Merry, merry Christmas and a prosperous and grace-filled New Year to all!
In today's Kabayan, we are featuring the winning entries of those who joined EEC Elite's Christmas short-story writing competition. We asked our readers to hatch a plot based on this premise: "She opened the box and inside it was a delicate Christmas tree ornament. It was a tiny angel." (Binuksan niya ang kahon. May laman itong palamuti para sa Christmas tree. Isang maliit na anghel.) To our delight, we received several entries from migrants all over the country. Most of the stories were not only extremely well-written - they were engaging, uplifting and in many cases, brilliantly funny! The winners of EEC Elite's short story-writing contest are Imee D. Jaime of Taoyuan County (first place, Mega Box), Ellen Panaligan of Hsinchu (second place, Regular Box), and Juanita Alfaro of Taoyuan County (third place, Budget Box). (Check out their stories on page 17 of today's Kabayan.)
Lemina B. Narciso, Nelia Casumpang and Rosely R. Ordonia - all from Taipei - made it to our finals. Although they won't be getting any prizes, their stories will be published in Kabayan next Sunday. Congratulations to all the winners!
I have to admit that I picked the angel theme because I personally believe in angels. Yes, there are angels in our midst. He or she could be a migrant parent, a friend, an officemate, an employer, even a stranger. Caregivers - those gentle individuals who care for their patients as if they were their own flesh and blood - are actually a choir of angels, I am sure.
I have had the privilege of being touched by so many angels during my 15-year stay in Taiwan. There's my No. 1 guardian angel, Father Joy. This much-loved priest is a counselor, spiritual adviser, confidante, shrink, dear friend, and even a career adviser to many of us. He nurses people with broken hearts, shattered dreams, and crippled souls. Father Joy even started a center for migrants and immigrants in Taichung County with only a prayer and a few thousand dollars in his pocket. Many thought it could not be done. But Father Joy is one determined angel. He found his building, and started his center. Today, that center is known as Ugnayan.
I also believe that Dr. Rosario Dureza-Lim, our extremely popular columnist, and the husband-and-wife team of Dr. Ed Leano and May, our hardworking Kabayan Book Club coordinators, are angels in disguises. Their generosity and compassion never cease to amaze me. In spite of their pressing schedules, personal worries and commitments, they have contributed their talents and time to our dear readers every week. This angelic trio have shown me what giving is all about, and for that, I will be eternally grateful to them.
My poor officemates - Luke, Peggy, Melody, Nancy, Leo, Crystal, Fiona, Hungfu, Hermia, George, James, Joseph, Jeanette, Zach, David and the industrious members of our production and circulation teams - also deserve a pair of wings and a sparkling halo for putting up with me. They have shown me a lot of patience, understanding, respect and love - even though I don't deserve all that kindness.
Li, Nitz, Joyette, Labatt Boboy, Macy, Ningning, Kevin, Josie, Ramil, Tina, Narcy and of course, Ambassador Antonio Basilio and his team at MECO are also among my treasured friends.
I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to our community's true champions who have been tirelessly lobbying for migrants' rights these past several years. Thank you Father Bruno, Father Peter O'Neill, Father Peter Hung, Father Eamon Sheridan, Sister Doris, Lorna Kung, Wu Jing-ru, Yu Kuling, Susan Chen and all those exemplary individuals who have devoted their lives to advancing foreign workers' rights and welfare. They are our guardian angels!
I would also like to applaud our wonderful community leaders: Mommy Luz and Daddy James of the Dansui Filipino Community; Lersa Li; Gloria Suizo of the OFW Family Club; Ellen Panaligan; Ryan Acenas of SMI; Edcel Benosa; Alma Bentres, Engineer Francis Lammawin and his gorgeous wife, Connie of the Cordilleran Association; Melany Pasibe of the Bicol Association; and Nene Ho of the FMTA to name a few.
And of course, there's you, my dear kababayans. I have probably done at least 720 issues of Kabayan these past 15 years, and each time I produce an issue, you are always there cheering me on. Maraming, maraming salamat po sa inyong pagmamalasakit at pagtangkilik.
You, my dear angels, are the reason why I am finding it difficult to say goodbye. I am leaving my position with the Taiwan News effective February 1, 2008. Believe me, arriving at this decision had not been easy. But after spending so many sleepless nights pondering about my future, I believe that the time has come for me to move on. Change is terrifying and exciting at the same time. I am however ready to make a leap of faith. Wish me luck!
It also pains me to say that Kabayan will be publishing its last issue next Sunday, December 30. Nakakalungkot but that's the way it is.
Our dear kabayan, Dr. Rosario Dureza-Lim, says it all in a touching e-mail that she sent me yesterday. She said, "There is a reason for everything. We just have to find it out sooner or later." Godspeed my dear kabayans!
Learning from one's mistakes
Why do so many people choose to work abroad? Why are they willing to leave their loved ones behind? Why do they put up with difficult employers and take on menial jobs? There is only one answer to all those questions. We want to give our loved ones a better future.
