|JPEPA candidate caregivers and nurses receive their visas for Japan
Two hundred and seventy Filipino nurses and caregivers will be boarding planes on Sunday that would take them to a country which offers the chance to improve not just their careers but the lives of their families as well.
Japan Ambassador to the Philippines Makoto Katsura said the departure of the first batch of Filipino nurses and caregivers under the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) “marks a truly historic event as it will be the first time for Japan to accept Filipino nurses and caregivers”.
Katsura wished all the candidates a safe trip and at the same time advised them to be prepared as they will be working with an “entirely different environment and people with different culture and language”.
“You may encounter problems along the way but I'm quite confident that with the positive and optimistic attitude you will overcome the difficulties in the end,” Katsura said.
Labor and Employment Assistant Secretary Reydeluz Conferido echoed the same advice urging the Filipino healthcare workers to always be prepared.
“Nurses and Filipino caregivers have long been appreciated for quality service, for kindheartedness, for diligence, for patience, for caring and all the good attributes of the Filipinos. Please do not forget to display or manifest those characteristics even in the most challenging of times and circumstances which probably will also come,” Conferido said.
The former labor attaché to Japan said that the first batch of nurses and caregivers will be contributing to both countries.
“I hope with your contributions more doors will be opened and the respect for the Filipinos will be reinforced,” he said.
“I hope you will be also firm in asserting your dignity. I hope that you will not tolerate disrespect and I hope that you will cooperate very closely with the Filipino community in Japan, with our embassy, our consulate in Osaka and with the labor attaché,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Ronald Allarey, meanwhile, gave the assurance that the government will continue to protect and promote their interest and well being “at home and abroad.”
“I sincerely hope that you will always remember your important role in nation building and that more than being workers, you are without a doubt, our country's veritable ambassadors showing talent, excellence, compassion and goodwill and in promoting the richness of the Filipino culture to Japan and to the rest of the world,” Allarey said.
Adjusting to a new culture, way of life, and learning the language are not just the concerns of the nurses and caregivers bound for Japan. Some say that separation from their loved ones is one of the hardest challenges that they face.
While 32-year-old Serlun Kiat Da Jose feels lucky to be among the 270 Filipino healthcare workers to leave for Japan on May 10, just the thought about the children she would have to leave behind makes her smile fade.
The single mother of two worked as a nurse at a rural health unit in Echague, Santiago, Isabela before she took the opportunity to apply for work in Japan.
Although it has been her dream to work abroad, the offer to work in Japan seems to be the most ideal for her. At first, the idea of overseas employment worried her because her two children are with her, and the exorbitant placement fees she would need to raise seemed to be impossible.
“Ito, yung opportunity, libre lahat parang ok,” she told reporters during the pre-flight briefing of the first batch of health workers held Friday afternoon at the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Quezon City.
Like most overseas Filipino workers before her, she considered the future of her family when she made the decision to apply for the position as caregiver.
“I'm a single mom separated for five years parang ang hirap kasi maging single parent ka,” she said adding “Mixed emotions kasi alam ko magkakaroon ng magandang future kami ng mga anak ko pero syempre mahirap kasi magkakahiwa-hiwalay kami. First time naming magkaka-hiwalay na mag-iina. But I know God will take care of the rest, anyway this is for them and for their future”.
Serlun took to the podium to address officials of both countries and her fellow candidates. She thanked the Japanese government for the program and Philippine officials for being supportive and understanding.
“We promise to do our best, to work hard, behave, and carry the Filipino culture and values wherever we are assigned in Japan. Again, pray for us in our journey as we pray for you and your family,” she said.
Analiza Catacutan Manalastas has the same feelings of mixed emotions about working in Japan.
"I'm happy because I have a chance to grow in my profession. I'm sad because I'm leaving my kids," she said.
Manalastas first worked as a private nurse earning P10,000 and then moved to Fabella Hospital in 2005 to earn P13,000.
"It's the fear of the unknown. I don't know what to expect. Can I adjust to their culture? The POEA had a briefing and that eased my anxiety," she added.
For his part, candidate nurse Joseph Shierel Benosa views the opportunity as a challenge to “show the Japanese people why we Filipinos are known as quality health care givers in the world”.
“It is a challenge and an opportunity given to us by Japan and now our battlecry is ‘Yes! The Filipino can deliver as expected," Benosa said.
In another interview, candidate caregiver Rosie Agupe, 36, changed her mind about working in Saudi Arabia when the opportunity to earn more arrived.
The native of Antique admitted that this is going to be her first trip abroad but she is confident that she will be fine in Japan.
“Marami naman akong pinsan na nakapunta na sa Japan. Saka government to government naman ang transaction,” she told abs-cbnNEWS.com
Nurse Jesse Rey Perina Cruel had a feel of what it is like to work abroad. Cruel, 25, previously worked in Qatar. He came home in January and grabbed the opportunity to work in Japan.
Unfortunately, Cruel is 10-month short of the three-year work experience needed for nursing applicants. He applied as a caregiver instead.
"In Japan I will be assigned to a [tertiary] hospital. In Qatar, I'm in a secondary hospital. I think the technology in Japan is better than in the Middle East," he said
He is also confident that he can learn the Japanese language. "We will have six months training. I think culture will be the bigger challenge."
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said that of the 280 healthcare workers to leave this month, 92 are nurses and 188 are caregivers. They were hired by 134 Japanese institutions and facilities through the Japan International Corporations of Welfare Services (JICWELS), the POEA’s counterpart.
Ten Filipinos from the same batch have been exempted from taking the six-month Japanese language training. They are set to depart for Japan on May 31.
Meanwhile, the rest of the batch, or the 270 health workers, will enroll in the course of training in five designated language institutions a day after their arrival in Japan.
The Filipino nurses will be allowed to take Kangoshi (nurse) licensure examinations on February 2010. Caregivers, however, need at least three years of work experience in Japan before taking the national certification examination for kaigofukushishi (caregiver).