Speech of President Arroyo during the 2001 Bagong Bayani Awarding Ceremonies

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Philippines
During the 2001 Bagong Bayani Awarding Ceremonies

[Delivered at the Heroes Hall, Malacañang, June 7, 2001]

Maraming salamat.

Maraming salamat acting secretary Brion. Si secretary Brion po ay acting secretary ngayon dahil si Secretary Pat Sto. Tomas ay nandoon po sa Geneva dahil nahalal siya bilang pangulo ng International Labor Organization kaya pinagmamalaki natin ang ating Secretary of Labor.

Other officials of the government; Captain Oca at yung ibang mga opisyal ng Bagong Bayani Foundation; Ambassador Rosting and Ambassador Escalona and the other members of the diplomatic corps; ating mga binigyan ng award itong araw na ito; ladies and gentlemen:

I am very happy that we are all together in this auspicious gathering today. It is very fitting that in paying tribute to the overseas Filipino workers, who are today’s new heroes of the nation, the venue we have chosen is the Heroes Hall of Malacañang kasi talagang heroes kayo. And I would like to thank you and all of the overseas Filipino workers through you because yesterday in the cabinet meeting we just had a report na ang linaki ng tinatawag na net factor income from abroad na ito ay malaking bahagi nito ay yung kita nating overseas Filipino workers ay umangat ng 25 porsyento itong first three months of this year. At dahil umangat ng 25 percent ang net factor income from abroad ay umangat ang ating GNP by 3.6 percent. Kaya maraming salamat sa ating overseas Filipino workers. The 11 Filipino overseas working men and women as well as the Filipino crew of a Norwegian tanker who are being accorded the Bagong Bayani Award exemplify the best qualities of the Filipino workers.

These men and women to whom our administration pay tribute — and to whom our admiration goes — represent the world-class caliber our OFWs are collectively known for. They strive to bring out their best and excel wherever they may be. Iba-ibang lugar kung saan sila nagtatrabaho pero lahat sila ginagalang nung mga lugar kung saan sila nagtatrabaho at ginagalang din natin kagaya nitong araw na ito. They are the reasons why Filipinos are among the most preferred workers in any part of the world. What does the Bagong Bayani Award really mean? Many look upon our overseas workers as contributors to the national economy, particularly through their dollar remittances — kaya yan ang binanggit ko, 25 percent increase contributing to 3.6 percent increase in our GNP. The dollars sent back home run up to billions and form a substantial portion of the country’s dollar reserves, as well as a substantial portion of our country’s growth rate. In fact, in several instances when the economy had a foreign exchange crisis, the consistent dollar inflows from our OCWs saved the economy from collapsing but beyond the billions of dollars in remittances which have built homes, sent children to school, and started small businesses, the Bagong Bayani Award acknowledges the OCW’s efforts to keep alive the Filipino values and promote our sense of nationhood wherever they may be.

It is also a test of their character and skills in balancing various roles. More than being OFWs, they are also mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, brothers, friends and most especially, Filipino citizens.

So many mothers have left home for the sake of a more stable future for their children. Likewise, many fathers have had to become unmindful of the perils that they may encounter while working at sea or some far away desert to pursue higher-paying jobs. Masarap pong magsumikap sa trabaho para sa ating mga mahal sa buhay. Subalit mas masarap ang maghanap-buhay sa sariling bayan kung saan tayo ay makakauuwi sa bahay at makakapiling ang ating pamilya pagkatapos ng oras ng trabaho. Mas mahirap ‘yung nandoon sa kabilang bansa kaysa ‘yung nandito na naghahanap-buhay. Alam nating lahat na ang mahusay na trabaho sa ating bansa ay hindi pa makakamit ng ating mga kababayan dahil mahina pa ang ating ekonomiya.

