"It is comforting to know that there are men and women who have taken their job and mission to heart."
I was 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 on 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. This 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 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, such as earthquakes and factory fires, strike.
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 OFWs is admirable.
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Meanwhile, outside the MECO offices, another woman 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 dollars (about P135 only) consultation fee.