The Filipino expatriates and migrant workers in Malaysia

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

After a five-day grueling and hectic official mission to this top ASEAN nation, we have accomplished all our objectives and even more. We have inked an agreement with the Malaysian Institute of Human Resource Management for cooperation between that counterpart organization with PMAP, People Management Association of the Philippines, of which this columnist is the incumbent national president. We have also successfully negotiated for two leading Malaysian Human Resources Leadership and Management expert to come to Cebu and speak in our national convention in September, namely the number one HR lady executive of Petronas and Malaysia's top Industrial Relations executive in the banking industry, who is Maybank's executive vice president for industrial relations.

Our third mission is to link with the Filipino HR managers in Malaysia who are being organized as our first PMAP Chapter outside the Philippines. There are hundreds of thousands of Filipino migrant workers in Malaysia, some of whom (those who are in Sabah and Sarawak) are unfortunately undocumented. But to be fair, there many who are doing very well as expatriates in the oil and gas industry and those who are entrepreneurs and in the academe. Foremost of the Filipinos who are very successful in Malaysia is Princess Becky M Leogardo, a very wealthy beauty care magnate who owns billions worth of properties, in Malaysia, here in Manila, and in Europe. She went to Kuala Lumpur 25 years ago as an OFW (formerly known as OCW or overseas contract workers) but she liberated herself from employment and became a businesswoman, leading and managing her own company, and manufacturing and selling her own BML and Alexa brands of perfumes, and skin care products.

Princess Becky has been given a royal honorary title by the Sultanate of Lanao and was enthroned in the Mandarin Hotel in Kuala Lumpur by about twenty heirs of the Sultanate and in the presence of many royal families in Malaysia and neighboring countries. This title gave her access to the nine sultanates in Malaysia and allows her to penetrate the highly exclusive and wealthy market among the royal wives and escorts of the royal houses in this country. Princess Becky is also a holder of an Honoris Causa degree in PHd from a Philippine prestigious university. This gives her access to academic communities in this country and allows her contacts with a very big market who buys her world class quality skin care products that have excellent European packaging. Princess Becky tendered dinner to us in the penthouse of the Mandarin and regaled us with stories about how she transformed herself from contract worker to a very rich business magnate.

The princess brought us to our hotel in Shiangrila via her newly bought Rolls Royce. She has a Mercedes, a Ferrari, a BMW, and a lot other vehicles in her 15-parking spaces. She bought the castle of one sultan atop a very beautiful and well-manicured hill west of KL. She has a coterie of maids, uniformed Malay security forces and a handsome Indian Malaysian driver for every one of her fifteen luxury cars. I used to be a speech writer and ghost writer for Princes Becky from 2005 to 2008 and I emceed her lavish parties and sales conventions. She owns three buildings in Manila and is paying all taxes and duties. She is really an inspiration to all Pinoys because, despite her wealth, she is very down-to-earth and humble. She has donated about four million ringgits to many communities. When I was posted in KL she was the one who helped many OFWs in distress.

The other Filipino expats who made good in Malaysia is my kumadre, Madame Cherina V Chacko, Group Executive VP of the John Chacko International, supplier of more than 300 music bands in Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, and all over China and India. She is married to my kumpadre John, the tall, handsome, and very astute businessman, and Indian-Malaysian. All the Filipino musicians from Cebu, Mindanao, Luzon, and even from Malaysia and Indonesia are accredited by their company. I should know. I approved and signed their work contracts when I was labor attache in Malaysia and Central Taiwan. Cherina is planning to branch out into magazine publishing and putting up a large training conglomerate here in Metro Manila or Tagaytay.  And she has asked me to lead these two projects. I am not going to ruin our friendship by doing business with such an amazing friend. There are so many other Filipino women who married Malaysians, British, Australians, and other nationals and they call KL their second home. Many of them are exasperated with our politics but they love our country and mourn on how politicians plunder our coffers.

But what touches me most of all are the not so well off OFWs who struggle day in and day out as factory, hotel, restaurant, shop, and office workers, as well as the domestic helpers. They are the ones who, although not as rich as Princess Becky and Cherina, are carrying the torch of livelihood for their loved ones in the Philippines. And all of them have two families each, their spouses and children as first family and their parents and siblings as their second family. They send money and goods and constantly call home just to keep the family relations warm despite the distance and the hectic schedules. There are about twenty run-a-ways who stay in the center and are awaiting repatriation. I visited them and broke bread with them. But the hundreds of thousands of undocumented Pinoys are not in KL but in Kota Kinabalu, Tawao, Lahad Datu, Semporna, Labuan and sandakan in West Malaysia, the areas near Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, Palwan, and Basilan. They are Filipinos too and they are not illegal. They are simply undocumented, trying to make a living away from a land that is plundered by PDAF-laden politicians. The Pinoys in Malaysia are giving honor and remitting money to our country, while our dirty officials are laundering billions abroad. I am very happy with my Malaysia mission. I will be back there soon.

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