The Philippines has one of the biggest diasporas in the world. We are everywhere. Which means that as the world was thrust into this new pandemic, so were the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who have become an integral part of their host countries. The world is now fighting COVID-19 head on, and the pressure on our OFW heroes remains massive.
We are literally in the frontlines of the world’s fight against COVID-19. An estimated 10 million Filipinos are abroad, and we are known to be excellent doctors, nurses, and caretakers. Which made us realize – perhaps Filipinos are some of the greatest heroes in this pandemic.
Our last line of defense
Health workers all over the world are bearing the brunt of the attacks of this unseen enemy. We call them “frontliners” but in reality they compose our last line of defense. The reality is that no country in the world could’ve been prepared for the extent of this pandemic. And regardless of the nation, health workers everywhere deserve the additional support.
Our OFW heroes face an even more tragic reality. They are twice the unsung heroes, providing healthcare support in their host countries thousands of miles from their homeland. Some have moved their entire lives to their new countries. Many more have their loved ones back in the Philippines. And most bitter of all realities, is that these heroes, those we consider our bagong bayani, face not just pre-existing hardships of being away from home, but the fact that this pandemic has no clear end in sight.
Take the case of 61 year-old Los Angeles nurse Celia Marcos. She spent 16 years working as a charge nurse at the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, in California, USA. Her story hit the news in May, and provided a glimpse of just how serious and devastating this pandemic is to the lives of our frontliners.
The tragic reality of our unsung heroes
Celia rushed to the aid of a COVID-19 patient who had stopped breathing. She wore only a thin surgical mask, and no other Protective Personal Equipment (PPE). Her almost two decades of experience kicked in, and she knew that she had no time to waste. She must resuscitate the patient immediately.
She heroically raced into the room to revive the patient. Fourteen days later, she joined the ranks of health workers who paid the ultimate sacrifice during this pandemic. Her situation is an example of how ill-prepared even more developed countries with better healthcare systems are against COVID-19.
However, the real tragedy here is that Celia’s story is common. Other OFW heroes include ER nurse Erwin Lambrento, 58, at the Elmhurst Hospital in New York City. ICU nurse Marlon Jimenea, 44, at the University Hospital of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Nurse Donald Suelto, 51, who worked for the National Health Service in London, UK.
The frontliners to the world
Celia, Erwin, Marlon, and Donald are just four of the so far unknown number of Filipino healthcare practitioners abroad who have succumbed to COVID-19. They’ve bravely faced difficulties of not just being health workers during a pandemic, but as Asians who may have faced discrimination, and as Filipinos who were far away from the motherland.
Filipinos are frontliners to the world. Not just our doctors, nurses, and caretakers, but other professions as well. Those workers in the food & beverage industry. The waitstaff in restaurants and bars. The engineers in sanitation and other related disciplines. The drivers and other logistics workers who move supplies. These OFW heroes play an integral part in their host countries, and are instrumental in ensuring the recovery of humanity. We will never make it to the New Normal without them.
They deserve all the support the world can give them, just like how our frontliner heroes deserve our support here at home. Not just our healthcare workers, but also the repatriated OFWs who lost their jobs. Let’s talk about their stories, and remind ourselves of the sacrifices they’ve made for their families and for our country.