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Umela resumes massage training amid pandemic

29 October 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Umela trainees practise full-body massage under Baquirin's watchful eye

The anti-government protests, followed by the Covid-19 outbreak might have sidelined them temporarily, but the people behind United Migrants Entrepreneurship and Livelihood Association (Umela HK) are back providing massage training to dozens of Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong.

Last Sunday, Oct 24, the group had one of its hand-on massage training sessions at The SUN’s office, where trainees took turns massaging each other under the watchful eye of Umela founder and president Ofelia Baquirin and trainor Amelia Mistoles.

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On other days, Baquirin gets help providing hands-on training to the masseuse wannabes from Juliet Morillo and Remedios Smith.

After about six months of training, the students are now preparing for their graduation in the first week of December. It is the second batch of graduates for this year, with each group totaling about 20 students.


For Baquirin, the upcoming graduation comes as a relief because being able to conduct training without interruption has proved very daunting for her and her fellow trainors for the past several months.

In the past, Umela often gathered its trainees in a quiet nook near the High Court in Admiralty for their lectures and to teach them massage. But after strict anti-pandemic measures were put in place, the group often found itself being driven away by the police from their regular spot. 

Baquirin gives hands-on training to students in their secret nook near the High Court

Umela was founded 13 years ago, but for the first two years of its existence, was busy providing livelihood training for fellow foreign migrant workers.

It was only in 2010 that the group started focusing on massage training, with the intention of providing their fellow migrant workers a potential source of income when they go back home.

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The training, which takes six months, comprises several parts - a theory lecture, hands-on demonstration, practice, and on-the-job training, which includes providing service to the community.

Since then, hundreds of migrant workers have benefited from Umela’s free massage seminas, with not quite a few qualifying for a certificate from the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (Tesda) which allows them to practice and provide massage services to the public in the Philippines.

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Equally important, the skill that they acquire could prove useful in providing relief to their family members, apart from serving as a possible jump-off point for a career in caregiving.

Anyone who wishes to join Umela’s next batch of trainees for their massage course could send a message through WhatsApp at 69790766.

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