As this is my last column for the year, I am quite thankful for the enthusiastic support that the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, our de facto embassy in Taiwan, has been getting in the last three years from our 160,000-strong Filipino community.
In a recent Christmas party organized by Filipinas married to Taiwanese in southern Kaohsiung, their first ever even for some who had been in Taiwan for more than 20 years, the fun of bonding was accompanied by the hope that Taiwan would learn more and understand the rather “foreign” culture of Filipinos.
A Taiwanese university professor who accompanied his Filipino wife along with a son and a musically talented daughter spoke about how he and his wife wished the Taiwanese government would be more pro-active in integrating foreigners into the mainstream of their society, and how Filipino culture could help enrich Taiwanese culture and vice-versa.
The process though has begun for in the last three years. Strides have been taken, both by MECO and TECO which represents Taiwan in our country, to hasten such integration. Our native Pilipino has been introduced into the elementary school curriculum as an option, especially for children of mixed marriages. MECO brought in Filipino professors of Pilipino to Kaohsiung where they helped edit the books written by Taiwanese language teachers in a joint undertaking.
Another component of these programs is the conduct of language training classes, hoping to teach Filipino workers basic Mandarin and propagate the Filipino language through accreditation of Filipino language teachers. There has been more than a hundred participants from the south in this endeavor which is now also being replicated in our extension office in Taichung.
Some OFWs foresee advanced knowledge of Mandarin as a valuable key to better paying jobs in the future. The Taiwan government and its universities have been quite supportive.
As part of our outreach programs for Filipinos in Taiwan, MECO has been conducting livelihood training programs, empowering Filipinos with the skills to be able to put up their own small business and make sound investments when they return to our country.
A spin-off of our regular efforts to connect with the Filipino community, MECO’s field office in Kaohsiung has been holding trainings in food production and preparation along with basic accounting for entrepreneurs to enable returning overseas workers to support themselves as they reintegrate to the Philippines.
Close to half a million Filipinos have visited Taiwan this year, just as close to 300,000 Taiwanese visited our country, a record high.
Geographically so close, yet with cultural differences that have yet to be bridged. The efforts have been enhanced, thanks to the inspiration given by our president, Rodrigo Duterte, whose policy of being a friend to all peoples and enemy to no country, along with the admonition to take care of overseas Filipino workers, is well taken and well observed.
Let me close by wishing our readers a bounty of blessings in this season of grace, and a hopeful New Year that will fulfill your aspirations.