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Migrants celebrating the holidays Filipino-style

Church organizations, government agencies and business establishments treat foreign workers to a day of prayer, music and fun

Migrants celebrating the holidays Filipino-style

Thousands of homesick Filipinos got a much-needed dose of Pinoy Christmas at churches and business establishments last Sunday.

St. Christopher's Church in Taipei, led by the Reverend Romy Velos, staged a half-day Christmas program featuring live entertainment, parlor games, and a lucky draw. Money transfer services specialist Western Union donated the grand prize - NT$10,000 in cash - and two cell phones at the said event.

The lucky draw winner was Cristi Jamora who also celebrated her birthday on December 25.

Bing Go, proprietor of the Bing Go Filipino Store franchise in the country, played Santa Claus to thousands of Filipinos on Christmas Eve by treating them to a free noche buena (Christmas Eve feast) at her Taipei outlet.

"Bing does that every year," said migrant worker Blessie Landingin. "That's her way of saying 'thank you' to those workers who have been supporting her stores all those years."

"That's why Bing is so blessed," added Ellen, also a Filipino migrant. "She makes sure that she is giving something back to the community that has made her such a success."

In addition to serving up a Christmas meal, Bing also gave away toys, calendars, and other gifts to migrants. Last night, the entrepreneur threw a New Year's Eve bash, serving free media noche (New Year's Eve feast) to her homesick kabayans.

Customers who spend at least NT$300 at her stores also get to enter a lucky draw. The entrepreneur is raffling off 100 cell phones.

"Without our clients, we will all be jobless," Bing told the Taiwan News in an earlier interview. "Without their support, we will not last this long or grow this big."

In Taichung County, the Ugnayan (Togetherness) Migrant and Immigrant Center, led by the Reverend Joy Tajonera, mounted a Christmas party that also doubled as an anniversary celebration for his Tantzu ministry. The ever-generous Bing Go of the Bing Go franchise donated 500 stuffed toys and expensive toy cars to the event, Tajonera said.

Marie Cheng of Pinoy Express also supported the community affair, he added.

"On December 16, 2004, I said my first mass in Tantzu," Tajonera said. "It was Christmas season then so our temporary chapel was adorned with blinking lights. I even had to make do with a karaoke microphone since we had no equipment. I have told the migrants that they should be proud of what they have accomplished."

Today, Western Union is holding a New Year's Day concert in Tantzu in cooperation with the Ugnayan Center and the 3,000-strong Filipino community in the area. (Ugnayan's address is No. 390, Chung Shan Road, Section 2, Tantzu Xiang, Taichung County. For inquiries, please ring Father Joy at 0930-446-060.)

Western Union, which is launching its WU Gold Card in central Taiwan today, is contributing a total of NT$35,000 in cash prizes to the raffle draw (NT$20,000 for the first-prize winner, NT$10,000 for the second-prize winner, and NT$5,000 for the third-prize winner). Those who will sign up for an WU Gold Card will also get the chance to win NT$10,000 in cash, two cellular phones, and two DVD players in a separate Western Union raffle draw.

The WU Gold Card allows customers to save time by using a shorter and simpler money transfer send-form, and automatically inserts the remitter's personal data in a secure WU database, Western Union said.

Ian Marsh, senior vice president and managing director of Western Union in the Asia-Pacific, described the card as the "key" that will open the door to a win-win relationship between the cardholder and the financial services company. To date, Western Union has Cathay United and Taishin banks as its partner banks in Taiwan. The two banks automatically give Western Union a 73-branch money transfer network in Taiwan, the company said.

"We are here for the long haul," Marsh said in an earlier interview. "As I've said before, Western Union is more than just about sending money. We want to be a migrant's 'home away from home.'"

In Jhongli City, the Foreign Wives Association held a Christmas pageant at the Hope Workers Center. Organized four years ago as a support group for foreign spouses, particularly Filipino women married to Taiwanese, the group is comprised of 30 mothers who attend mass at the Chungli church every Sunday.

Last year, the Hope Workers Center assisted those moms in organizing children's activities including an Easter celebration, the Santacruzan, and last Sunday, a Christmas party.

"In 2006, we will continue to get those moms and children involve in church activities. We will continue to give Catechism classes to those kids every Sunday while their moms are attending mass," said social worker Beth Sabado.