Lyn's story that was published in last Sunday's issue of Kabayan has encouraged me to share my sibling's success with your readers. My sister used to be an overseas contract worker. Just like Lyn's family, my sister has smartly invested her savings in our province.
In 1995, my sibling sought overseas employment right after college. She found a job in Singapore, and with God's grace, ended up with a kind employer. She religiously sent money home. Dito naging bato ang munti naming tahanan na salat man sa karangyaan ay masaya naman. (Our humble residence got a makeover!) Mother also started her own home-based business. She purchased a tricycle.
Two years later, my sister returned to the Philippines with her fiance, a Bangladeshi who also used to work in Singapore. After their wedding, the couple built a sari-sari (convenience) store. Since they were both industrious, their convenience store grew into a grocery and general merchandise shop. Eventually, they became wholesalers of phone cards and cell phones. Their business was doing so well that the couple decided to open two more establishments. They invested in a restaurant and opened a store selling school supplies. My sister hired me as her store manager. I was working with three people then - a cook, a waitress and a saleslady. I never ordered them around though. If the restaurant was busy, I would help the cook and the waitress. If the shop was crowded with customers, I would be helping our saleslady. I was a pinch-hitter.
I was satisfied with my life then. I guess that was the reason why I never felt the need to pursue a career that was in line with my profession. Our youngest sibling was also recruited by my sister to manage one of their shops right after college. My sister and her husband later set up a water refill station, and more recently, invested in a computer shop and another school supplies outlet. Because of their flair for business, this husband-and-wife team has become extremely well known in our town.
I never thought that my sister would be this successful. Sino ang mag-aakalang ang isang dating katulong ay amo na ngayon? (Who would have thought that a former maid would become a boss?)
In 2003, our youngest sibling and I decided to try our luck overseas. Both of us had big dreams. We wanted to own our businesses too. Lady luck gave us the break we needed. We were both deployed to Taipei.
My youngest sibling was luckier than me though. She ended up working for kind employers. I, on the other hand, returned home after spending just a few months in Taipei. (That's another story. I would share it with your readers some other time.)
After working in Taiwan for eight months, our youngest sibling offered to buy one of my sister's shops. Ate (big sister) agreed. I was managing the said shop then. Naaalala ko pa ang mga daing niya noon sa akin na kesyo nanginginig na raw ang kamay niya, laging puyat, nangangayayat, nangungulila. Madalas siyang umiyak sa akin. Tiniis niya ang lahat! (I could still remember our youngest sibling's grievances then. She said she was so exhausted that her hands were trembling uncontrollably. She said she lacked sleep, lost a lot of weight, and was extremely lonely. She often cried to me then. My youngest sibling however endured everything!) With God's help, she completed her three-year contract. Today, her business is flourishing too. Hangang-hanga ako sa kapatid ko, sa pagpupursigi niya. (I hold my sister in high esteem. She is determined to succeed.) She is preparing for her future. In fact, she will be tying the knot soon.
I am very proud of my siblings. They are my role models. I hope our fellow migrants will also be inspired by their stories. Every time we chat on the phone, they keep on telling me two things - "save" and "persevere." They often tell me that I could have my own business too. I tell myself the same thing whenever I am feeling despondent. I often shed tears since I miss my children. I tell myself though that those tears symbolize my victory. No pain, no gain, right? Kung nais mo ng tagumpay, kailangang dumanas ka muna ng hirap!
I have this message to my siblings: "My dear siblings, all of your accomplishments and blessings are gifts from God. Your sacrifices have been rewarded! Kaya huwag kalimutang pasalamatan Siya. At anumang karangyaan ang matamasa ninyo - humiga man sa salapi - sana'y huwag magbabago ang pakikitungo ninyo sa inyong kapwa, maging katulong man o amo, sana nandoon pa rin ang respeto. (Do not forget to thank the Lord. Do not let money blind you. Always respect the people around you, regardless of their stature in life.) I wish you more success! I salute you."
Plan your return
Every Sunday, I read the Taiwan News. It's a great companion since I only get one day off every month. It never occurred to me that I would be writing you too.
A friend recently went home after completing her three-year contract in Taiwan. She wants to return to Taiwan. Unfortunately, she does not have the money for her placement fee. The big question is, "Where did the money go?"
In Taiwan, employers deduct 20 percent in taxes from our wages every month. The rest of the money is handed to us. We send money home since our families need financial support. Since my income is not that much, I only remit a small amount every month. A portion of my wages goes to my bank account. I give myself a small allowance for my miscellaneous expenses such as phone cards and other basic necessities.
It is only when our contracts are about to expire that we ask ourselves, "Where did my wages go? Did I spend too much?" On the day of our departure, our brokers will hand us our tax refunds and savings. Wouldn't it be great if we also had some cash in addition to those savings? To me, savings are important since we could not expect those whom we had helped while we were working overseas to help us back. We will be blessed but our rewards will take on another form.
To my fellow migrants, plan your return while you are still working overseas. Do not waste your hard-earned money. Save for the future. Remember, "Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa."
