Pit Senyor among OFWS all over the world!

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez - The Freeman

There are 12 million Filipinos in two hundred countries all over the world. But this week, they shall be shouting in unison: ''PIT SENYOR''. Mostly migrant workers, they also include, spouses of foreign nationals who migrated abroad by fiancée's visas, and families of former Second World War veterans as well as all kinds of immigrants who are now citizens, nationals or permanent residents of various countries. From Australia to Zimbabwe, and in the USA, from Alaska to Wyoming, Filipinos coming from Ilocos to Zamboanga would come together in celebrations like the feast of Santo Niño. They would find all sorts of excuses to party and celebrate together. And this one, next only to Christmas, is the most attended among them all.

When I was assigned as labor attaché in at least three countries, I personally witnessed how OFWs exercised their religiosity in a manner that amazed and even impressed other nationals. For three years, my wife and I lived in Kuala Lumpur and served our more than a hundred thousand documented Filipino migrant workers as well as almost a million undocumented ones. The documented are mostly in the peninsular Malaysia, which is adjacent to Thailand in the North and Singapore and Indonesia in the south. The OFWs in Kuala Lumpur congregate every weekend in the St. John's Cathedral and in Bukit Bintang after the Sunday Mass. My wife and I served in the cathedral as ministers of the Holy Eucharist. We joined the Filipinos in all religious celebrations especially the Fiesta Señor.

In Malacca, near Johore, next to the southern border as well as in Penang in the north, near the three states of Perlis, Kedah, and Terrangganu, the majority of migrant workers are Catholics. We always joined the Filipino communities in Penang in their religious activities. I could recall vividly the celebration of SINULOG in that island city-state of Penang led by Filipinos from Cebu, Bohol, Negros Oriental and Davao. In the island of Borneo, there are two Malaysian states: Sabah and Sarawak where a large segment of the population are Catholics. I have relatives in Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan as well as in the City of Sebu in Sarawak. We also witnessed the celebration of Sinulog in these places.

In Kuwait, where we lived for more than two years, there is a big Catholic community dominated by Filipinos and Indian nationals who are working there in that predominantly Islamic country. Father Ben Barrameda, a secular priest from Bicol has served there for about ten years now, and leads the Filipino communities in celebrating Catholic fiestas and holy days. Although Father Ben also likes the Penafrancia festival, he also helps in the Sinulog led by Catholic Filipinos from the Visayas, Luzon and Mindanao. I allowed Father Ben to celebrate the Holy Eucharist inside the labor office in the Embassy, where about 250 to 300 distressed OFWs, mostly domestic helpers, were cared for by me as labor attaché. We also celebrated Sinulog in the embassy.

In Taiwan, where I was assigned about two years, I met three priests: Father Joy Tajonera, Father Julian Amamampang from Dalaguete, Cebu, and Father Loloy from Bohol who focused on seafarers. They are the ones taking care of the more than two hundred thousand OFWs in Taiwan. There are two or more Filipino priests in Taipeh, Kaohsiung and Taichung. All of them are leading our OFWs to remain faithful to our religion. The celebration of the fiesta of Santo Niño is a big celebration among them every year. The employers and other nationals really look at the OFWs with great admiration and even amazement at the great fervor and passion with which they venerate the Holy Child.

Filipinos abroad differ in politics and other socio-economic strata. They bicker and collide on love, romances and sports. But in their faith in God, and in their celebration of Sinulog, they are in unison. Their foreign friends do not understand the meaning of their mantra. Even some Tagalogs, Bicolanos, Kapampangans and Ilocanos do not really understand it. But they also join in shouting: PIT SENYOR!

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