Juanita Trinidad of the Manila Bulletin reports on Filipino’s living and working in the UK.
Tales of woe are common among Filipino migrant workers. Tales of abuse, exploitation, and maltreatment have been played up every so often, although this is probably the risk that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have to take each time they leave to look for greener pastures or look for means of income that, for them, are few and far between in their own country.
It, however, comes as a breath of fresh air to hear stories of success, happiness, and contentment in an OFW’s existence in the host country.
In this city, for instance, Filipino workers are seemingly a happy lot; they go about their daily chores with ease and a smile on their faces.
This writer had the chance to meet some of the Filipino crew members of the Norwegian Epic, a luxury liner owned by the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), that had its maiden voyage in Southampton, a port city on the outskirts of London, and which played host to Filipino and foreign journalists who covered the ship’s inaugural sail.
Of the Norwegian Epic’s 1,700 crew, 60 percent are young Filipinos, while the rest are Indonesians, Indians, and Sri Lankans. This is the reason they are found all over the luxury liner, doing various jobs as chef, hotel supervisor, bartender, waitress, junior waiter, room assistant, and other odd jobs. The Norwegian Epic, for them, is their “ship of dreams.”
Roxan Angeles has been with the NCL for nine years now, and has risen from the ranks, from dining room assistant to her present job as casino supervisor. She lamented about the loneliness of living in a foreign land, as she misses her family in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija, but the friendship and company of fellow-Filipinos aboard the ship have somehow helped her cope with the travails.
Restaurant stewardess Nelfa Sy is with the NCL for over 10 years. She said she is enjoying her job as it gives her the opportunity to see the world, pointing out that the Norwegian Epic’s Filipino crew has been taken from other NCL-owned ships, stressing that they have been selected for the maiden voyage due to their skills and experience. While on dock, the crew, she said, is allowed to go out for a few hours to shop or see some places. “This way, we are able to tour and do some picture-taking.”
The same enthusiasm for work is shared by Jowell Manzano, a bar chief, who, like Roxan, also rose from the ranks in almost 20 years with the NCL. “We’ve free medical care, insurance, and our lodging in the ship is probably one of the best accommodations given to workers. Free time is spent by bonding together through music, dance, and small party aboard the ship.”
It was learned that the first three decks of the Norwegian Epic have been allotted to house its workers, each provided with his own cabin, complete with plasma TV, DVD, a small refrigerator, and facilities.
The tale of Clarinda Agno is a different one; she doesn’t work inside a ship, but in a hotel near the Heathrow International Airport. Now a British subject, Agno is staying with her husband, Froilan, and three children on a house and lot on Bath Road, near Sheraton Skyline, where she works for 23 years now.
“I came to London in 1983 and first worked at the Heathrow airport, later transferred to the hotel. I am blessed to get jobs that have been good to me and my family,” Agno relates, saying that she was able to petition her family when she opted to become a British subject.
Her husband now works at the Heathrow Terminal 5.
She, however, confides that although she doesn’t miss her family as they now stay with her, she someday wishes to retire in her own country. “The last time I went home was when my mother died in 2007. I aim for the simple life in my hometown of Batac, Ilocos Norte. Someday, when we have enough money to sustain us, we’ll go back to the Philippines and retire there permanently,” stressing that “it’ll be home sweet home, indeed.” Source: Juanita Trinidad, Manila Bulletin MB.com
The content of story will come as no surprise to those of us who have known overseas Filipino workers (OFW’s) living in the UK for the last 30 years.
The vast majority of Filipinos work with a happy heart and a smile, whatever their job or situation, which is one of the main reasons employers love them. Even the new Foreign Secretary, Willan Hague, praised Filipino workers for their “considerable” contribution to the country’s economy and health“.
And why wouldn’t Filipinos and other overseas workers be happy in the UK?
Prosperous, multi-cultural and vibrant, Britain is safe and fair country where employment, health and safety and human rights laws are among the toughest in the world.
Unlike many places where OFW’s are deployed, foreign workers, including those on student visas, have the same rights as British workers.
Many thousands of Filipinos have gained permanent residence (Indefinite Leave to Remain/ILR) or British Citizenship and this route is still open to workers and highly skilled migrants.
Workers and students can bring their dependant and at present they all receive free healthcare and schooling. Dependants of visa holders, even Tier 4 students, can work without restriction.
Tier 4 and old students visa holders are allowed to work and can switch into a Tier 2 Working Visa or Tier 1 post graduate category (for degree level students) whilst in the UK
Despite global economic problems the UK job market for those with the right skills remains buoyant, especially in the care and service sectors.
The benefits of living in the UK are numerous, evidenced by the fact that so many people want to come here and very few leave!
Despite favourable conditions in the UK, thousands of people seek greener opportunities in countries like Canada, USA and Australia. But this has always been the case with an estimated 5 million Brits currently living or working abroad.
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