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Not all Filipinos have the luxury to travel abroad. I have friends who keep travelling for leisure, business, and discovering places and culture. I am a guilty son of a gun who take travelling like it’s a vitamin, a must do activity, as I can’t keep my ass in one place, spending more time outside the comforts of a nice home, and enjoying whatever there is to enjoy in other places or other countries. Sometimes, I have the most shallow reason for travelling to another country, such as wanting to satisfy my craving for a particular food in one town, or take photos and sit down to make an art work of a beautiful scenery, or (as I often do) find unusual items for collection or for selling.
For many Filipinos, they leave the Philippines to seek a job with better pay even if it means leaving their families behind. Countless stories about mothers who left their children at home, to take care of another family’s children in other countries. Many Filipinos sacrifice their lives, missing the growing years of their own children in exchange for comfort. Last year, I met an ageing man, a father of 6, working as a porter in Netherlands. He needs this 12-hour job to rebuild their house that was crushed by a strong typhoon. All his children and grand children were divided and living in evacuation centers and church backyards. This porter’s job includes scrubbing the shit out of toilet bowls, and collecting and segregating the garbage.
My personal experience with a Filipino OFW happened one cold day in the apartment in Moscow, 2 years ago. The newly employed cleaner arrived with the administrator. She looked like a typical southeast asian lady but I could not guess from where (Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, etcetera…) until she said “good morning sir” in a familiar accent.
I didn’t speak a word, let her in, and I sat down to continue my breakfast. For the next 15 minutes, I was observing the way she works around the apartment; quick, organized, and coordinated. I kinda shocked her when I said “Taga saan ka sa Pilipinas?”. She slightly jumped backward and with a shrieking voice; “Ay Pilipino!!!”
We started laughing after she told me that she thought I was either a Japanese or a Kazakhstani.
There is a thin line between being proud and being sad, to hear that Filipinos are known as house maids, cleaners, and labourers. In one instance in one home in one big city in Russia, my friends and I were invited to have dinner. After meals, I took the liberty to stand up and place my plate in the sink and wash some of the dishes. One of the friend’s made a malicious and uncomfortable comment; “Ha, All Filipinos love to clean, hahaha!”. Thankfully I was composed enough to say “No, Filipinos are polite people, I am just being polite. Even in my own apartment, I never ask you to clean the dishes after you eat and finish all the food in the ref. Do I”? He turned red.
This is just one of the things that saddens me. Just because our country is known to export workers, the reputation of Filipinos in other countries are being stained. And even more sad to know that the Filipinos who contribute to the development of one country with their expertise and skills in labor are being abused by the locals. Again, countless cases of poor Filipino workers suffering in another country need our Government’s serious attention.
Most of my friends from foreign countries who have visited my homes in the Philippines came to the realisation that not all Filipinos are damn poor. I am not implying that I’m ultra rich, just proving that I am a polite host and would do anything to keep my foreign friends happy when they are staying with me. I already had hundreds of foreign guests who can attest that they never spent a single money when they are staying with me. That’s just how I treat my foreign friends. They have a car to use, sometimes a driver to take them around when I am busy, all the food they can eat, all the beer and alcohol that they can consume, and all the joy and best experiences to take home. I define hospitality as “Everything is free when you’re staying with me”. And it breaks my heart to see that despite of all the kindness, I still hear stories of unkindness to my fellow Filipinos. My heart bleeds even more to know that kind hearted Filipinos are physically getting hurt for nothing.
Here’s something I can openly share. I consider Taiwan as the most peaceful and one of the most relaxing places among the countries that I visit regularly. I have good friends and they are really great people. For 15 years of going in and out of this country, I had my own shares of troubles but most are nothing to worry about.
Taiwanese people in general would love to do business and for most of the people whom I know and spent time with, are happy, friendly, and respectable. What I do not understand though, are the physical abuse and the violence inflicted to my fellow men, those who are already poor in life, and wants nothing more but a good paying job.
It was October 5, 2015. A horrible night to remember. A young Filipino worker in Taiwan is peacefully ending his day, breathing air outside their dormitory on this humid night. I will not mention any names for the sake of legal issues that is now being dealt with by the Philippine Consular Office.
This young boy lost his parents at an early age, and ended up as the sole breadwinner in the family. He chose to be an OFW in Taiwan so he can put his little sister to school. It was a long day for this young boy who just came from Chungli, tired and getting ready to rest. He decided to light a cigarette outside his dorm located in Hsinchu, with another Filipino friend.
Then came several scooters, on it were 3 men and 2 women to be exact. The young boy is not familiar with these locals and it made him feel a little uneasy. One of those scooter riding men, a baseball player, (as I heard from the report) picked up a hard brick and threw it “baseball style” to the face of the young Filipino lad (his friend who was smoking with him was hit in the nose). For some stupid reason known only to these bullies, the attack was a success. The young victim quickly fell on the ground and was later taken to Zhubie Hospital in Hsinchu County. The victim who’s suppose to be saving money to improve their already difficult life is now in need for more money to pay his medical bills.
I ADMIT AND CONFESS that there are times when I’m being a snub to my own countrymen, especially when they act like clowns and in embarrassing manners, that I do not wish to be associated with them. But I stand up for those who are physically abused, Filipinos or not. And this is why I am a martial artist in the first place; it is my duty to defend the helpless either in my own land or in another country. Dismally, other people treat labourers/workers as a class lower than them. Let me state once again that not all Filipinos are poor.
Middle class or poor they may be, most are educated, polite, and respectable. Come to the Philippines and know it first hand. Filipinos are just unlucky to have less money because our riches are inside the pockets of our government officials.
So really… How do you value the life of a Filipino worker?