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OFW activist seriously ill but still in fighting form

01 July 2018

By Daisy CL Mandap

Nothing it seems can faze Violy Madeja Macatol, not even cancer.

The feisty 62-year-old left Hong Kong today so she can continue her treatment for blood cancer in the Philippines, but she remained as upbeat as she was when she used to interview distressed clients at the Mission for Migrant Workers.

Before she left with a Hong Kong staff member of the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration office, she and her employer Edith Yuen received the Happy Homes award from the Mission in Migrant Workers, where she worked as a volunteer. Yuen's siblings, who are Christians and who came to the airport to send her off, also prayed over Macatol and wished her recovery.

A happy Homes award for Violeta and her employer before she boarded her last flight home.

A tearful farewell.

In an interview days before her departure, she was asked why she sounded chirpy just days after being discharged from the intensive care unit of Nethersole Hospital in Taipo. The former stalwart of the militant Kilusang Mayo Uno in the Philippines answered, “Ano ang magagawa ko? Nasa dugo na namin ito.”

She nonchalantly shared that both her father and a brother had died of the disease.

But this warrior of a worker also has a wicked sense of humor, as shown by her Facebook profile in which she describes herself as a “CPA. Certified public atsay.”

Her sons’ names also reflect her wacky outlook. The older one, who is 25, she named Kimuel (for KMU) while the younger one, who is 24, is called Maynard (for Mayo Uno, of course).

Violy Macatol in hospital with her employers.
Behind the humor, however, is a steely determination to improve her lot. She left her impoverished life in her native Mindoro province, still in her teens, and settled in Manila, where she first worked as a housemaid, then as a garments factory worker.

All the while, she sought to further her education, finishing high school at age 26, and would have gone on to college to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher if the fates had allowed it.

In 1998, with two young sons to provide for on her own, she decided to accept a retrenchment offer from the garments factory, Novelty Philippines, so she could work in Taiwan. She worked there for three years, then briefly returned to the Philippines before setting off again in 2002, this time for Hong Kong.

She has remained here since, and except for a few months working for an elderly ward at the beginning, has been with her current employers.

Macatol has been very much in control of her life that when she decided to go home for further medical treatment, she worked on the preparations herself. First she contacted an old friend at Philippine General Hospital. Dr. Ted Herbosa, so she could get herself admitted to there straight from Manila’s international airport.

“Nakilala ko siya noon pang 1989, nung nagpapatingin sa PGH ang tatay ko dahil may cancer,” she said. They have become close friends since.

After being told of her wish, Dr Herbosa immediately asked for her medical records so he could begin studying them, and assured her that he would coordinate her transfer to PGH.

He also told her that Philhealth “has the Z package for blood cancer meds,” meaning she shouldn’t worry so much about the cost of her treatment.

This aside, what also helps lift Macatol’s spirits is the support she continues to get from her female employer and her siblings who like her, are all in their 60s, that they are often mistaken as “barkada”.

“Sobrang simple lang nila kaya parang hindi ako ang katulong,” Macatol said, before letting out a guffaw.

The siblings whose eldest is a pastor, have paid for Macatol’s costly medical tests in private clinics because they didn’t want to put her in the long waiting queue at public hospitals just to know exactly what she was sick of.

They also visit her regularly at the hospital to bring her food and comfort, and when told of her wish to go home, immediately went to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to work out her termination pay and other benefits.

Macatol said she will have to go to the airport in a wheelchair and hopefully with a companion as she often gets dizzy, but is not otherwise worried about her impending trip.

True to form, she has been spending much of her time in hospital sending text messages and photos to people she thought should know about her condition. She also worked remotely on getting her final salary deposited directly into her account in the Philippines.

“Gusto ko lang masigurado na may sarili akong perang magagamit kung kinakailangan,” she said.
Truly, gritty warriors know no fear.

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