Alexa

Pinoys hold Christmas party for Sanshia detainees

Pinoys hold Christmas party for Sanshia detainees

People often celebrate the Christmas season by throwing parties, shopping for gifts and organizing reunions. In the Philippines, Christmas is all about spending time with the family. Wearing your Sunday best (or holiday best), you hear mass, visit some relatives and friends, and feast on various types of kakanin (rice cakes).
To most migrants however, the holidays often heighten their feelings of isolation and loneliness. This is particularly felt by home-based workers, particularly those who are not getting any days off.
Many however still try to have fun during this season. After all, isn't Christmas really about celebrating the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ? It is a time of joy, not depression.
This season, you should also learn to count your blessings. You are healthy. You have a job. You have a family that loves you. Be thankful.
With this in mind, the Kapulungan ng Samahang Pilipino (KaSaPi or the Association of Filipino Workers in Taiwan) and the Taiwan International Workers' Association decided to play Santa to our fellow migrants who are celebrating the holidays at the Sanshia detention center. We visited them on December 24.
There are more than 100 migrants currently detained in Sanshia. Most of them are from Indonesia and Vietnam. There are also some Singaporeans, Nigerians and Filipinos.
We have learned that most of the detainees absconded from their jobs or "ran away" from their employers. One particular migrant however has a different set of problems. He said he came from a small African country, and he was caught in Taiwan carrying fake documents. During the time of his arrest, war was raging in his country, he said. The police could not get hold of his documents. Since no one could prove his identity, authorities could not repatriate him. He has been detained in Sanshia for three years now. To date, no one still knows how to solve his problem.
Each Sanshia detainee has his/her own story tell, and most -- if not all -- are heart-wrenching. The feelings of sadness that you and I are experiencing this Christmas are nothing compared to the loneliness and anguish that those detainees are feeling this season.
The least that KaSaPi and TIWA could do was to put a smile on their faces for a few hours at least last Sunday. We sang and danced, played parlor games, and shared a simple Christmas meal with the detainees.
We also donated reading materials and CDs to the management of the Sanshia Detention Center. Some of our members also donated clothing.
When it was time for us to leave, the entire room turned quiet. It was the kind of silence that spoke volumes about those detainees' personal pain and anguish. We knew how they felt.
We are however glad that we had been able to celebrate Christmas this year with our brothers and sisters in Sanshia.
We would like to thank the following people and organizations for making that Christmas party possible: The management of the detention center for allowing us to hold that simple celebration in Sanshia; legislator Wang Tuoa for providing us with free transportation; TIWA for helping us coordinate with the detention center; COSWAS, an association that advocates sex workers' rights, and the Taiwan International Family Association for joining the party; and Tony Thamsir and a Vietnamese friend for hosting the program. They also served as translators.
Finally, I would like to express my sincerest thanks to our KaSaPi members for giving their 100 percent to this meaningful project. Without your help, this activity would not have had been possible. Happy New Year everyone!