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The SUN contributor and Filcom’s surrogate mom nominated for key award

08 July 2020

By The SUN

Villar poses with a banner of her beloved DWC

They call her “Nanay,” the Tagalog word for mother, and today (July 7) the surrogate mom of tens of thousands of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong who make up the online group, Domestic Workers Corner, was jubilant.

Rodelia Pedro Villar said she shed tears of joy when her friend’s employer shared her today’s article in Hong Kong’s leading English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, about her being nominated for the Spirit of Hong Kong Award.

The annual award co-organized by the SCMP and property developer Sino Group was meant to “recognize remarkable people whose accomplishments may go unnoticed”.

The feat was made even more remarkable by Villar becoming the first Filipino in Hong Kong to be nominated for the award.

It also came just weeks after she made it as a fellow of Resolve Foundation Hong Kong, a highly selective program that provides empowerment training to community leaders who come from various ethnic groups and fields.

“I was crying. I can’t describe how I felt, I was overwhelmed. All of a sudden, I realized that we have done so much in DWC,” Villar said in a telephone interview.
The SCMP article announcing Villar's nomination

She said she didn’t even realize the impact of what she and the group had been doing to help her fellow helpers because after one case was resolved, they’d move on to the next.

There is no respite to what DWC does, day in and day out, because of the many problems confronting Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong.
Villar thanked the various groups that helped her find solutions to problems shared with her group by distressed migrants, including the Philippine Consulate and its attached agencies, as well as Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission.

DWC’s founder also extended gratitude for the support given her group by various non-government organizations like the Mission for Migrant Workers, Help for Domestic Helpers and PathFinders, which nominated her for the Spirit of HK award.

As well, she thanked The SUN, for which she had written about the plight of the countless migrant workers who had sought DWC’s  help, and had nominated her for the Resolve fellowship.

But Villar reserved her biggest “thank you” to all her fellow “admins” and members of the DWC, who have been very supportive of the group that started out only as a means to share cooking tips with newly arrived migrants in Hong Kong.

Over time, DWC’s “It’s All About Food” morphed into several sub-groups, including “DWC Help” which tackles hard issues faced by workers; “DWC Learning and Social Group” which provides tutorials on various subjects, including accessing the Consulate’s online sites; and the more personal “DWC Lovely Corner”.

Villar, who says she was too shy to be known by her real name when she started DWC, used the name "Lovely" to introduce herself to the group, and the name, along with “Nanay”, has stuck.
Villar, 42, and married, started DWC on Facebook in 2017 in her desire to connect instantly with her fellow Filipino domestic workers, especially newcomers who needed help adjusting to life in Hong Kong.

Coming from her native Antique province more than 17 years ago, Villar's own struggles coping with working and living in Hong Kong made her realize the importance of having a group where migrant workers could vent and ask for help, or even just sympathy.

In time, the mostly mothers who came to Hong Kong to earn a living scouring toilet bowls and putting up with insults, physical and sometimes sexual assaults from slave-driving employers, have found in DWC a refuge from their myriad of problems.

The helpers, homesick, burdened by their menial work, entangled in relationships they get into, menaced by debt, targeted by money launderers and mule-hunting drug cartels, have found a helping hand from fellow OFWs brought together by the group.
Members have become so at home with DWC that the page content has turned into a mix of everything, from work issues to personal hobbies and matters of the heart, such that urgent issues get buried under layers of other mundane cares that members brought up.

For a domestic helper who is on call 15 to 18 hours day, six days a week, keeping the network together is a mighty task, especially when pockets of revolt resulting from a clash in personalities, emerge.

Villar’s advocacy, however, is not confined to the Internet.
ConGen Tejada is all praises for Villar for her initiative in helping passport applicants
Two years ago, she led her group in volunteering their only free day in the week to helping various service and livelihood activities at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, foremost of which was to help workers deal with the problematic registration for the overseas employment certificate.

Together with the then Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre and various NGO leaders, Villar also helped organize outreach sorties to far-flung districts of Hong Kong. Apart from seminars on such topics as worker and gender rights and coping with depression, the team also provided free basic health services such as blood pressure an glucose testing, as part of Dela Torre’s HealthWise project.

Most recently, she offered to help buy self-stamped envelopes for Filipino migrant workers applying for new passports and do not have time during regular days to sneak out to the post office to secure them. Consul General Raly Tejada met up with Villar to personally thank her for her volunteer work. 

At any time of day or night, when she’s not busy doing house work, Villar takes calls or messages from distressed workers who were thrown out the house or tormented to their wits’ end by employers. She then coordinates their rescue, if needed, with fellow DWC admins and other groups that can be activated readily to help.

On the very rare occasions that she is free from these extracurricular cares, Villar could be seen with some of her “daughters” hiking Hong Kong trails, picnicking on some country park, or taking a dip in the sea.

It will be a big day for all of them says Villar, if she wins the highly coveted Spirit of HK Award.

(The award will be decided partially through online voting. Watch this space or the DWC Help Facebook page on how you can help Nanay Villar win the award).

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