Sun to shine after storm for Filipino housemaids

Dubai, United Arab Emirates-December 19, 2011: ( L to R ) Rex Maray, Fretsyl Egnora, and Wilma Villaneva members of the non-profit organistaions wrapping gifts ahead of the Christmas Celebrations at their residence in Dubai . ( Satish Kumar / The National )

By Ramona Ruiz – DUBAI // Filipinos will be spreading some Christmas cheer to 80 domestic workers in Dubai who have spent weeks at a women’s shelter.

“It’s going be very simple this year,” said Alan Bacason, the president of FilCom, an umbrella organisation for Filipino community groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

“I know they will understand that we’re also helping out our other compatriots in the Philippines.”

On Sunday, FilCom began planning a fund-raiser for the victims of Tropical Storm Washi that left more than 650 people dead in the southern Philippines.

But Mr Bacason said there was no need to cancel the Pasko sa Piling Nila (Christmas with them), a yearly tradition for the women at the labour-office shelter.

About half of FilCom’s 99 member groups are expected to take part in the celebration with the maids and nannies, who are being cared for by labour and welfare officials.

Most of the domestic workers fled their employers’ homes, complaining of a lack of food and sleep, being mistreated and overworked, or not being paid for months.

Last year, FilCom gave training certificates to 40 of the 260 women at the shelter, entitling them to employment and entrepreneurial training back in the Philippines.

But this year’s celebrations will be muted. Gifts will include grocery items, toiletries and clothes donated by various organisations, which will also prepare Filipino dishes and delicacies for a Christmas Eve feast.

“What’s important is that we spend some time with them,” said Mr Bacason.

The Dubai branch of Sangguniang Masang Pilipino International (Council of the Filipino Masses), a group that rescues domestic workers, sees nothing inappropriate in having a Christmas party so soon after the devastating storm.

“The party has long been planned by the FilCom,” said Ibrahim Robel Beltran, a hotel security manager and member of Sangguniang Masang Pilipino. “I’m sure the women are looking forward to holiday cheer after what they have been through.”

Wilma Villanueva, the president of the non-profit Trainings and Opportunities for Pinoys Abroad (Tropa), said her group would attend Pasko sa Piling Nila on Saturday.

Tropa members will wrap gifts for the domestic workers. They will also hold a garage sale to raise funds for the flood victims in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City and other parts of southern Philippines.

Instead of the usual gift-giving during their own Christmas party on Friday, Tropa members will be asked to donate to its relief fund drive.

“I think the community has something to spare for everyone,” Ms Villanueva said. “I don’t see any reason why we can’t help these women who are also in need.”

Pasko sa Piling Nila will start at 3pm on Saturday at the Philippine overseas labour office in Al Ghusais.

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