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MIGRANTE CANADA| Statement

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MIGRANTE CANADA| Statement

Flor Contemplacion Remembered

In a little church in Vancouver, the migrant priest reminded the congregation that March 17 was the death anniversary of Flor Contemplacion and gathered the congregation around the memorial altar to light the candles and say the prayers for Flor.  It was the Migrant Mass, a joint service of the church and Migrante BC as part of the Migrants Ministry of St. Mary the Virgin South Hill – Anglican Church.

It was 29 years ago in 1995,  that domestic worker Flor Contemplacion was unjustly executed by the Singapore government on alleged murder charges. Her death happened during the administration of then President Fidel Ramos and remains the symbol of the continued government neglect and abandonment of  Filipino overseas migrant workers.

Lighting of the candles and prayers around the memorial altar led by Rev Expedito Farinas. Bottom right photo: Flor Contemplacion (Photo credit: St Mary the Virgin South Hill Church)

“Nagising ang sambayanan dahil kay Flor,” said Boni Ilagan who wrote the screenplay for The Flor Contemplacion Story. Flor’s  death shocked and angered many Filipinos inside and outside the country and provided an impetus to the founding of the Migrante International in 1996, which has grown into the biggest organization of overseas Filipinos around the world.

It is fitting to  have March 17 declared as the National Migrant Workers Memorial Day or the Pambansang Araw ng Pag-alala sa mga Migrante, as Migrante Philippines has suggested. It is not only to remember Flor and other migrants whose lives ended in tragic deaths like Joana DemafelisConcepcion DayagMary Jean AlbertoJakatia PawaJeannelyn VillavendeIrma JotojotMarilyn RestorGrace SantosHenry AcordaJerwin RoyupaTerril AtienzaBennylyn Aquino, and Julleebee Ranara, but also to expose the criminal neglect and abandonment of the Philippine government, its agencies, and consular offices around the world, and to hold them into account.

Twenty-nine years later, and many deaths later, Filipino overseas workers are still treated as commodities, bereft of Philippine government assistance and protection, and targets of racism and discrimination in the host countries.

We must not forget domestic worker Mary Jane Veloso , a victim of human trafficking and who remains on death row in Indonesia, and according to the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, one of 83 Filipinos on death row in foreign jails.

Migrante International estimates that every day, nearly 7,000 Filipino men and women leave the Philippines to work abroad, a national reality called forced migration that pushes Filipino workers to leave their families behind to support their families and put food on the table. The situation that pushed Flor Contemplacion to leave her family and work in Singapore has not changed, it has gotten worse —  jobs with decent wages to support families are lacking or non-existent. It is not surprising to learn that the Philippines is still the top exporter of domestic helpers to Singapore.

To remember Flor is to continue to fight for the rights of Filipino migrant workers in their host countries  and to advance the people’s movement in the Philippines. To do so is to study the role of the progressive movement of our  compatriots abroad and act on it.   ###

March 17, 2024