Manang Caring helped organize the United Abrenians in Hongkong in 1990 and ATIS-HK (Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society – Hong Kong) in 1992.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – After years of working overseas, Caridad “Caring” Bachiller returned home in her old village in Bangued, Abra in 2014. Though she’s turning 64 in less than two months’ time, and she views her homecoming as a well-deserved rest and retirement, she’s still active in volunteer work for migrants’ welfare. For these, she has won awards and recognition. But the Bureau of Immigration has listed her name in its watchlist, along with foreigners friendly to Filipino activists and critical of some government policies.
Bachiller worked as a domestic helper in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for six years. Before that, she had worked in Hongkong since 1989. She was a secondary school teacher in Abra before she became an OFW.
In her village, many of the women are OFWs because “there are no good jobs available locally,” she told Bulatlat. In fact, she said, among women in her village, only the really old and really young are in their homes. The women in their productive years leave for work abroad, frequently as domestic workers.
“Most of the women start to leave for work abroad in their twenties till their forties, leaving the men to work the farm and mind the children with their elders. The women work in the Middle East, Hong Kong, Japan or Canada.”
But Nanay Caring as she’s fondly called by fellow migrant workers has continued into her “retirement” her advocacy for migrant workers.
“While I still can do it, I will continue helping migrant workers,” she said.
After returning to Abra, Manang Caring helped form in June 2015 the ATIS Abra Migrants Desk. She manages it now with the help of the Diocese of Abra. The Migrante Partylist elected her as 3rd nominee in the last 2016 elections.
She continues to contribute to various projects, which the migrants’ organizations she had led for years are implementing. Mostly the projects are for improving migrants’ welfare, giving them advice, connecting them to various peoples or groups that can help them.
A record of service to fellow migrants
In a statement shortly after the Migrante International received confirmation that Bachiller is on the blacklist, Migrante called it “insane” that Manang Caring is included when she has helped so many fellow migrant workers. Migrante praised her pivotal role in the campaign for migrants’ rights and strengthening OFW organizations for almost two decades now.
Manang Caring helped organize the United Abrenians in Hongkong in 1990 and ATIS-HK (Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society – Hong Kong) in 1992. ATIS-HK is a federation of sixteen municipal organizations and three special concern groups.
In 1997 Bachiller’s hard work paved the way for the establishment of the Abra OFW Center and the launching in 2003 of DZPA-CMN’s.
ATIS-HK also described Bachiller’s inclusion in the BI blacklist as “insane”. They deplored the “ignorance” of BI in citing China as Bachiller’s country of origin. ATIS-HK said she has been serving families of Abra OFWs who encounter misfortune in different countries, not only in Hong Kong since 2015.
ATIS-HK implemented significant welfare programs both in Hong Kong and in Abra province. These include the Abra OFW Center in 1997. The first of its kind in the Philippines, it twice earned for the Abra local government the Galing Pook Awards. Many indigent students also reportedly benefited from the scholarship program of ATIS-HK.
Bachiller’s fellow migrants advocates in Hong Kong said that since 2003, Timek Ti ATIS, a radio program aired on DZPA-CNN, has been providing rights and welfare education for OFWs’ families. While in Hong Kong Bachiller served as its main radio anchor providing assistance to distressed OFWs live on-air.
In Hong Kong, the services of the Abra Migrant Workers Welfare Association helped to strengthen and expand the membership of ATIS-HK, Migrante said. It also earned the migrants’ group in Hong Kong the Most Outstanding Filipino Organization there in the awards’ rites organized by the Sun publication in 1999.
Migrante credits Bachiller’s unwavering commitment for her winning the award Bayaning Pilipino sa Asya Pasipiko in 2003.
“The plight of Filipino workers abroad drove Manang Caring to become a migrant activist,” said Migrante International. The group strongly condemns the Bureau of Immigration (BI), saying it is “colluding” with the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) in issuing a blacklist order against Caridad “Caring” Bachiller and 27 other rights activists.
BI and NICA playing role in Duterte’s tyranny — Migrante
Along with other groups, Migrante has also denounced the BI (Bureau of Immigration) for having ordered the deportation of Australian human rights lawyer and professor Gill Boehringer. The latter is more than 80 years old and married to a Filipino.
With Boehringer in the blacklist order are other leaders of progressive groups who are working in solidarity with Filipino organizations. Bachiller was included in blacklist order based on the request submitted by NICA. The NICA, for its part, sought their blacklist citing their connection to the International League of People’s Struggle or ILPS.
Migrante International also blasted NICA for being one of the agencies “that orchestrated the fake DOJ terror list earlier this year.
“This ridiculous blacklist mistook all the listed persons as “foreign nationals” who planned to disrupt ASEAN 2017 with massive protest actions and conferences,” said Arman Hernando, spokesperson of Migrante International.
Migrante demanded the immediate revocation of this blacklist order.
“Now more than ever, we are calling on all freedom-loving migrants and Filipinos to defend their defenders and strongly oppose the tyrannical aggression of the US-Duterte regime,” Hernando said.
Bachiller also expressed her desire to be removed from the blacklist. She said her family has been concerned, of course. At present, she is a retiree living close to her relatives, anchoring a brief weekly radio program in Abra as church-supported service to migrant workers. She lives with her pet dogs and cats. Though a retiree, she only has to look at the people and her relatives in her village in Abra and note the absence there of most of the women in their active productive years. She knows for sure they are working abroad, facing various challenges that she would like to continue helping them to face with their organization of migrants.
“Facing government negligence and exploitation through Duterte’s labour export program, many migrants get inspiration from social justice warriors like Manang Caring,” Hernando of Migrante said. The migrants group believe Bachiller’s inclusion in the blacklist is just one among the many ways the “tyrannical Duterte regime is seeking to silence the voices of those who defend the oppressed and the marginalized.”
Another way, it said, is the attempted proscription of human rights activists. The BI blacklist is the latest in the “state-sponsored attack on human rights defenders,” the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said in another statement. It decried how the Duterte government is using the immigration laws as tools for more human rights violations.
ATIS-HK and Migrante urged the Bureau of Immigration to remove their Mommy Caring from the Bureau of Immigration’s blacklist, and also all the human rights defenders included in it.
“We demand that the BI explain why and how it issued this outrageously tyrannical list,” the members of Abra Tingguian Ilocano Society in Hong Kong and Migrante Interntional said in separate statement.
There are an estimated 220,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, with many of them working in the hotel and restaurant industry or in the households of Hong Kong residents, according to the Philippine Embassy in Hong Kong.