During the Philippine papal visit of Pope Francis, the role of and challenges faced by our overseas Filipinos were acknowledged and recognized.
In his first ever message in the country before high government officials, the diplomatic corps and guests in Malacanan Palace, Pope Francis referred to the "oft-neglected contribution of Filipinos of the diaspora to the life and welfare of the societies in which they live."
During the final press meeting conducted by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle and Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., Director of the Holy See Press Office, a foreign correspondent asked Cardinal Tagle how he intended to respond to the Pope's challenge of bringing about evangelization.
Cardinal Tagle reiterated what he said in an earlier interview where he acknowledged that "the presence of overseas Filipino workers in many places across the world is for us an evangelizing moment. And we now feel the responsibility of giving them initial formation so that when they leave the country they could be equipped to contribute to the life of the Church wherever they are".
In Pope Francis' encounter with families at the Mall of Asia, Ediza Pumarada, the spouse of an overseas Filipino in Singapore, was one of three speakers chosen to give testimony.
Below is the full text of her testimony which was delivered with moving and poignant candor and sincerity.
"My name is Ma. Ediza Pumarada. I am with my husband William and our only daughter, Shalmae.
We are married for twenty- two years now. Our story is one of the many stories of migrant Filipino families nowadays.
In October 1995, economic difficulty and the lack of good employment possibilities here in our country painfully pushed my husband to look for better opportunities in Singapore for the good of our family.
Our separation, only three years after our marriage, brought me feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.
The psychological and emotional burdens were difficult to bear in spite of the earnings that working abroad brought our family. Homesickness and loneliness set in. My adjustments as a wife, left alone to take care of our daughter assuming both the roles of being father and the mother for her, was a real challenge for me.
Keeping our loving relationship and our trust for each other, in spite of our separation, was even more challenging.
I grew-up in a Catholic environment. I was a member of a choir in our parish during my younger days. I also helped in the building of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in our parish.
My Catholic background taught me the importance of prayer in one's life. We prayed hard from the time when my husband was still discerning whether or not to work abroad. And when the decision was finally made, we again entrusted it to the Lord and asked him to strengthen our family.
Prayer was also our weapon to overcome misunderstandings in our family. Indeed, through prayer accompanied with our efforts to positively communicate with each other, things also turned out well for us as a family.
Yet, it is sad that not many migrant families are as blessed as we are today.
We witness family disintegration and abandonment of children even among our closest relatives. Migration continues to challenge the structure, roles and functions of the family, communities and the larger society. Children went astray in life because of the lack of presence and proper guidance of their parents.
Moved by the situation of migrants and of the families they left behind, I joined the migrants' ministry of our parish and helped organizing them. And in the year 2000, this parish apostolate led me to a wider apostolate through the Migrants Commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.
Under its auspices, I started conducting seminars for migrants and their families in the different parishes and dioceses in the country.
Our daughter also joined the youth ministry in our parish. After her college graduation last year, she started her career with the Commission on Filipino Overseas, a government agency that attends to the needs of migrants.
Both of us are also volunteers of the Scalabrinian Lay Association (SLA), which provides awareness seminars on international migration to graduating university students.
In all of these, my husband's support is very much felt, albeit from a distance, and in fact, he joins us in some of our apostolates when he is here with us for short vacations.
As a family, sustained by God's grace, we will never get tired of our apostolates where we could share our talents and other blessings especially to migrants and their families who are in need.
Holy Father, thank you very much for showing your fatherly concern for migrants and their families. Holy Father, please bless and pray for all the migrant families in the Philippines and all over the world.
Thank you very much!"
For inquiry regarding this press release, please call the Office of CFO Secretary Imelda Nicolas at (632)522-4701 to 06 or email:
For more information on the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) log in at our website www.cfo.gov.ph