I too took that long journey for the same reason. I have been working in Taiwan for nearly a year now as a caregiver to a seriously mentally impaired seven-year-old boy.
Just like other migrants, I had a lot of difficulty adjusting to Taiwan. Everything was new and foreign to me - the weather, food, culture, conduct, and of course, the language.
Before trying my luck in Taiwan, I used to work in the Philippine media. I have a degree on mass communications. In fact, I even worked as a news writer and researcher at a radio station in Baguio. Since I was a fresh graduate then, I received nothing more than a stipend. After working at the radio station for three months, I quit my job. My measly salary was not enough to cover my family's basic expenses.
I persuaded myself to look for employment overseas. That was how I landed a job as a caregiver in Taiwan.
I had a tough time at first. I knew nothing about household work and I never took care of an extremely sick patient before. I was clueless. Sheer determination and hard work however enabled me to accomplish all of my tasks. My first six months in Taiwan were the toughest. My employers kept on comparing my performance with that of my sister's. She used to work for them. It was a depressing time for me. I also started feeling sorry for myself. There were days when I felt like throwing in the towel.
My good friends however kept me going. They formed my support network in Taiwan. The few minutes that I spent with them were filled with laughter.
Whenever I felt desperate and helpless, those good friends of mine cheered me up and raised my spirits. They told me, "Every day is a new day. Move on and always try to be happy." They gave me sage advice. In fact, they even reminded me of God's goodness whenever I was feeling low. With God at my side, my heartaches disappear.
In spite of my lackluster performance, my employers decided to retain me.
I had several shortcomings. There was a time when I left the apartment - leaving my patient in the house all by himself - because I had to wire my remittance. When my boss asked me if I were using their telephone, I lied and said "no." Their phone bills, for three consecutive months, were astronomical.
My negligence and disgraceful behavior nearly cost me my job. My employers were set on firing me.
During those very difficult days, I tried my best to soften their hearts and earn their forgiveness. I know that it would take quite a while before they would fully trust me again.
I only had one option. I did the only thing I could do: Have faith in God. I woke up one day and realized that I could start afresh. I also reminded myself that I was in Taiwan for my family. I wanted to give my loved ones a bright future.
My dreams and my love for my family will be my armor during my three-year "battle" in Taiwan. Above all however, my firm belief in God's glory and mercy for migrants will strengthen me for the challenges that lie ahead.
Trials after all "are not a reason to give up but a challenge to improve our lives. It is not an excuse to back out but an inspiration to move forward and grow."
My fellow migrants, strive for the best and God will do the rest.
Mission accomplished! I flew home last December 3 after completing my employment contract.
Let me thank the staff of Taiwan News and Kabayan namely Marie, Leo Maliksi, Nancy Lu, Dr. Rosario Dureza-Lim and Father Joy Tajonera for keeping me company in Taiwan. I hope you'd only be met with more success in the coming years.
Mahirap na masaya ang buhay abroad. (Life overseas is challenging and fun at the same time.) Homesickness is our No. 1 enemy. Oftentimes, it would hit us like a thief in the night. Meron ngang kahit kumakain ka, tumutulo na lang ang luha mo. (Sometimes you would cry in the middle of a meal.)
I remember my first few years as an overseas Filipino worker. At the time, my mother sent me heartwarming letters. "Anak lagi kang magdarasal at huwag mong kalimutang uminom ng gatas sa gabi," she often wrote. (My child, don't forget to pray and always drink a glass of milk before going to bed.) One of my aunts, a "veteran" OFW, had told me, "O ano, eh di alam mo na ngayon ang hirap kung paano mawalay o malayo sa pamilya." (So now you know what it's like to be away from your loved ones.)
To be honest, my heart was filled with anxiety and dread when I stepped into my Taiwanese employer's home three years ago. Patience, humility, hard work and faith in our almighty Father enabled me to overcome all hurdles though. We are poor and not highly educated. Overseas employment was my family's ticket to a better life.
Last September, my patient was hospitalized. During our first day at the hospital, she kept on reminding me to steam rice and cook vegetables. By nightfall, she asked me to take her home. On our fourth day, my patient was talking non-stop. She was so loud that the other patients in the room and their caregivers had trouble sleeping.
My patient also kept on getting up. The nurses had no choice but to tie her to the bed. I felt sorry for her. However, I knew that this was for her own good. What if she falls off the bed while I am fast asleep?
My patient's room was located next to a prayer room. I prayed every morning and evening, thanking God for everything - both the good and the bad. I also prayed for my patient's full and quick recovery.
Amah's children and grandchildren also visited her at the hospital. During our fifth day at the hospital, our "roommates" - a patient with a kidney ailment and her Filipina caregiver, Rose - left. That hospital room seemed emptier without Rose.
God answered my prayers. On Day 6, Amah was discharged from the hospital. She recovered.
