Friday, August 15, 2008
A CRY FOR HELP
“I am afraid...I don't know what to do...I need your help so that I can solve my problems here. You and God are my only hope...
It is a heart-breaking quote from her letter and a poignant cry for help from Madel, a young Filipina migrant laborer who works as an all-around domestic helper in Taitung County, Taiwan Republic of China. In her letter, she recited the litany of her everyday calvary from 4:00 am as restaurant all-around servant, onto 2:00 pm as house cleaner and laundry washer, then back to the restaurant at 3:00 pm as steamed-bread (mantou) baker, then back to the house as cook and dish washer at 6:00...and lastly, as stacker in an appliance store until 8:00 pm. Only then she can attend to her personal chores before she can finally lay her nearly-broken back to rest.
Madel is a classic epitome of migrant workers from the Philippines who dream for a better-paying employment in Taiwan, but only to experience horrible nightmare. They fall victims to some unscrupulous Taiwanese brokers and to some abusive Taiwanese employers. In her contract with the broker, Madel is suppose to work as a care-giver for an old sick woman. She is ready and prepared to work as a care-giver, only to find out upon meeting her employer in Taiwan that she has to work an assortment of back-breaking jobs under three employers related to each others. She is physically exhausted and emotionally drained, feels gravely cheated and can no longer carry-on. And worst, she does not enjoy day-offs, barred from using cellphone to communicate and forbidden to talk to other migrant workers. There is only one left whom she can talk and communicate to...God.
She has been praying ceaselessly and crying for help. Then, a fellow Filipina migrant worker clandestinely handed over to her a missalete from St. Paul’s Catholic Church located in the nearby Hualien County. On the missalete, the address and the telephone number of the church are printed. Madel did not hesitate. She called the church through a public phone. Buddy, a volunteer worker, received her frantic call...and her cry was heard at last.
Buddy immediately called the attention of the parish priest, Fr. Jean-Pierre Richard, MEP. The good priest has an out-reach program in his church called Filipino Catholic Community Apostolate that caters to the pastoral needs of the Filipino migrant workers in Hualien County. St. Paul’s Catholic Church has been helping, caring and sheperding the Filipino flock alongside the Taiwanese locals since 1995 upon the influx of migrant workers from the Philippines. The parish priest then was Fr. Auguste Lespade, MEP who was greatly loved and cherished by both the Taiwanese and Filipinos. He is succeded by Fr. Richard, a young, energetic, and conscientious priest filled with missionary zeal. He is conspicuously and undoubtedly French but whose heart is half-Taiwanese, half-Filipino.
Fr. Richard delicately directed the handling of Madel’s case. Madel was asked to send a letter to St. Paul’s Catholic Church detailing her agony and hardships. Upon receiving the letter that will be used as evidence, Buddy immediately coordinated with Sister Teresa Mabasa and Sister Matilde Serneo of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul based in Taitung County where Madel works. The two sisters also work tirelessly and zealously in their migrant ministry. The Philippine labor attache in Taiwan was also informed about the case and was called to action. Subsequently, a case of illegal work and violation of contract has been filed before the local labor authority against Madel’s broker and employer.
The case is now being processed, and surely, it will be a long, tedious and damnable one. For the time being, Madel needs care, moral support and spiritual guidance. Sadly speaking, the stake is always in favor of the broker and employer since migrant workers are not covered and protected by labor laws of Taiwan. Nonetheless, no matter how unfair the system is for the migrant workers, God’s merciful love and heavenly justice covers and protects all people from every nation, and God condemns the masterful and redeems the humble servants from prostration. Buddy holds it true. Sister Teresa and Sister Matilde believe it in their hearts. Father Richard grounds his life on that truth. Thus, they fight on in the defense of the distressed migrant workers no matter how uphill the battle is.
After all, victory for Madel and for all the oppressed is assured because it is written so: “The Lord confronts the evildoers, to destroy remembrance of them from the earth. When the just cry out, the Lord hears them, and from all their distress He rescues them (Psalm 34:17-18.)”.