Some Filipinos who met Malayali spouses in West Asia live in Kerala. The Philippines embassy officials came down to Kochi to help them set their papers right.
Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country, said J. F. Kennedy famously. But here is a classic case of a country cutting across all bureaucratic hassles and reaching out to its people in a humane, first- of- its- kind initiative.
In an outreach programme prompted by humanitarian concerns, the embassy of the Philippines is reaching out to their people across India with a unique first time consular related service “because it may not be easy for them to come to New Delhi,” says Rose Kuruvinakunnel who has been unofficially coordinating the programme for the Filipinos in Kerala to avail themselves of this service, on Friday and Saturday. Rose is a Filipino married to a Keralite.
“I am so proud and thrilled at this effort,” she gushes looking all excited at meeting her countrymen. She did the spadework for the visit of the three embassy staff who were in the city to provide services such as making of e-passports, capturing biometric data, voter's registration , marriage registration and all advisory services related to such matters.
There are 20-odd Filipinos in Kerala and most of them are here via West Asia. Most are women married to Malayali men who were or are working in the Gulf countries. “ But I met my husband in Switzerland,” says Rose who has thrown open the café in her hotel, Old Courtyard in Fort Kochi as office space for two days.
“Yesterday we had seven people. They came from Thrissur, Kollam, Alappuzha and Thiruvanathapuram”.
West Asia has been the meeting ground for this group of people. “They are all overseas workers and have met up with their spouses in the Gulf. Sita (name changed on request) from Zamboanga married to Shaheer from Thrissur, came down to “correct her documents”. She is a Muslim. “There are many Muslims in South Philippines. I met my husband, a technician in the Gulf. They are orthodox Muslims but we have managed fine,” she said. She was at the venue along with her in-laws and her two-year-old daughter Ayesha.
Anita Joseph, from Pagadain city, who works at a special school in Chittoor, says she loves Kerala and has been here for 16 years. She took Indian citizenship two years ago but she just dropped in to meet her countrymen for a ‘chit chat'.
Roseville from Cagayan de Oro is married to a Tamil and has been living in Kochi for seven years. Her husband, K. Iqbal, does business and she needs to change her maternal name in the passport.
Rose narrates a story of a missing girl being found here in Kochi as both she and her Filipino husband came down to work here, through references from Malayali friends in the Gulf. She says that another girl, Fatima, a Filipino, lives in Alappuzha. “She lost her husband recently. Lots of people help her and she works at a shrimp farm. She takes care of her family and in laws.” Ask Rose about this humane gesture of her government and she says that it came about after the Consul General, Maria Agnes Cervantes, who was at the funeral service of a contract worker in Bangalore heard about the problems of her people. She decided to send embassy staff to solve their problems. The staff has visited Bangalore, Chennai and are now in Kochi. “It is fantastic proof of how a country should operate,” she says with great pride.
Rose who has lived here for 23 years has always maintained informal contact with her people in Kerala and when the embassy got in touch with her to be the contact person she was all too happy to host and facilitate the initiative.
The embassy staff members, who were busy answering queries and sorting paper documents, issuing passports, were Joyce Sychango, Victor Alas, and Efren Rafol, an administrative officer.
Should other Filipinos in Kerala need any such help, they can contact Rose, at firstname.lastname@example.org