By Erma Edera
Gina Balagot Nesperos had to leave her family back in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat to work as a domestic worker in Taiwan, similar to the heart-rending stories of many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
For almost two years, she saved money so that one day she could return to the Philippines to start her own business and hopefully make enough from it to never have to leave her family again.
When Gina returned to the Philippines, she took a chance and ventured into agricultural trading business, buying and selling farm products.
She took advantage of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) OFW reintegration program which provides livelihood loans.
Gina started out with P20,000 as capital. Now, her business is worth P20 million pesos.
Aside from the profit, she has also provided regular employment to 14 people and part-time jobs for eight others.
To celebrate the successful “balik manggagawa” stories like that of Gina’s, 10 outstanding women were honored at the Marilag Awards 2019 held in Intramuros Manila on March 29.
Aside from Gina, the other recipient of the 2019 Marilag awards are Marites Lambino Benito from Benguet, Felipa Cortes Maldora from Bohol, Cyntehia Racaza Labor from Bukidnon, Antuza Wanason Refalda of Kalinga, Veronica Nicolas De Vera of Nueva Vizcaya, Melinda Godinez Lapingcao of Lapu-Lapu City, Madelyn Bahala De Guzman of Davao City, Mirasol Sta. Maria Baquiran of Isabela and Rosalie Robles Espino of Koronadal City.
The award aims to highlight and recognize the inspiring and courageous stories of OFWs and their families who availed of various DOLE-OWWA Reintegration Programs such as the Balik Pinas, Balik Hanapbuhay (BPBH), and Balik Pinay business loan programs.
“We are honored to be part of your journey. Your hard work, discipline, and exemplary achievements make you our nation’s most revered modern-day heroes and partners in nation building,” Labor Secretary and OWWA Board of Trustees Chair Silvestre H. Bello III said.
“I am proud to say that through the Marilag Awards, in a way, we are breeding another batch of outstanding Filipinas. Your successes validate that our programs and services truly change lives. Let your story echo and resonate not only in this amazing hall but also in the entire country, as well as to other countries where there are OFWs showcasing the economic opportunities in our country and keeping our family members together,” OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said.
Nominees for the awards were screened based on the sustainability of their enterprise, the impact it had on the community, skills application, and innovation.
For the SPIMS beneficiaries, they were selected based on their contribution in the area of public school education in their respective districts.
The event also recognized remarkable female employees of OWWA who demonstrated hard work, industry, discipline, moral integrity, social responsibility and exemplary achievements.
The recognition awarded the women migrant workers and employees which coincided with the celebration of National Women’s Month.