Though many of us will consider that the existence of OFW heroes is already a cliche, we’ll never get fed up with this noble label.
Such context often refers to Filipino workers abroad as saviors for the Philippines as their remittances continue to pump life into the economy which has seen signs of revival in the past couple of years. But there’s another side to being heroes that OFWs are also capable of fulfilling, one that’s more relatable to heroes in movies. Yes, those whose protagonists sometimes die as heroes. But for the case of OFWs, it’s portrayed by real people, not actors.
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Get to know your OFW heroes
Let’s get to know these modern-day heroes who risk — and sometimes lose — their lives in dedication to their service.
Macau: Loreto Mijares Jr, Room Attendant
In video footage that went viral on social media, Filipino Loreto Mijares Jr can be seen rescuing a man and his wife trapped in floodwaters in Rua do Almirante Sérgio around Rua da Praia do Manduco in Macau in August 2017.
An elderly couple, surnamed Kung, and owns a butcher shop in Complexo Municipal Do Mercado de S. Lourenço, recalled that they were walking back home when typhoon Hato approached. In just a few minutes, water flooded into the pavement where they walked, rising quickly to shoulder level. They were very scared and yelled for help. And while Mijares himself cannot swim, he felt the urge to help and waded across the flooded Macau street, saving the elderly couple in the process.
Slovakia: Henry John Acorda, Financial Analyst
Acorda was an employee of a multinational company based in the Slovakian capital city of Bratislava. While walking on a street, Acorda saw two women being harassed by two men. He was beaten up by two men when he tried to defend a couple of women they were harassing in the street. Reports from the Philippine Embassy in Vienna added that the two men kicked Acorda in the head as he lay on the ground. He died of his injuries a few days later.
Sweden: Jesus C. Sumook, Seafarer
When the emergency alarm sounded, Jesus Sumook knew he had to act. The veteran seafarer grabbed a breathing apparatus and headed down a shaft into Hold 9 of the Saga Spray cargo ship. In 2010, when the vessel was in port in Sweden and carrying a load of wood chips from Canada; the chips were known to be able to deplete the oxygen in a cargo hold, and the alarm meant workers’ lives could be at stake.
Below him, a fellow Filipino seafarer lay motionless. Not far away, a dockworker who had been helping to unload the chips also lay sprawled out.
Sumook ran for the seafarer first. “I felt for the pulse, there was none.”
Sumook was working aboard the Saga Tucano, a vessel belonging to Saga Forest Carriers — the same international shipping company he’s been employed by for more than a decade — when the Swedish Carnegie Foundation finally tracked him down and handed him an award for his bravery.
Singapore: Dennis Davide, Roy Allan Calibuso, Crispin Orino III, Diana Bregente, Engineers / Sales Manager
Dennis Davide, Roy Allan Calibuso, Crispin Orino III, engineers employed at Continental Automotive Singapore, and Diana Bregente, a sales manager at a company called Spectrum were out on a lunch break on July 22, 2015, when they heard cries for help. They then saw a group of people gathered around a truck at Bendemeer and Boon Keng Road, trying to pull out a man pinned underneath.
Calibuso and Orino joined the more men trying to lift the heavy vehicle off of the man while Davide and an Indian companion mustered all strength to pull out the man under the truck, Kim Seong, 35, a South Korean citizen on a business trip.
Bregente alerted authorities for rescue while protecting the Koreans from the intense heat with her umbrella.
The four were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Alan Chow, commander of 1st Singapore Civil Defense Force division for their heroic act.
United States: Allen Belaguas, Caregiver
Allen Belaguas, a 21-year-old Filipino caregiver in the US, died a hero on February 15, 2014, at a facility in Rainbow Hospice in Chicago, IL. The medical examiner’s office in Cook County shared the news after Belaguas fell into a coma and remained in very critical condition for almost two months. On December 26, 2013, he went through surgery at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood.
The young caregiver was regarded as a local hero after attempting to rescue Thomas and Janet Lambert, an elderly couple he was caring for, from a fire that ravaged their home located on 1200 Block Field Court, Naperville, Chicago. The blaze started at around 6:50 a.m. The couple died in the fire while Belaguas suffered injuries and complications from smoke inhalation.
Based on reports, the Filipino caregiver did not consider his own safety to save other people’s lives during the emergency. Belaguas’ mother said that Allen had been only been working for eight days at the Lambert home when the fire occurred. His family described him as caring, fun-loving and adventurous. Allen appreciated photography and music, according to his peers.
United Kingdom: Vicente Somera, Seafarer
Filipino able seaman Vicente Somera of M/V Lars Maersk did not hesitate in saving mariner Steve Collins in “treacherous sea conditions, gale-force winds and total darkness,” according to the International Maritime Organization in its certificate of commendation to the Filipino seafarer. He was nominated for the International Maritime Organization Award for Exceptional Bravery by the Australian Maritime Safety Agency.
In a statement, DFA said that on August 31, 2014, Somera was part of a team that helped locate Collins who jumped overboard in an attempt to grab a line thrown at him by the crew of another ship. Collins, who had been hypothermic at the time, was on a solo voyage from Australia to New Zealand when his ENYA II vessel encountered problems.
“Somera used his own body to protect Collins from being crushed by the swinging ladder in between passing swells. Several members of the MV Lars Maersk crew then ran down to assist the survivor up the vessel’s side in an arduous climb up the accommodation ladder to main deck level, 20 meters above.”
United Arab Emirates: Alvin Pancito, Supply Chain Assistant
A Filipino worker at a hypermarket chain in Dubai performed the heroic act of saving four people from drowning at Jumeirah Open Beach in the United Arab Emirates.
Alvin Pancito, happened to be on the beach while on a midnight picnic with a group of friends when he heard screams for help.
“I waited a bit to see what was happening and if anyone would run for help.”
Understandably, no one did as Pancito observed the sea was rough at the time. But the Filipino with thalassophobia just couldn’t ignore the pleas for help and dove into the water. Then all of a sudden, witnesses saw him jump out of the water with two women in tow.
“To be honest, I’m really scared of the sea. I have been so since that happened to my sister. But on Saturday, there was no time to think. I just had to go and help them in whatever way I can,” Pancito said.
Hong Kong: Menita, Domestic Worker
In 2012, a dump truck ran over a Filipino nanny, only identified as Menita, and her 6-year-old ward in Hong Kong while they were on their way to the child’s school. Both victims were killed instantly from serious head injuries.
We may only have one life to live, but for some OFWs risking it to save of lives of others is a worthy cause.