I would like to thank my sisters in Taiwan who took the time to visit us at the hospital. Letlet brought a music CD. Rhiza gave me a packaged meal. Nicka also visited us with her wheelchair-bound Ahkong in tow. She was teaching Ahkong an English song. Nagpalakpakan nga kami noong pinakanta niya si Ahkong sa harap namin. (We applauded Ahkong who sang an English song for us.) I would also like to thank Veronica. Hindi ko pinapansin dahil napagkamalan kong taga-India dahil sa morenang ganda na taglay niya. Nalaman ko na lang na Pinay siya dahil sa hawak niyang Romance pocketbook. (At first, I was ignoring her. I thought this dusky beauty was from India. I only realized that she was a Pinay when I saw her reading a Romance pocketbook.) I would also like to thank Mariza who often rang me, asking when I would be hearing mass; and Geraldine who brought me a bottle of Eskinol and a copy of Kabayan.
Tears were rolling down my cheeks while writing this letter. Leaving my patient and friends is not that easy. I will miss my Amah. But that's life, right? My employer and Amah actually asked me to return to Taiwan as soon as possible. I refused however. I want to take a long break.
Some of my friends joked that I must have fallen under cupid's spell, and that I have already found my special someone. Que sera, sera. (Whatever will be, will be.) One texter actually hit the nail right on the head when he/she said, "Life is like a book. Every day has a page with adventures to tell, lessons to learn and tales on good deeds to remember."
I am not that choosy; I only know what I want. If I feel that the relationship is going nowhere, I quickly nip it in the bud.
I would also like to greet my friends Adie, Wina, Ronie, Mamang Merly, Nitz and all the lovely Taitung ladies. It is too bad I won't be able to join your Christmas party. If I were still in Taiwan at the time, I would have had joined the "Miss Migrant" competition! Good luck to all the candidates, and mabuhay (long live) sina Sister Teresa, Sister Matty, Sister Ana and Father John.
Kabayan, hanggang dito na lang ang aking talumpati. Thank you so much for publishing my letters. Pinadala ko nga sa Pinas. Akala tuloy ng mga parents ko't kapatid ang galing kong mag-English.
The amazing thing about you is that no matter how bleak or difficult things get, you remain hopeful and sunny. That is something that I have learned from you. You have enriched my life and the lives of countless others with your honest and heartfelt stories.
Kabayan Book Club
Kabayan Ed and May will be attending to all of your requests starting from January 8, 2008.
KBC would like to thank the following for their financial contribution to the book-buying project in Manila: Jennifer of Nantou County; Vangie Golo, Liza Cablayda and Guida Manguiat of Taipei; Denia of Taipei County; Augusta of Tainan County; Betty of Taoyuan County; Gilda of Changhua County; Hermie of Kaohsiung; and Helen of Hualien. If you want to receive books and magazines (don't forget to enclose the appropriate amount of stamps), just write Kabayan Ed at:
Dr. Eduardo M. Leano
Department of Aquaculture
National Taiwan Ocean University
No. 2, Pei-Ning Road,
Keelung City 202
Kabayan Ed has forwarded us these letters from club recipients and donors.
SIR ED AND MA'AM MAY,
Thank you again sa mga pocketbooks na ipinahiram nyo. Pasensya na kung na-delay itong anim, kasi ipinahiram ko sa friend ko na walang day off na tulad ko. Sana'y pahiramin pa po ninyo ako. Thanks again and more power to KBC! God bless us always! (We sent you more Tagalog pocketbooks, and you may always share these with your friends. - Ed and May)
DEAR DR. ED AND MA'AM MAY,
Hello! I have been working as a caregiver for two years now, and I don't have any day off. I got a copy of Kabayan through Ate Aileen and laopan Jimmy. They are kind-hearted and very thoughtful. Unfortunately, they are no longer getting any copies. Luckily, Mary Grace, my friend at a hospital, sends me copies. I would like to borrow some pocketbooks (Tagalog or English). Reading eases my boredom and sadness. I am taking care of a bedridden elderly gentleman. I hope and pray that my request will be granted. I promise to return them as soon as I'm done reading them. I know that other kabayans also want to read them. Thank you for your kindness. May the good Lord grant you good health and more blessings. (Your request is granted. We have sent you an English novel and a few Tagalog novels. - Ed and May)
DEAR SIR AND MADAM,
Thank you very much for the health articles that you mailed me. They are very useful. I hope you could provide me with some articles on "Basic Computing" or "Computer for Beginners." (Sorry Joanne. Our books on computing are still out. Aside from these books, we don't have any book on 'Computer for Beginners.' - Ed and May)
KABAYAN ED AND MAY,
Have a nice day! I'm writing again just to say thank you very much for lending me those health articles. I am hoping that I will receive some more reading materials from KBC. I will wait for the lone joke book that you have. (Our joke book is still out but we promise that we'll mail it to you as soon as it's available. - Ed and May)