Ain’t no place far enough to see President Duterte
By Gigie Arcilla
HONG KONG (Philippines News Agency) – It was no ordinary afternoon for the more than two thousand members of the Filipino community in Hong Kong who trooped to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal within the Victoria Harbor in Kowloon here for a meeting with President Rodrigo R. Duterte on April 12.
Most of them, who are household service workers for Hong Kong nationals or residents, sought permission from their employers for a reprieve from work. They travelled far and wide to spend an afternoon with their beloved President Duterte, whom most of them said is their catalyst of hope.
Far from their usual Sunday assemblies, they gathered near the St. Joseph’s Cathedral at the Hong Kong’s Central District, where they set up makeshift shelters, brought food, played games, polished their nails, shared stories and enjoyed the rest of their day off with fellow OFWs, as April 12 was a rare and special event.
In the comfort of a huge multi-purpose hall inside the luxury cruise terminal, there was no need for picnic mats. The venue was air-conditioned, with sufficient chairs, and a snack pack consisting of a burger sandwich and drinks was available for everyone from a home-grown Jollibee fast food branch.
There were no games that afternoon but fellow OFWs provided entertainment with songs and dance presentations.
Many of them, who travelled from distant Hong Kong districts, pooled their hard-earned money to get to the Kai Tak Terminal, which is only accessible by taxi or private car. There were neither MRT nor bus stations nearby.
Rodelyn Torres, 33, said she took a taxi for more than an hour alone to get to the venue. Though her employer offered to drive for her, she said it was more than enough that she was allowed to take another day off just see “her President”.
She admitted to have not casted her vote for any presidential candidate in the previous Overseas Absentee Voting before 2016. Her vote for President Duterte in the 2016 elections, however, did not go in vain.
“Ramdam ko ang mga pagbabago tuwing umuuwi ako sa amin sa Iloilo kapag Pasko (I can feel the changes whenever I come home for Christmas in my hometown in Iloilo),” she said. “Ang mga dating drug addicts na kilala ko, matataba na ngayon (The drug users I know are now rehabilitated and look healthy),” she narrated with a smile.
“There is something in the President I cannot explain that made me vote for him. He is the only Presidential candidate in 2016 who talks from the heart,” she added.
Adilah Aboud, a 36-year old Muslim, didn’t mind flying to Hong Kong from Davao City.
“Kahit saan, pipilitin kong makita siya para maipakita ko ang aking buong suporta sa pederalismo (I try my best to see him in all his engagements with overseas Filipino workers to show my support for the President’s federalism advocacy),” said Aboud, who also flew to Hong Kong when President Duterte first met with OFWs in May 2017.
Marilyn Olalo, a Filipina working for 19 years as a domestic helper, cannot hide her excitement to see President Duterte for the first time.
“I’m very proud of our President. He works so hard for the good of the nation. He uplifts the morale of OFWs by bringing peace. He creates a lot of jobs for Filipinos. The pride among us OFWs is overwhelming,” the 53-year-old Olalo from Batac, Ilocos Norte said.
She admits being an avid fan of the President. “I always keep myself updated about him. In my own Facebook account, I post his programs and activities to help in sharing to all my friends the goodness of his administration.”
“My family is happy to have him as our President. I am glad my employer is very supportive. She took a half day off from work so I could go out to attend this gathering,” she added.
Merlyn Abcede, a volunteer marshall in the event, said had it been a Sunday, the event could have drawn more OFWs to the Filipino community meeting with President Duterte.
Sunday, she said, is the common weekly “day off” for most of the more or less 217,000 Filipinos working in the vibrant autonomous urban center in Southeastern China.
Philippine Consul General in Hong Kong Antonio Morales, in his speech, said most of the Filipinos in Hong Kong voted for the President in the last 2016 elections.
“After the elections, patuloy ang kanilang suporta dahil sa inyong magandang patakaran para sa kapayapaan, pagsugpo ng korupsyon, at kaunlaran ng ating bansa (OFWs in Hong Kong continue to throw support because of your good policies for peace and anti-corruption, for the development and progress of our country),” Consul General Morales told President Duterte.
Quoting OFWs’ sentiments, Morales said, “Ang sabi po nila ramdam na ramdam nila ang totoo at tunay ninyong pagmamahal para sa lahat ng overseas Filipino workers (They said they deeply feel your true and genuine love for overseas Filipino workers).” (PNA)