Saturday, August 16, 2008


"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers that you do unto me..."

This verse taken from the gospel according to Matthew chapter 25, verse 40 is the first line of a touching song “Whatsoever you do” that I used to sing during my high school days in Ateneo de San Pablo. I still sing this song loudly in my heart and actually doing the very essence of this song in my everyday life, just like yesterday...

I accompanied Noribeth to the labor office of Hualien City here in Taiwan Republic of China. Noribeth, who has been working as a caretaker for an old woman, was beaten black and blue by the viciously violent husband of her ward. We were at the local labor office then to file complaints and seek redress. As a Catholic missionary here in Taiwan, one of my missions is to extend assistance to the Filipino migrant workers who have been treated unjustly and unfairly in their places of work.

When we were at the waiting area of the office, an Indonesian woman caught my attention. She was bewailing and crying very poignantly. I learned that her work contract had been abruptly terminated by her employer after just three months of working as domestic helper. She was left with no choice but to go back to Indonesia to face the huge debt and bank loan that she had accumulated just to pay for the placement fee, broker’s fee, airplane ticket and for other “necessary evils” just to be able to work in Taiwan.

Noribeth asked her if she had already sought any help from the Indonesian mission office in Taiwan or from any migrant groups that help the Indonesian workers. The Indonesian woman said that she knew nothing about them. Upon hearing that, I took my backpack to get the help hotlines in Indonesian that she could call to seek assistance. What happened next will never be deleted from my memory bank.

As I was opening my backpack, the employer and the broker of the Indonesian woman frantically embraced and grabbed her. She then forcibly clung to my left arm, held it so tightly, and mournfully ask for the hotlines, her lifelines. Then, a scuffle ensued. There was a brief thug-of-war. She was whisked away. The labor official then called us for the meeting.

I was so stung by that grossly cruel incident. What the Taiwanese employer and broker did was just inconceivable. To put down a fellow human being into a hapless and miserable situation is evil, but to prevent that same person from seeking help is satanic! I told Noribeth, “You know, you are much luckier than other foreign workers here in Taiwan. You have me, the Filipino community, the Philippine mission office, and God to help you.”

But the Indonesian woman is a child of God too who deserves His love, care and protection. And even if Noribeth is a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo religion, it doesn’t matter to me, a Catholic church worker, for I know deep down in my heart the two greatest commandments, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30)” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Mark 12:31).” One does not have to be entangled in all sorts of dogmatic and doctrinal explications to be able to live a truly Christian life. Just love God and your neighbor, be it Taiwanese, Indonesian or Filipino; Muslim, Taoist, or Iglesia ni Cristo. For isn’t it that loving your neighbors and your fellowmen can just simply mean respecting the rights and preserving the dignity of other people regardless of creed, color, and code?

Nevertheless, human situations nowadays demand not just simple respect for the rights and dignity of others, but rather, affirmative actions also need to be done. Due to greed and sinfulness of man, many of our brothers and sisters have been shoved to the edges of the society langushing in dire miseries. Noribeth should be helped in getting justice for the maltreatment she suffered, someone has to hand-over to the Indonesian woman the hotlines, there are hungry people around who need to be fed, homeless who need shelter, weary who need rest, oppressed who need justice.

It is then our inherent duty as human beings to participate and be involved in the alleviation of their sufferings. For I do believe that the value and worth of a person is not measured by what he does to himself but by what he does to the least of his fellowmen.