Filipina ‘living hero’ who spent 16 years in UAE ‘about to say goodbye’

Estimated read time 8 min read

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Consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum. Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis.” byline=”Florence Pia Yu” caption=”Corazon Tarcena during good and bad times.” credits=”SUPPLIED”]

Filipina ‘living hero’ in UAE ready for goodbye

 

DUBAI – A Filipina former school teacher who became an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) dubbed “buhay na bayani” (living hero) in Dubai in the last 16 years said she is now “about to say goodbye” to the place she calls her second home.

“I’ve had some great memories here, but I am about to say goodbye. I am ready to go back home,” Corazon Tarcena told Expatmedia.net on Friday (February 11).

Tarcena, 55, said that after months of trying to find a stable job after the pandemic, and after being hospitalized for an infection last year, she feels it is now the right time to retire home.

“I don’t want to be a burden to my children,” she said, adding that her two younger children have yet to find stable jobs in Dubai, while her eldest has returned to the Philippines.

She is hoping to rebuild her life in her home country. Tarcena first worked as a home tutor in Dubai before she found work as a receptionist that allowed her to send her children to college. She now takes on part-time jobs in her free time.

In the last decade before the pandemic hit, Tarcena spent a good chunk of her receptionist’s salary of Dh3,000 to buy used clothes that she would send to a tribal community in the Philippines. It was her way of giving back the blessings she received.

Her efforts made her a popular community leader, with many Filipinos in the UAE inspired to donate their own used clothing to support the Mangyan tribe that she helped.

“I received a lot of clothes, even high-heels! I only stopped when I lost my job and I could no longer afford to pay for the boxes to ship the donated items to the tribe,” Tarcena told Expatmedia.net.

News of Tarcena’s plight in the UAE became viral in May 2020 after she was fired from work for asking for help through a story published in Gulf News.

Tarcena reached out to the UAE-based newspaper in hopes that readers would help her after the coronavirus pandemic left her in a “no work, no pay” situation.

She would later get a notice from her employer firing her, saying that the newspaper report she instigated created an “unfair and damaging image” to the company.

A UAE-based lawyer said Tarcena’s termination was illegal under the UAE Labour Law, which considers it an arbitrary dismissal “if the cause for such termination has nothing to do with work”.

On Friday (February 11), Tarcena said she has since bounced back from the experience. She also clarified that she did not pursue a case against her employer.

“I choose not to do it because I know that having court battle here is not healthy and it’s stressful,” she told Expatmedia.net.

The Filipina said she never received her gratuity, but added that it was “not the end of my life”.

She was able to find a job at a nursery school nine months after the May 2020 incident. She found renewed purpose by helping children learn in school. However, her new job didn’t last as long as she hoped.

The next year, she was forced to resign from her job after having a vocal cord infection that required her to undergo surgery at Iranian Hospital. Her hospital bill added up to Dh10,000.

Tarcena said she was forced to take loan to cover her medical bills. “I became weak after my operation. But I still have a fighting spirit,” she said.

She now ekes out a living doing part time jobs “while waiting to buy an airline ticket to the Philippines that I can afford”. She currently lives in a shared space in Satwa.

Tarcena said she has recently reached out to the Philippine Consulate in Dubai for repatriation assistance but was told she would be on the wait list.

“I will patiently hope for my turn. Yes, I was terminated from work, I got sick and underwent operation. I am old, I am weak, but I maintain my honor as an OFW. I took care of my visa status, sometimes I overstayed [my visa] but I manage to clear the penalty through hard work. I even helped others from my own initiative and got recognized for community work by Citizen Watch,” Tarcena said.

“I care for my identity as buhay na bayani (living hero). I was able to send my children to college and help others on my salary of Dh3,000. At the end of the day, I say thank you to the UAE for the last 16 years of happiness, struggles and sometimes pain,” she said.

Her advice to expats in the emirate? “Just strive hard to improve your life without stepping on other people or causing harm to others,” she said. PIA/Expat Media


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