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A ‘Bagong Bayani’ goes home for good

12 February 2019

By Daisy CL Mandap

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Consul Deric Atienza handed the Consulate's plaque of appreciation to Ching on Feb 3, the day she went home for good 

Up until the day before she was to return home for good in the Philippines, multi-awarded migrant worker Conchita “Ching” Baltazar was hard at work in the kitchen.

At the last minute, her employers for the last 12 years of her stay in Hong Kong decided to throw a party, and Ching did not think twice about canceling a previously arranged farewell dinner so she could do their bidding.

“Nakiusap na i-train ko yung kapalit ko,” said Ching, with nary a trace of annoyance in her voice. “Tinuruan kong gumawa ng Hainan chicken.”

Still, she was gratified when on leaving their house for the last time, her male employer, a lawyer, bid her goodbye with tears in his eyes. He reportedly said, “We will never find another one like you.”
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Ching shows off her newest award to BSK members on the Admiralty bridge where they hang out
Indeed, her dedication to work - and passion for helping fellow migrants - made Ching, who decided to go home for good on Feb 3, a month after turning 65 years old, one of the most exemplary overseas Filipino workers to have served in Hong Kong.

Ching is the recipient of two top awards from the Philippine government, the Bagong Bayani presidential award in 1999, and the Bayani Cagayanos award presented by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the local government in Tuguegarao City in 2001.

She also remembers receiving some sort of a public service award from former President Fidel V. Ramos in the 1990s, but when pressed for more information, just shrugged it off, like it was not that important.

This remarkable humility was another trait that endeared Ching to many in the community. Despite her string of achievements which many Filcom leaders could only aspire for, Ching never threw her weight around.

And, while she may have been called “Bossing” by many of her friends, it was more a term of endearment than an acknowledgment of superiority because Ching dirtied her hands along with everyone else when it came to work.

She was legendary for not taking phone calls, much less chat via social media, while attending to the needs of her employers and their three grown-up sons, all of whom became lawyers like their father when Ching was already part of their household.

She was the only help in a huge Taikoo Shing flat which had two floors and a rooftop, which meant she had to do everything, from cleaning to cooking and washing clothes.

“Nag ha handwash pa yan,” said her friend Cristina, who is clearly in awe of the veteran migrant.
Image may contain: 18 people, including Emz Bautista, GmFrank Sarenas, Weng LA, Leo A. Deocadiz, Rita Barsanas, Victoria Reyes Munar, Emelia Dellosa and Rowena Cuevas Rosales, people smiling, outdoor
Another group close to Ching's heart is Card HK, which provides financial literacy and livelihood training to OFWs
Indeed, Ching was from a vanishing breed of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong who are so focused on their work that they do not fritter time away on Facebook or chatting with friends.

Luckily, Ching had loyal friends who willingly helped her set up an email account, worked on her organization’s logo, and typed out her solicitation letters the few times she decided to hold an event.

Outside of her employer’s home, Ching was equally unstoppable in the various roles she assumed to help serve her fellow migrant workers.

She was founding president of Balikatan sa Kaunlaran Hong Kong Council, a provider of livelihood training for migrants; and a financial literacy and livelihood trainor for Card HK Foundation.

As if these didn’t make her busy enough, Ching often volunteered for projects ran by the Philippine Consulate and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, and attended many livelihood courses offered by various groups. These included the six-month long Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship program for migrant Filipinos offered by the Ateneo School of Government.

Ching’s swan swong was the realization of her long-held dream of holding a livelihood fair on Chater Road last November, where various groups providing skills training to OFWs displayed their products.

No less than Consul General Antonio A. Morales and Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre spent the whole morning with Ching’s BSK, a clear proof of how much her work for the community was valued by even the country’s top representatives here.

The last award she received was a plaque of appreciation from ConGen Morales, which cited Ching’s support for the Consulate’s various projects, and her “invaluable contribution to the upgrading of skills of Filipino Community members in Hong Kong…”

Ching first came to Hong Kong in 1985, after realizing that her management degree and job as bookkeeper in a government agency could mean her compromising her ideals just to pacify some officials who expected her to fiddle with the books.

After working uninterrupted for 20 years, she headed home when her older brother Peter decided to run as mayor in their hometown of Enrile in Cagayan, so she could help in his campaign.

Peter won by a landslide but managed to serve only briefly, as he was murdered by a political rival. That made Ching fear for her own safety.

Despondent and wanting to help provide for the large brood her brother had left behind, Ching made her way back to Hong Kong in early 2007, just over a year since her return home.

As with many of those who succeed because of hard work, Ching managed to turn her life around again. She was able to send six of her nieces and nephews through college and buy some real properties, including an apartment row and a house in Laguna, from her earnings as an OFW.

Despite some misgivings, she also helped bring over to Hong Kong some of her nieces, all college graduates, who decided to follow her journey as a migrant. A nephew who had gone all the way to Afghanistan in search of work, is now reportedly earning well enough to take over the job of supporting his siblings.

While she may have gone home for good, Ching is not done doing projects. For one, there is that cleaning service business hatched up among her classmates at Ateneo’s LSE program that is waiting to be pursued back in Manila.

Along with her live-in partner for the last couple of years, Ching is also looking at starting her own livelihood projects in Laguna, which could be partly funded by her share in the sale of some ancestral properties in Cagayan.

Serving her in good stead is her frugal ways, which means the long service pay she had collected from her employers and deposited directly into her bank account in the Philippines would go a long way.

It would seem that life is all set for Ching, after all the hard work she did working away from home for the past 32 years – but not quite.

“Ma mi-miss ko ito,” she says, her hand sweeping across the happy groups of migrants camped at her group’s favorite haunt on a bridge in Admiralty.

They, in turn, would surely miss her more. Ching’s work ethic, humility and passion for helping others made her one of a rare breed of migrants, the ones who will long be remembered by many in the community.

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