After having been appointed by President Duterte as chairman and resident representative in Taiwan, his marching orders were very clear to me as I embarked on the mission at hand: Look after and ensure the welfare of overseas Filipino workers in the island.
Luckily for us at the Manila Economic and Cultural Office, the living and working conditions of our overseas workers in Taiwan are way better than in other parts of the world, which may also be attributed to the host government’s pro-active approach in handling cases involving foreign workers.
Yet unfortunate events still strike our kababayans here from time to time, sometimes of their own doing, perhaps brought about by an inability to balance wants versus needs, and their longing for family back home.
Everyday, our Assistance to Nationals (ATN) section processes OFW problems ranging from complaints against usurers and queridas to overstaying workers who wishes to surrender to Taiwan authorities and finally go home. Also common are cases of workers getting ill or getting involved in work-related accidents.
The more serious stuff come once in a while when disasters strike such as earthquakes and factory fires.
Also in the frontlines to address this range of cases involving our workers are the people from the Department of Labor and Employment and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, who are on call, day and night, to respond to our kababayans’ woes.
Led by labor officer and lawyer Cesar Chavez of Davao and chief welfare officer Dayang Dayang Sittie Kaushar Jaafar, a native of southernmost Tawi-Tawi, both “veterans” in working with OFWs in the Middle East, these agencies work hand in hand with MECO’s ATN officers in providing the required labor, legal and even financial assistance to distressed OFWs in northern Taiwan.
If not for rules against divulging details of the cases involving OFWs, I could have further illustrated how these frontliners dedicate their time and hard work, even outside of their prescribed working hours, to the service.
They travel far and wide across the more populous cities and counties of Taiwan seeking to reach out to as many OFWs as possible, educating them on the many ways by which our government can help them, and bringing these services closer to our kababayans.
Jaafar particularly strikes me with her motherly, or "sisterly" to some, approach in extending help to Filipinos in Taiwan, specially those who need medical care assistance and emotional guidance. Though born to a powerful political family and Sama royalty, her dedication to the plight of distressed OFW’s is admirable.
* * *
Meanwhile, outside the MECO offices, another lady is passionately engaged in helping Filipinos in Taiwan.
Dr. Juliet Montano Tsai, a Batanguena who married an overseas Chinese from Hong Kong and later based themselves in Taiwan, was recently recognized by no less than President Duterte for her contributions to the well-being of our OFWs.
Dr. Tsai has dedicated her family medicine practice almost exclusively for Filipino OFWs who seek medical treatment in a clinic in Banqiao district during the past three decades.
Consultations with her are particularly helpful given the language barrier between OFWs and most doctors in Taiwan. Dr. Tsai was also able to convince the owner of the polyclinic where she practices to bring down the consultation fee from NT$150 to just NT$80. Big hospitals in Taipei charge as much as NT$380 per consultation. Of course, here in Taiwan, the medicines the doctor prescribes come free with that 80 Taiwan dollar (about 135 pesos only) consultation fee.
You walk into her clinic any given day and you would feel like walking into a local clinic in the Philippines. Her Taiwanese medical staff has likewise grown accustomed to Filipino patients more than locals.
She has two days off each week and yet despite a punishing daily schedule, she spends one of her free days visiting or following up on her patients with serious illnesses. Hers is a rare passion for service.
As a recipient of the Banaag Award, a presidential recognition for Filipino individuals overseas in Malacanang last December 5, the President hugged her and singularly kissed Dr. Tsai’s hand. Perhaps he, too, felt in the petite lady doctor’s aura a nobility of selflessness and humility.
Due to pressing matters in Taipei owing to a joint economic conference and a meeting with potential big investors, I was unable to accompany her in the Malacanang awarding ceremonies last December 5.
Over dinner we tendered in her honor weeks back, she described her fleeting moment in front of the President an “indescribable feeling with such a humbling effect” as she admitted that she admired Duterte’s leadership.
Reflecting on all the hard work and contributions of these people to MECO’s mission, I am both delighted and honored to have met and worked with them here in Taiwan.
Source: Banayo, Angelito (2019, Jan. 21) A passion for service. Retrieved from: http://manilastandard.net/opinion/columns/so-i-see-by-lito-banayo/285820/a-passion-for-service.html.