The website of Radio Veritas-Asia
It’s 7 p.m., Sunday, and Aminah Khan, an overseas Filipino worker in Dubai, hurries to her bedroom and turns on her portable radio.
In a matter of seconds, her room is filled with soothing hymns, prayers and words of blessings from a priest.
Khan is listening to “Banal na Misa” (Holy Mass) on 9.615 Mhz. shortwave, broadcast every Sunday night to the Middle East from Manila by the Radio Veritas Asia Filipino Service
, a Church-run project launched in 1990 to meet the spiritual needs of migrant workers.
“I’m very lonely and the radio is my only means of enjoyment, getting news from home and hearing Holy Mass every Sunday,” Khan said in a letter thanking Veritas for its daily programs which she said sustain and deepen her Christian life.
Despite the growth of the Internet and social media, thousands of overseas Filipino workers
in the Middle East still use radio as a link to their homeland and a way of coping with loneliness, religious restrictions and cultural isolation.
“[Analog] broadcast - shortwave radio - has become a faithful travel partner to seafarers who might not see land for months or a companion to migrant workers who struggle with loneliness,” said Sheila Hermida, program producer of the Radio Veritas Asia Filipino Service.
She said the Filipino Service does its best to bring home the truth to its listeners and makes the presence of Christ in their lives seem more alive by telling them that Jesus is accompanying them on their difficult journey and in the challenges that will come their way as migrant workers.
While shortwave giants BBC World Service, Voice of America and Radio Netherlands are shutting down most of their shortwave transmitters after embracing Web streaming technology, Radio Veritas, despite having invested in digital media, is sticking to shortwave to reach out to more migrant workers.
“Our listeners are domestic helpers, construction workers, drivers and seafarers, and most of them don’t have access to the Internet,” Hermida said.
“[In Saudi Arabia], there are only a few employers who allow [migrant workers] to use cell phones, most of the time they are not allowed to have one.”
Shortwave has been hailed as having several advantages.
“While the Internet and cell phones are vulnerable to government interference” shortwave radio is difficult to block “if enough is invested in signal strength and bandwidth,” Britain’s Guardian
“It is cheaper than other [platforms] of new media, plus the fact that analog radio is not difficult to use … you can just turn it on, look for the meter-band and you can listen to the program,” Hermida said.
She said that with the present crisis in Middle East, Radio Veritas maintains active linkages with government agencies and non-government groups to help disseminate information to migrant workers.
Radio Veritas targets young listeners