Story by: Kaye Viray and Andrea Empamano
Aerial footage by JC Borlongan

What makes a great story?

Since the beginning of the year, our team at IOM Philippines has been sharing moving stories from all over the country. They have listened to real voices, witnessed real experiences and met real people on the move.

This is #MyGreatStory

“All humans are migrants. You can have an I.D. from a different place but we are all migrants around the world.” - Jessie Lichauco, a 108-year-old American woman who migrated to Manila, Philippines alone in the 1930s.


Jessie witnessed the birth of a nation, a cruel war and occupation and its reconstruction. She is a striking personality, who knew no boundaries and was well ahead of her time especially as a young woman in that era, travelling alone. Hers is #MyGreatStory of a well lived century-plus life which was brilliantly documented by her granddaughter, Sunshine Lichauco De Leon, through her film Curiosity, Adventure and Love.

That is her great story.

My Great Story Campaign

With migration currently dominating media coverage across the world, it is evident that awareness raising and promotion of good understanding of human mobility is increasingly important. It is recognised that very often, prejudice, discrimination, anti-migrant sentiment and xenophobia often originate from misconception and lack of understanding about realities of migration and the many reasons why people are on the move around the world.

Even in the Philippines, one of the world’s major migrant worker-sending countries, there is an evident gap or disconnect between migrants and general public (those who are not migrants).

Piloting in the Philippines, #MyGreatStory aims to bridge this gap by increasing awareness of Filipino people on migration related issues. It is centred around enhanced social media content supported by interactive public events.

Illustrating the lived realities of migrants and their environments, the ‘My Great Story’ theme aims to bring forward personal accounts and experiences of migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs), people on the move and convey them to the wider public in an engaging way.

Moving Stories from people on the move

A seaweed farmer, a professional chef, and a professional dancer. Let’s meet some of the inspiring real people on the move. These are their great stories.


“Seaweed farming is not just a job I know I can do well, it is also what brings food to my family’s table, and what sends my children to school,” Eddi, 52, shares while working at an IOM-built seaweed dryer and mini warehouse.

He is one of the seaweed farmers in Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province in the Philippines located in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). He is a beneficiary of IOM's livelihood program that provides farming equipment and materials like fishing boats and gears, and seaweed dryers to remote areas.

Given the substantial number of poverty-ridden municipalities and provinces, conflict affected areas, and complex emergencies, Mindanao is classified by the World Bank as a fragile sub-region which requires more dedicated resources to ensure a path to peace.

Apart from these setbacks, Tawi-Tawi is an underserved province due to its geographical location.


“A few months ago, I was just an ordinary person in our barangay with not much to do, but with many ambitions in life.

Alhamdullilah, alhamdullilah, alhamdullilah!

I thank Allah for leading me to this road of opportunities and I pray, someday, I will be the chef I have long dreamed to be.”

Meet Reham. After a mild stroke stopped her from working in Qatar, she went back home to Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte, Philippines. There, she was chosen by her community to join the cookery training implemented by IOM and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

After graduating from the program, she exhibited her skills in a cooking contest in Cotabato City finishing second overall. Now, she continues to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional chef while training others to follow the same path.


“While achievements are a reflection of one’s hard work and passion, they are not the source of a true sense of fulfilment. Appreciate the struggle that comes with every success. And don’t be afraid to set high standards for yourself in anything you do.”

Meet Anna. Her love for dance is as strong as her love for life. After joining the Philippine Ballet Theatre at 17, she flew to New York City where she studied economics at Columbia University while also training to become a professional dancer. Today, Anna has become the first Filipina choreographer for the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition 2019, reminding us that “if excellence is possible—and believe me, it is—why not strive for it?”

#MyGreatStory Mobile Exhibit

The #MyGreatStory campaign empowers both migrants and non-migrants to share their stories of involvement with migration and its related issues and activities, bringing more awareness to migration as a whole in a manner that resonates with themselves.

One of the key activities during summer was the Box of Great Stories, a booth made up of two cubicles of IOM’s Alternative Transitional Shelter (ATS) that was transformed into a mobile interactive exhibit that provided a glimpse into the lives of migrants, with stories highlighting internal movement in the Philippines.

The #MyGreatStory mobile exhibit travelled to six different locations. In July, it was brought directly to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Lounge at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport where many Filipino migrants depart from.

It was then brought to other locations where OFWs frequent such as the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Building and at the Department of Foreign Affairs ASEANA office, both in Pasay City, Philippines. Other locations included universities like the Miriam College and University of the Philippines.

#MyGreatStory also made an appearance during the 2019 Pride Summit at the Marriot Hotel, Pasay City, Philippines.

With 8.7 million users reached online, 403,100 engaged in the conversation and with 42 profiles gathered, #MyGreatStory has indeed helped to raise awareness about migration not just in the Philippines but also in other parts of the world.

The campaign will continue to promote real stories of migrants for the rest of the year.

Now that’s a great story.

#MyGreatStory is funded by IOM Development Fund.