances, what will the Philippines do without it?
Being an OFW in a country where Kingdom equates to boredom, Nebz found solace in blogging. "Blogging also gave me a chance to meet fellow OFW bloggers. I was able to put in writing my emotions because I never get the chance to open up verbally to anyone while I'm here abroad." Because of what blogging has done to his OFW life, he recommends other OFWs to do the same. "Blogging is a good avenue to tell your stories. In telling our stories to others, we also share not only a part of our lives but also a great deal of lessons from our good and bad experiences abroad."
Nebz who has been living and working in Al-Khobar, KSA for years now, has learned to love the diverse culture around him, the freedom that comes with living independently, the wide highways and roads devoid of traffic, the absence of gossiping neighbors and the delicious broasted chicken, shawarma, and kabsa. Though he loves his OFW life, he doesn't want to stay for another ten long years away from the homeland and his family. But as OFWs usually say nonchalantly when asked how long they’re still staying abroad, who knows?! Really, who does?
Still, even though he’s not keen in continuing his OFW adventures for many more years, Nebz has always been appreciative of what working abroad has done to his life. He'll proudly wear a shirt emblazoned with "OFW IS A DIGNITY ADVENTURE." To know what exactly he means, you have to ask him yourself. He's very easy to approach, warm and welcoming. After all, he's a true Filipino. No matter where he is, he'll proudly wear the Philippines in his heart.
To his fellow expat bloggers, here's what he has to say: "I am proud of you all especially the winners and contenders at PEBA 2009. Let's continue being a good influence to others. Wherever we are, let's represent our country well." And for fellow OFWs in the world: "Keep the faith, guys! Keep on believing that there's hope for our beloved Philippines. And please I implore you, influence your loved ones and friends to vote morally and wisely in 2010."
No man is an island but in the cyber world, an island can be a simple man who loves saluyot and loves blogging passionately. So what if he's that simple? So what if he's that easy? His blog will speak for himself. And you bet, Isla de Nebz has a lot to say.
- Janelle Vales
Janelle is Sundrenched of the Pink Tarha Blog. She grew up in La Union, went to college in Manila, and is now living and working in Riyadg, KSA. If she's to roam the streets of Riyadh without the black cloak, she'll proudly wear a shirt that has a slogan "Real Men Read Pink!" She loves wearing the abaya btw.