Expatriates usually have a desire to know what's going on in the country they left behind. Whether you're an American living in Manila or a Pinoy residing in Los Angeles, I'm willing to bet you want to hear what's happening back home.
This happened with me back in 1998 when my wife and I traveled to Japan from the USA on a sister city exchange. Surrounded by a culture with an unfamiliar language and a detached interest in goings-on back in the States, tuning in to Voice of America shortwave broadcasts on my Grundig Yacht Boy 400 radio was my soul source of news in America for ten days.
Shortwave, which has been with us longer than FM and nearly as long as AM, takes one of the fundamental principles of radio and reverses it: Instead of broadcasting to a strictly local audience of listeners like FM or AM (whose signals only go so far), shortwave is purely external in nature. It's radio for a worldwide audience and there are few places a strong signal can't reach at some point. The medium has a long, honorable history of bringing news to people in countries where governmental media censorship has been heavy-handed.
Which brings us to expats living in The Philippines who want to keep in touch with their former countries. Although growth of the Internet has marginalized shortwave over the past decade, what do you do during one of the frequent brownouts that are a part of life in The Philippines? Or your server drops out on you? What if you have no computer at all? Or power?
Among the beauties of using a shortwave radio is that you don't have to depend on the web. In fact, if your radio uses batteries, you don't even need electricity to listen. Also, there's no way your listening habits can be monitored like they are on the internet. With headphones, shortwave radio is virtually surveillance-proof.
So which shortwave stations can be heard in The Philippines? Pretty much any station (usually originating from a government broadcasting service) that beams signals to Asia. Radio Australia is perhaps the best of those, although Voice of Russia, Radio New Zealand International, KBS in South Korea, Radio Thailand, Radio Taiwan International, Voice of America and the venerable BBC can be heard. The Philippines has four of its own shortwave stations: PBS-owned DZRM (Radyo Magasin) and DZRP (Radyo Pilipinas) plus religious stations FEBC and Radio Veritas. Shortwave can also be heard in several languages. Besides English, you can catch broadcasts in Spanish, French, German, Russian, Japanese and dozens of other languages.
Here are a few tips on how to make shortwave radio work for you in The Philippines or anywhere else. First, do a little research and buy a good radio. There are a LOT of units that receive shortwave, from desktop models than can cost hundreds (even thousands) of dollars to something like the cheapo pocket-sized Coby AM/FM/SW I bought years ago for under $10. A great resource for feedback is Amazon.com, where you can read reviews from other consumers. Scout around and you'll find something that fits your needs and budget.
Once it's time to start listening, great schedule resources include Popular Communications and Monitoring Times magazines and the annual World Radio & Television Handbook, all of which include schedules for dozens and dozens of international broadcasters. Sadly, the terrific Passport to World Band Radio has ceased publication. NOTE: Most shortwave stations also stream online, but it's not quite the same experience.
It obviously helps to know when you'll find stations to listen to. Nighttime is the best time to listen to shortwave because the sun can wreak havoc on a station's signal, which is dependent on bouncing between the earth and the ionosphere (a tech-driven article in itself). There are 14 different shortwave bands in all, each of which can host a number of different stations (like AM and FM). Certain bands work better on different continents at different times of day or year so check out your copy of WRTH or one of the magazines to get a better idea. Like snowflakes, no two shortwave stations are exactly alike.
But most of all, have fun. As mentioned, shortwave radio crosses oceans and borders and has been valuable for decades in getting information to people who might otherwise never hear it, such as Radio Free Europe did in the 1950's and 1960's. But it's also neat to twist a dial and listen to voices and music from thousands of miles away (maybe even your own homeland) crackling through your radio and bringing a piece of their world into your living room. That's the magic of shortwave radio.