Filipinos make up the second largest group of migrant workers in Taiwan, next to the Indonesians. Most of them work in factories and as caregivers to the elderly population of the island.
Through the years, this professional relationship has apparently turned into something that transgresses cultural and economic differences as these two tales of our “kababayans’ show.
Three weeks ago, the Asia Times published an article about two foreign domestic workers in Taiwan who continued to care for two children who suffer from cerebral palsy even after their parents have abandoned them.
The workers’ decision could have also resulted in their own deportation due to violation of local migrant labor laws.
The report said the two foreign workers were hired by the children’s mother, who got into financial trouble and was forced to flee from loan sharks sometime in June.
The husband took custody of the sick boys and their caregivers promising to honor their employment contracts but he, too, abandoned them after several days.
Taking cognizance of the abandonment case, the local social welfare department asked the caregivers to continue taking care of the boys until a suitable nursing home is available for them.
The caregivers agreed to stay as they did not want the children to suffer, even without employment contracts, which are the basis for their work visas and authorized stay in Taiwan.
Acting on a hunch that the unidentified caregivers were Filipinos, Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chairman and Resident Representative Angelito Banayo and MECO’s Assistance To Nationals unit dug into the Asia Times report.
It turned out they were indeed Filipinos. Joylyn Catulos Camilote and Joyce Ann Cudal Bonilla have been working for various employers in Taiwan since 2008.
The New Taipei City Government Labor Affairs Bureau took over their case and pursued the women’s unpaid salaries and fixed their employment status. They have since found new employers and the respect of the Taiwanese.
MECO, the Philippine’s representative office in Taiwan, is preparing to give the two women due recognition for their self-less acts and compassion upon their Taiwanese wards.
But the Taiwanese appeared to have swiftly paid it forward in the case of another Filipino worker, Juana Abellon Dela Rosa, whose remains were repatriated through the generous help of the police and a local charity institution.
Police investigation showed Dela Rosa committed suicide last May 31 in her employer’s home, after allegedly being bullied by her friends and relatives in social media. Her employer, whose identity was not immediately disclosed, agreed to contribute NT$100,000 (about P160,000) to help defray the cost of bringing home the remains to her family in the Philippines.
Upon learning that the amount is not enough to cover the repatriation expense, the local police in Changhua County and the “Taiwan Love and Charity Association” went into action, raising NT$100,000 more in anonymous contributions. Last July 13, Dela Rosa’s remains were finally brought home.
It is often said that genuine acts of kindness often come out as silver linings in times of dark tragedy. The same is true with Filipino-Taiwanese relations. Language may alienate it. Politics may restrict it. But it will progressively exist.