It remains unclear when the world will find a cure against the coronavirus, but what appears to be clear these days is the new-found respect for frontline Overseas Filipino workers who are bravely helping other countries fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
This Migrant Workers’ Day, it’s not enough to honor Overseas Filipino healthcare workers by calling them noble frontliners. They are modern-day heroes. Take the case of Jessica Lamela, a Filipino caregiver who is currently in Israel. Other than being a caregiver, she is also looking for ways to help other Filipinos who lost their jobs due to the global health crisis.
“Because I am a nurse by profession, I am called to serve during this pandemic. But I am also helping other Filipinos in times of need. Daming workers na nawalan ng work. Ayaw na kasi ng employer nila na may magdadala ng virus. I help them because member ako ng Filipino organization, called NAFILCO, by giving them support and food in times like this,” Lamela said.
According to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), the number of Overseas Filipinos who worked abroad was estimated at 10.2 million. But on May 6, the COVID-19 National Task Force informed the Filipino public that close to 70,000 OFs are to be brought home due to the global economic effects of the pandemic. These heroes are hurting, to say the least.
“Since 2009 po, wala akong uwian, nung una for two years. Dati po akong construction worker and now sa factory naman ako nagta-trabaho. At dahil po sa COVID-19, wala na kami ng overtime. Kaya nagbebenta-benta na rin po ako ng ulam dito,” said Dennis Pascual Maala, an OF in South Korea.
For his part, Cesar Cosep, who is working as a Project Manager of a railway system in Jeddah, was fortunate enough to keep his job, but other OFWs in Jeddah were not as lucky as him.
“May mga tao sa Jeddah na nagka-cut sa salary nila. Nag-stop yung project nila because of the lockdown. Their company was forced to shut down,” Cosep said. But the Filipino community in other countries remain solid and strong for their families back home. They continue to work for them, while contributing to the country’s slowing economy by keeping remittances coming.
Remittance Cushion Although economists expect the country’s remittances will suffer due to the pandemic, OFWs like Lamela, Maala, and Cosep still continue to send money from abroad through the remittance tie-ups of BPI with online remittance services. “Kahit anong oras po at gusto kong magpadala sa mommy ko or sa mga kapatid ko or sa tita ko, through mobile banking, nakakapagpadala ako. May BPI Representative na pumunta sa Korea to introduce the ‘Pamana Padala’ offering, oramismo natatanggap,”explained Maala. Cosep agrees. “I’ve been using online remittance because I don’t have the time to fall in line and go to the physical branch. This is to be safe also. I send money to my family for their necessity. Ang important is they have food, medicine, and face masks this time,” he said.
Valuable contribution BPI continues to initiate opportunities to drive digital services for the benefit of OFWs and their families back home. This is also the Bank’s way to show recognition for their valuable contributions to the country. “Even in the face of this global pandemic, and even when our OFWs are far from home, they can still take a hands-on approach to providing for their families in the Philippines. They can still manage their accounts online and take full control of their finances, despite the threat of an economic downturn,” said Aileen Lamasuta, head of BPI Retail Segments. “But as we recognize the fact that there may be challenges in remittances due to COVID-19, BPI is still committed to strengthen our offerings for our brave OFWs. We have a strong network of remittance partners worldwide and a remittance solution, BPI Pamana Padala, to give OFs peace of mind while away from their loved ones. These will allow them to sustain the support they are sending their families back home,” explained Reggie Cariaso, Head of BPI Corporate Banking Strategy, Products, and Support. Lamela, the caregiver, attests to this. “BPI played a big help for us at this time, because very safe and secure ang transaction and alam kong makakarating sa family ko ‘yung remittance. Big help ang digital services nila.” Through digital banking, BPI continues to provide easy access to relevant financial services for the modern-day heroes—the OFWs who remain selfless even in the face of a global pandemic. And every year, on June 7, the Philippines marks “Migrants Workers’ Day” to celebrate the signing of Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995. While he doesn’t regard himself as a hero, Cosep has an apt description of one. “A hero is a person who does something out of his way and does brave things. But during these trying times, sila yung mga taong they go out of their houses for the people in need, I consider them as heroes. You don’t have to kill to become a hero. Gone were the days when we define heroes as someone who dies for the country,” he said.
“Sila ‘yung may takot sa Diyos. Iniisip ‘yung makabubuti para sa nakararami,” Maala added.