By Raymund Antonio
One is a domestic helper who becomes an artist to cope with life’s abuses. The other is a security guard’s daughter, now a lawyer, who wants to return home and serve at the Public Attorney’s Office.
Their stories may be different, their circumstances in stark contrast, but the two Filipinos from New York City showed how they triumphed in the best and worst of times.
Mona Kuker was 36 years old when she started working as a baby sitter in New Jersey. She was among the several illegally staying Filipinos in the United States in 2000 taking her chances for work overseas.
Working as undocumented for 13 years, she shared her sad story coupled with verbal and emotional abuses as well as sexual advances while working in between casual jobs.
“I had a bad experience like the other OFWs who were abused. I worked for seven days without rest,” Kuker told Vice President Leni Robredo in a taped interview, which was aired Sunday during her weekly radio show.
“If your employer knows you’re a undocumented female worker, they will take advantage and abuse you,” she said in Filipino.
Several times, Kuker had to look for a new job from time to time to survive until her fate changed six years ago when she got married. That was the time she obtained proper documents for employment.
Dealing with her daily struggle as an OFW, she learned how to paint.
Kuker explained she found painting as her coping mechanism on all the hardships she went through in her life there.
“I was losing hope then. I did not know why I bought paint and started painting. That was either brought by my love for country or my longing to see my family again,” she said.
The Filipino worker got her first break when one of her artworks was displayed in an exhibit.
“Painting is not about making profit, but it’s a passion to express you inner self,” she said.
Stories of Hope
Robredo met some OFWs in New York City as part of the Istorya ng Pag-asa, her office’s initiative to promote inspiring stories of Filipinos abroad.
The Vice President went to U.S last month for the graduation of her eldest daughter, Aika, at Harvard University, but she also took the opportunity to look for stories of hope and triumph of OFWs to inspire others.
Neneth Aporo, a New York-based lawyer, who came home and took last year’s Philippine Bar Examinations so someday she can work for the PAO, was also featured by Robredo in her radio show.
A daughter of a security guard-turned-policeman, she earned her law degree at the Hofstra University in Long Island, New York. She then passed the New York Bar two months after her graduation in July 2016.
But she has other plans which include practicing as a Philippine lawyer. And she did.
Aporo said she would return home after three to five years.
“Life is short. What if I die tomorrow, , and I did not do anything for my country. There is always a way to earn money, but public service can’t be bought,” said Aporo.
“Once I’m well-trained in the trial work here then I wanna go back to the Philippines and see how can I apply that methodology. The culture is different. The tradition is different but the strategy, methodology to win a case, it is something we can introduce,” she said.