Count your blessings, not your failures. View your trials as challenges. Success will come to us if we have faith, hope and confidence. Always think positive too.
I got my first copy of Kabayan on May 11, 2006. A neighbor lent it to me. From that time on, I make sure I get my Taiwan News every Sunday. Kabayan makes me smile, and often, it also makes me cry. Sophia Amor's letter, which appeared in Kabayan on June 11, 2006, drove me to tears.
Working away from home is a challenge in itself. You have to set aside your loneliness, anxiety and insecurities, and strive for normalcy. We find solace and structure in our daily routine. To many, work offers them some relief.
Life only gets even more difficult if you find yourself saddled with a demanding employer and are not allowed to take days off. You try to make things work but no matter how hard you try, your boss still finds you wanting. To live with someone like that could be emotionally draining and mentally taxing.
Fortunately, I have Kabayan with me. With you by my side, I don't feel too alone anymore. I compile your newspaper, and "review" them whenever I am free. I also lend them to friends and neighbors. I even found my group, the OFW Family Club, through Kabayan. More importantly, I have "met" some very good pals through this column. Sophia Amor is one of those gems. We text each other from time to time. I am looking forward to day when we'd finally meet.
I would like to thank the publisher and the staff of this newspaper. Thank you for giving us so much joy and happiness. I appreciate everything that you have done for us. God bless you all!
Thank you for supporting Kabayan. Nakakawala ng pagod at nakakataba ng puso. Basta't may napasaya tayong kababayan - kahit isa lang tuwing Linggo - sulit ang hirap mo. Maraming, maraming salamat Cristy.
Let's help UGNAYAN
UGNAYAN, as everyone knows, is a facility developed, used and maintained by foreign workers.
It is housed in a six-story building, and has a Catholic chapel, an interfaith hall, a library, classrooms, kitchen, and a social hall. This year, UGNAYAN will be holding Mother's Day and Papa of the Year celebrations, livelihood and skills training programs, and a lecture series. The center also has several ministries including Singles for Christ and Handmaids of the Lord, Liturgy and Music, Charismatic Community, Couples For Christ, El Shaddai Community and the UGNAYAN Family Outreach to the new immigrants and their families. The center welcomes people from all walks of life.
If you want to be an UGNAYAN donor, just mail your contribution to: Father Joy Tajonera c/o UGNAYAN, No. 390, Chung Shan Road, Section 2, Tantzu Xiang, Taichung County. For inquiries, please ring Father Joy at 0930-446-060. You may also send your contribution to Kabayan. We will be publishing UGNAYAN's donors' list in this section as well.
Cheers to MECO, CLA
I am a single parent to three children. Like many of your readers, I too faced and overcame challenges in Taiwan. Fortunately, I had a rescuer in the person of David Wang.
I was employed as a caregiver to an elderly man. I had big dreams then. My dreams however quickly turned into a nightmare. The person I was taking care of started mistreating me. I sought my broker's help. He did nothing. I decided to seek the assistance of the Council of Labor Affairs. Initially, I had second thoughts about asking the help of a Taiwanese. To my surprise, it was a Taiwanese who came to my aid. David Wang turned me over to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taichung. Since MECO Labor-Taichung did not have a shelter, Rose Lin, who was then an employee of OWWA-Taichung, took me in. I stayed with Ms. Lin's family for several months. She and her family treated me as if I were a family member. They showed me compassion even though I had nothing to give them. I was jobless. To keep myself occupied, I joined the church choir. David pursued my case, and eventually got me transferred to another employer.
During my lowest and most depressing moments, David did his best to lift my spirits. Whenever I visited him at his office, I noticed that he was handling several cases involving foreign workers at the same time. I thank God for David. He is God's gift to distressed migrants.
This man is an ordinary individual who is doing an extraordinary and wonderful thing. He believes that migrant rights are human rights.
Right now, I am working for a wonderful employer. My boss and her family treat me like a member of their family.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. David Wang and those people (Ms. Rose Lin and MECO officials) who helped me during my most difficult and trying time in Taiwan. They helped me turn my dream into a reality.
I hope David will never tire of helping foreign workers. May his tribe increase!
The Cordillera Overseas Filipino Workers Association in Taichung will be holding its general assembly meeting on February 11 at 1 p.m. at Taichung Park. All Cordillerans and interested individuals are invited to join this gathering. For inquiries, call 0936-946-998 or 0910-962-650.
If you want to subscribe to Kabayan (NT$100 for eight issues), please send your subscription form to Mr. Su of our circulation and advertising department by registered mail. Cut out our subscription box on page 14.
Kabayan's Listener's Corner, a Filipino program produced by Radio Taiwan International, is aired every Thursday night from 7:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at AM747 and AM927. Our show features inspiring stories of our fellow migrants, original Pilipino music, news and much, much more! The program is replayed every Saturday. Send your requests, comments, and suggestions to:
c/o Radio Taiwan International
P.O. Box 24-38 Taipei, Taiwan
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Kabayan c/o Taiwan News
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fax: (02) 2358-3880
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Letters should include your full name, address, and telephone number. Names may be withheld upon request. Letters may be edited for length or clarity.