And while we are doing our best to improve our economy, overseas Filipinos go on with their jobs abroad. And for now many of them have little choice for although our hopes remain undiminished — that someday, soon, our OFWs can work here in our country and still provide well their families with a more comfortable and decent life — I am saddened to hear about families who no longer receive regular financial support or even letters and phone calls from their OFW kins. Merong mga ganon. Whenever I come across cases of old mothers or very young children or angry and confused housewives at the presidential action center, I often ask myself if the Filipinos have cultivated enough values that will nurture not only love and devotion to family but our sense of the “other person” and his betterment.

Then I am told of some of our outstanding OFWs. Halimbawa, hindi ko babanggitin lahat ng nakakuha ng gantimpala itong araw na ito, pero bilang ilang mga halimbawa I am told for instance of what Petronilo Bergantino, maintenance supervisor in Abu Dhabi, who is father to 3 professionals and who has successfully invested in a rice mill, a warehouse, a rice and coconut plantation and a four-door apartment even as he continues to look after the needs of his old parents in Sibalom, Antique. Napakagaling na halimbawa ng OFW.

Or I am told of an Elpidio Quitevis whose professional organization in Bahrain sends scholars in accountancy to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

Or of a Dr. Quitiquit who spends his off work hours providing free medical services and medicines to the sick and needy Filipino workers in the Sultanate of Oman. Then when I hear about all of them and all the others who have received an award today I realize there is hope, and that the Filipino OFWs indeed a family man or woman and at the same time a man or woman for others.

In return for their good deeds, their vital contribution to our economy and their personal sacrifices, the least we can do is to continuously find ways and means to help them better. Kaya halimbawa ilang linggo ng nakaraan — ‘di ba? — naglagay tayo ng pondo para makatulong sa mga legal problems ng ating mga OFWs. We must also strengthen the basic services that already cater to their needs.

And so therefore I’m looking forward to our overseas workers welfare administration to fortify the comprehensive workers education program. This is to correct long-held misconceptions about working and living overseas as well as plant the seeds from where strong moral values, an upright sense of family and citizenship, and excellence in work will grow and flourish. Kasi sa ‘pag pupunta ako eto ang ating mga outstanding, salamat at outstanding sila at ginagalang sila ng kanilang mga community pero meron diyan napunta doon umiiyak sa half-way house dahil hindi nila akalaing ganon ang mga aabutan nila. So kailangan open eyes ‘pag pumupunta doon, at kailangan alam kung saan ‘yung mga matitinong lugar na pagtatrabahuan at kung alam kung saan ‘yung alanganin at dapat iwasan. Napaka-importanteng trabaho ‘yan ng ating pamahalaan, yung edukasyon at impormasyon na ‘yan.

Even as my administration is determined to reciprocate the many good things that the OFWs have done for our country, we know that there is still much more work to be done. This is especially true for the workers who have returned home for good. The OWWA will hopefully continue with an integrated, practical, doable, and sustainable program that will ensure their successful psycho-social and economic reintegration in the mainstream of Philippine society.

I am also looking forward to the department of foreign affairs and the department of labor and employment that they will address the recurring gaps in the provision of prompt and reliable services and assistance to our workers and their families. Kaya nga ‘yung pondo natin tungkol doon sa legal problems ng ating mga OFWs ay dinagdagan. In paying tribute to our bagong bayani, we are showing to the country and to the whole world, that while there may be a few of our fellow Filipinos who have gone astray, there are certainly many, many more who are living examples of all that are good that the Filipino is and can be.

Let us always pray for the safety, well-being and success of our courageous overseas working men and women as they continue to epitomize the good values and work ethic of the Filipino race in their countries. May the grace of the almighty be with all of us lalung-lalo na ang ating mga bayaning OFWs.

Mabuhay ang mga bagong bayani ng taong 2001!

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.

Source: www.op.gov.ph

Macapagal-Arroyo, G. (2001). PGMA’s Speech during the 2001 Bagong Bayani Awarding Ceremonies. Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20100412235808/http://www.op.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8651&Itemid=38