Our modern day heroes are the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who prop the Philippine economy with their remittances. According to the report of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), despite the impact of the pandemic, personal transfers in cash or kind and capital transfers between households in January-November 2020 amounted to US$29.98 billion. During the same period in 2019 the amount totalled US$30.25 billion.
The OFWs make a lot sacrifices being away from their loved ones in order to gain employment to support the educational and other needs of their families back home. In addition to missing their loved ones, they have to face the challenges of different language and culture.
Of these OFWs, there is also the special group of modern day heroes who are frontliners in the battle against the invisible enemy. One of them is Kobelaine Dizon, a Pinay who works as an Assistant Nurse in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. She also has received the COVID 19 vaccine. The Australian Filipina contacted her to share some information about her, her work and her experience with receiving the COVID 19 vaccine.
We are glad to share below our Q&A chat with Kobelaine.
Please give some information about you.
I am Kobelaine Dizon, forty years old and a single mother. I was born in Manila with mother originally from Nueva Ecija and my father from Pampanga. I have a 17-year old son from a failed young romance.
I was a college undergraduate but undertook short courses for Computer Technician, Massage Therapy, Commercial Cooking and Barista. In 2011 I worked at Jeddah in Saudi Arabia as a MassageTherapist. Then in 2015 I decided to try my luck in United Arab Emirates on a Tourist Visa. I was able to find work after two weeks of searching, as a cashier /data encoding at a fashion shop for men. In 2019 I enrolled in a training centre to do a Care Giver course in Abu Dhabi thinking to change my career after I finish my course. In March 2020, the shop I was working closed due to the impact of the pandemic. I then have to search for a job and was lucky to be hired in April in a health home care as an Assistant Nurse. I work 12 hours shift, 4 days duty 2 days off.
What do you hold fondly in your heart as your achievements in working overseas?
I consider to be my achievements in working overseas is becoming independent. There is no one to depend on, in a place you don't know anyone. I am able to send my son to school and continue supporting my family - my mother and my son. I am glad and feel proud of my self when I am able to give them what they want and need.
I joined the Freecycle Abu Dhabi group which helps people especially those who lost their jobs. I use my free time to help people who need assistance and help repack relief goods.
On the flip side what challenges difficulties did you face and overcome?
I have faced many challenges in life. One of these is when my parents separated and I have to cope emotionally having a broken family. It was really hard for me being a single mom and belonging to a broken family. Over the time I learned to accept and understand.
Another difficult time was when I converted to Islam. I grew up in a Christian family, many asked me why and I received a lot of judgment during that time. I'm thankful to my family for accepting this big step I took. I find peace in Islam and it teaches me to be a better person, to be a good daughter and a good mother to my son.
Homesickness is the biggest challenge in working overseas, a big sacrifices of being away from my son and family. I miss all the important events and occasions. Not seeing my son grow up is the hardest one. I just keep telling myself, "you have to be strong and positive to go on".
In your view, how is the government there handling the COVID 19 situation?
The UAE government has been handling the situation well by taken steps aimed at controlling the spread of the virus. The first step was the national sterilisation. There was a drive to clean up street, roads and boost public safety.
The second step was that all malls and markets were closed for almost two months but re- opened with precautions in place. Only supermarkets and pharmacies were open.
Thirdly, there was house to house swab test for everyone in flats, villas and buildings. Fourth, is that they assigned different facilities all over UAE to give free vaccine to locals and expat.
The government gives the people two options. One option is for the people to avail of the free vaccination. For those who are scared to have the vaccine, they have to have swab testing every four weeks, at their expense which is quite expensive. The fine for not wearing mask or not social distancing is very high, so the people are encouraged to observe compliance to the requirements or restrictions.
How is the Filipino community coping with the restrictions?
All Filipinos follow and cooperate in the implementation of rules and laws of the government. They are happy to observe the restrictions as they are to protect them and others from contracting the virus.
Please share your experience in receiving the COVID 19 vaccine.
The first step was I made an appointment for my vaccination. I make sure I ate before I took the assessment. The procedure is that there is assessment of vital signs and then they will tell u if you can receive the vaccine or not. In my case, I need a clearance from the doctor due of my recent surgery for injuries in a car accident.
On January 16, the nurse gave me my 1st dose (.05 ml) of Sinopharm (from China). She explained that there might be side effects like headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea cough, muscle pain or fever.
After eight hours that I received the vaccine, I felt a mild headache and muscle pain. I drank lots of water and slept. It did not affect my work as I still on leave from work. I have all the time to rest. My next dosage is scheduled 21 days after the first one, so that is on February 6th.
I would like to recommend to take the vaccine for your protection and to protect others from COVID 19 virus.
Lastly, how do you define 'success' or 'tagumpay'.
Success or tagumpay means to achieve your dreams. My dreams are simple - to migrate and settle abroad with my son and family to give them a better quality of life. And find a man who will love and accept me and my son. It does not matter what heritage or cultural background the guy is, as long as he is kind and responsible.