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Polo officers give emotional farewell to Labatt Jolly at SUN tribute

29 July 2019

Image may contain: 12 people, including Leo A. Deocadiz, Marites Palma, Virgilio Bello Lumicao, Jalilo Dela Torre and Marivic Castro Clarin, people smiling, people standing
The SUN team and Polo officers with Labatt Jolly at the final farewell - the smiles belied their heavy hearts

By The SUN

What started out as a farewell and gift-giving ceremony by The SUN for Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre on Jul 28 turned into an emotional outpouring of thanks from his key officers, who all spoke of their admiration for him and his exemplary service to Filipino migrants.

His three top women officers- Assistant Labor Attache Angelica Sunga and welfare officers Virsie Tamayao and Marivic Clarin – all broke down as they gave thanks to him and extolled his performance.

His former deputy and now Polo officer-in-charge Tony Villafuerte, also remarked in a sad tone on how difficult it would be to follow in Labatt’s footsteps.

“Napakahirap ng kalagayan namin ngayon. Iiwan tayo ng isang beteranong katulad ni Labatt, at hindi lang yon. Napakalalim ng bakas na kanyang iiwan,” said Villafuerte.

The SUN publisher, editors and contributors led the tributes by presenting Labatt Jolly with a framed front page of a “special edition” containing stories about him and the accolades he received at the end of his tumultuous three-year term.

Image may contain: 6 people, including Marites Palma, Leo A. Deocadiz, Jalilo Dela Torre and Virgilio Bello Lumicao, people smiling, people standing
The SUN's framed special edition is all about Labatt Jolly
Tucked into the framed gift was a message in which The SUN team thanked Labatt for his “exemplary service and dedication” and the care he showed to the Filipino community in Hong Kong, particularly the Filipino migrant workers.

Thank you for setting the bar high for all public servants, wherever they may be posted, wherever they may be. Yours will be a tough act to follow, but we sure wish those who would come after you will try their best to measure up,” said the message.

The SUN publisher Leo A. Deocadiz recalled that this was the second time Labatt Jolly had been posted in Hong Kong, and since his first posting, never lost touch with many Filipino community leaders here.
“Thank you for your service to the community – which also happens to be our motto, ‘service to the Filipino’,” said Deocadiz. “Hopefully you will be back.”

The SUN’s writers and editors all recalled how quickly Labatt had acted on their queries and request for help on behalf of migrants, even going out on rescue missions himself, and relentlessly pounding on illegal recruiters and human traffickers.

But the most heartfelt tributes came from his women officers, whose voices cracked as they recalled how Labatt had inspired them in their work.
Leading the tearful goodbyes was ALA Sunga, who recalled a lesson Labatt Jolly had taught her when she just arrived in Hong Kong, and was desperately trying to learn the ropes of her first overseas posting. She said Labatt told her that “for as long as you have this (pointing to the heart), you should be alright.”

She added, “Ang dami naming natutunan sa inyo, lalo na ako personally…Sana magkaroon tayo ng chance na magkatrabaho muli” then added playfully, “wag lang sa Middle East.” (This was in reference to Labatt Jolly being offered a move back to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which he has put in the back burner for now).

The most emotional message came from Welof Tamayao, who called Labatt’s performance “exceptional.”

“Sa tagal ko sa serbisyo, parang siya lang ang nakita kong ganito, eh. Kaya mahal na mahal siya ng lahat ng sector. Ang hirap kayang mahalin ng Migrante,” said Tamayao, referring to how militant groups in Hong Kong had also heaped praise on Labatt.

She also called her outgoing boss “hypersensitive” to the needs of most migrant workers.

“Labatt, I’ll tell you this. Sa inyo ko lang naramdaman ang lahat – extra effort, extra time, extra resources, everything that is extra. Unlimited. Really, I have seen how much you have loved migrant workers. Your love is not platonic, it is real.”

Her fellow welfare officer, Clarin, promised not to shed tears for their boss, but nevertheless failed to stop her voice from cracking as she fondly described him as an “adik,” meaning “adik sa work.”

She recalled how Labatt would send his staff messages at any time of the day or night, asking for information on workers who were reported to him as needing help.

“Ang pangako ko lang, we will continue what you have started,” Clarin said. “Padayon, sir.”

Image may contain: Jalilo Dela Torre, standing
Labatt Jolly said later the outpouring of love and support had left him in tears

Before the spontaneous outpouring of affection and admiration from his staff, Labatt Jolly thanked The SUN for heaping praise on his work.

“This is very touching, maraming salamat...Yung mga papuri ninyo, tama yun (laughter)…pero hindi ko magagawa yun kung wala ang team ko.”

But the heartfelt final tributes must have tugged at Labatt Jolly’s heartstrings that he lost no time in posting on Facebook afterwards that he was also left in tears. “The last time na umiyak ako, sa burol ng Tatay ko, 30 years ago. This is something special and I will carve out a niche in my plaque-riddled heart for this memento.”

Labatt Jolly is due to leave for Manila on Jul 31, the official last day of his Hong Kong stint. No replacement has yet been found for him, giving his most fervent supporters hope that he would somehow be sent back here.

The well-loved official arrived for his second posting in Hong Kong in March 2016. Two years into what was supposed to be a three-year term, he was recalled to the Home Office by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, purportedly to answer allegations of favoritism among accredited employment agencies.

Two widely-reported protests against his recall by various migrant workers groups led to him being sent back to Hong Kong in October last year.

A second attempt to recall him just before the May mid-term elections this year was thwarted when it emerged the Department of Labor and Employment had failed to get an exemption from a law that prohibits the transfer of civil servants during an election period.
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