Filipinos make up the second-largest group of migrant workers in Taiwan. There are some 135,000 of us here. A big majority of this number work in factories spread along the entire island, which is about a third of the territory of our scattered islands put together. Some are Filipinas married to Taiwanese who still have to take up the citizenship of their spouses. And about 7,000 work as caregivers to the elderly.
The Indonesians are the largest group of migrant workers, most of them caregivers. The Vietnamese are about the same number as Filipinos.
Through the years, the professional relationship between employers and their employees has turned into something that transgresses cultural and economic differences as these two tales of our “kababayans” show.
Some weeks ago, the Asia Times published an article about two foreign domestic workers in New Taipei City who continued to care for two children afflicted with cerebral palsy even after their own biological parents abandoned them.
The workers’ decision could have resulted in their own deportation due to violation of Taiwan’s migrant labor laws. Strictly speaking, they had no more employers.
The report said the two foreign workers were hired by the children’s mother who got into financial trouble from loan sharks sometime in June and was forced to flee. The husband took custody of the sick boys and promised the caregivers that he would honor their employment contracts, but after several days, he too abandoned the kids and left them to the caregivers.
Taking cognizance of the abandonment case, the local social welfare authorities asked the caregivers to continue taking care of the boys until a suitable nursing home could be found for them.
The caregivers agreed even without any employment contract, as they did not want to abandon the afflicted children.
The news story did not identify the nationality of the caregivers, but we had a hunch they must be Filipinas, and so we directed the Assistance to Nationals Unit of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taipei to dig into the Asia Times report.
It turned out that 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’s Labor Affairs Bureau took over their case and pursued the women’s unpaid salaries, fixing their employment status. They have since found new employers, and their wards, whom they could not abandon to tender mercies of fate, taken cared of. They now work for other employers, but they have gained the respect of the Taiwanese.
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Now let’s move to another true story.
A Filipina worker, Juana Abellon de la Rosa committed suicide last May 31 in her employer’s home, supposedly depressed by social media bullying by both friends and relatives. Her employer agreed to contribute NT$ 100,000 (about 160,000 pesos) to help defray the cost of bringing home her mortal remains to her family in the Philippines. But the amount wasn’t enough.
Upon learning about the matter, the local police in Changhua County and the “Taiwan Love and Charity Association” went into action, raising another one hundred thousand dollars more in anonymous contributions.
Last July 13, de la Rosa’s mortal remains were finally brought home.
It is often said that genuine acts of kindness come out as silver linings in otherwise dark skies.
These days when bad news, whether on the regional front where strong words and harsh threats bedevil the peace in our corner of the world, or even in local media where marital spats have become political fodder and bureaucrats are found wanting in the exercise of their mandates, such examples of human kindness are a balm for the soul.
Individual acts of human kindness that transcend culture and nationality stand out as beacons amid troubled relations.
The same is true with Filipino and Taiwanese relations.
Language may differentiate it. Politics may restrict it. But innate human kindness will always nurture it.