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OWWA fetes model OFW families in Bicol

LEGAZPI CITY, ALBAY (PIA) – The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) honored eight overseas Filipino families in the Bicol region for remaining steadfast to the Filipino family values despite the difficulties of being separated from their loved ones.

The families were honored during the 2023 Model OFW Family of the Year Award (MOFYA) ceremony on Saturday.

“The MOFYA aims to highlight the efforts of our OFWs to provide a better life for their families. We want their stories to be told as inspiration to their fellow OFWs,” OWWA Bicol Director Zenaida S. Ramos said.

Ramos said the families were chosen based on the success in education or profession of the OFW or their family members and in managing the family finances. She also added the active involvement of the family in the community and the wholesomeness of the family through strong emotional connection and mutual support.

The family of seafarer Pelagio Santander of Tabaco City, Albay was declared as the MOFYA for sea-based category and Ramon De Leon of Talisay, Camarines Norte for land-based category.

They will be the representatives of the Bicol region to the national level.

Rebecca Santander (middle), wife of Pelagio Santander from Tabaco City in the province of Albay, received the plaque of commendation as the Model OFW Family for sea=based category in the Bicol region during the awarding ceremony on November 11, 2023. With her are former DOLE Secretary Marianito D. Doque (left) and OWWA Bicol Director Zenaida S. Ramos (right).

The other nominees for land-based category are Marita Conejero and Jerico Segarra of Libon, Albay and Jaime Visaya of Bagamanoc, Catanduanes  while Renato Lupango Vargas of Mobo Masbate, Florentino Guiruela of LIbmanan and Victor San Juan of Goa in Camarines Sur are for sea-based category.

Dreams come true

Santander started working onboard a ship at the age of 16 as a trainee after he finished his six-months Basic Seaman course. After a year, he became a messman and from then on, rose to ranks as assistant chief cook at Stolt Nielsen Company.

Santander recounted growing up with his parents and seven siblings in a shack with holed roof, where they have to sleep cramped in a small bed.  At a young age, he cried and begged his mother to enroll him in school but due to extreme poverty, they weren’t able to do anything but accept the bitter truth that not all people are blessed to go to school.

Armed with faith in God and steadfast to his dream of giving the best education to his children, which he never had, Santander and his wife Rebecca vowed for their children to finish their studies Seeing the pains and tears of their parents to provide for their needs, the children learned to give importance to every cent given to them by giving their best in their studies and helping their parents in their endeavors. This, they said, is the real success of their family.

From his 33 years as an OFW, his children are now working while his wife is managing their businesses and investments. As a way of giving back, they are also active in several OFW organizations and activities in their communities.

Education as the real treasure

ALWAYS HOME FOR CHRISTMAS: OFW Ramon De Belen (2nd from farthest right) never failed to come home during Christmas and New Year to be with his family.

On the other hand, the De Belen family were able to stay together in Dubai as Ramon’s company allowed them to bring their families. In 1999, Ramon started his work as a pump operator in the United Arab Emirates and later on as a supervisor in an oil company in Dubai.

When his family was still in the Philippines, Ramon never failed to come home to celebrate Christmas and New Year with his family. The couple believed that the real treasure is not in riches but in education. As such, they worked hard on giving the best education to their children who graduated as honor students and now excels in their profession. 

The challenge though is the difference in culture and language and the bullying in schools.

“There were times that they were bullied and quarreled in school but we taught them to be patient and remain calm which they were able to learn and carry on as they grew up with different people and culture,” Ramon said.

The family is now staying in their province, managing a gasoline station and giving back to their community as an active leader of various civic and OFW organizations. (PIA5/Albay)

GIVING BACK: Aside from being an active officer of two organizations in Camarines Norte, Ramon also helps in various activities of his community together with his family.

About the Author

Sally Altea


Region 5

"He provides. Everything is in His hands."

Information Center Manager of the Philippine Information Agency - Albay


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