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I’ll serve my country but not at home



HONG KONG (Mabuhay) : Ching Baltazar is an active member of the several migrant communities in Hong Kong.

She explained to Mabuhay that some years ago she made a decision to spend her life giving her energies to migrant workers in the city, after a devastating experience with political life back in The Philippines.

Her brother, Peter Baltazar, was a popular figure in the Enrile district of Cagayan.

As an expert in agricultural science, he won the people’s hearts with his perpetual willingness to involve himself in their problems, both in his professional field and other areas of life, despite his own disability.

Baltazar said that in 2005 her brother decided to run for mayor of Enrile and she returned home to help him in his campaign.

She explained that the people understood he had a real desire to improve the condition of their lives and he won in a landslide.

However, his term as mayor was to be brief, as shortly afterwards, he was murdered by a political opponent.

She explained that after that happened, she suffered from depression and, although she comes from a political dynasty, she had a feeling of hopeless about her own country and its ability to improve.

Baltazar said that she was also afraid that she would be next on the hit list. 

“Every night, I could not sleep. When there was a noise, I immediately looked around and grabbed my gun,” she said.

She added that her only comfort was her faith in God and she believes that God has been at her side all her life.

At that time, her friends began to encourage her to return to Hong Kong and continue the work of empowering migrant workers she had been involved in for many years.

“I felt that my mission here was not yet completed,” she said.

Baltazar has now spent 33 years of her life in Hong Kong and sees hope for The Philippines in the person of those who leave their country for a while, as they have the opportunity to learn new and different ways of approaching problems in life.

Even though she is now far from home, she was upset when the fertile agricultural land of Cagayan sank beneath flood waters, caused by lack of maintenance of the river.

“The Cagayan River is everywhere,” she lamented.

She points her finger directly at the rampant corruption in the country, saying that it leads to many small and unprofitable maintenance infrastructure projects, such as drainage, being left unattended to, as there is no money in it for the politicians.

As president of the Hong Kong Council of Balikatan sa Kaunlaran, she takes part in livelihood skills training courses in beads craft, handmade wedding accessories and handbags, as well as food processing.

She has also been part of setting up a cleaning company, which uses only natural materials as cleaning agents, like soda power and lemon, in The Philippines, and employs migrant workers who have come home for good.

“It is my hope that through learning skills, people can develop their own businesses in The Philippines, so there will be no need for them to be separated from their families,” she said.

In 1999, her community service record in both places was recognised with the Bagong Bayani (New Heroes) presidential award.

As the leader of the Enrile Hong Kong Workers’ Association, she is also taking care of people coming to Hong Kong from her hometown. 

In 2001, she received the Bayani Cagayanos (Hero of Cagayan People) award, presented by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the local government in Tuguegarao City in the Cagayan Valley.

Baltazar believes in the importance of continuous education for migrant workers and she is dedicated to promoting learning.

She is also a graduate of the livelihood course organised by the CARD-OFW Foundation and is now involved in a teaching role in the livelihood skills training workshops run by the group.

On September 20, she ran sessions for over 150 people in making longganisa, a type of sweet sausage popular in The Philippines, hoping that the skill can help returned workers start a small business when they return home.

She said she had trouble talking at the end of the full-day workshop, but was still excited to do something that can empower others.

Always on the look out to learn new things, she recently completed the series of health talks organised by Service 100: Domestic Workers Empowerment Project and graduated with 90 others at the University of Hong Kong in September.

Baltazar said her strong learning spirit is inherited from her family, most of whom are professionals.