3 Filipinos die in UAE floods, top Philippine official confirms

By Angel Tesorero / Khaleej Times

Three Filipinos were reported dead – one in Dubai and two in Sharjah – following the torrential rain that hit the United Arab Emirates on April 16,the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) and a top Filipino labor official announced in Manila on Thursday.

Hans Leo Cacdac, officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Philippine Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) on X (formerly Twitter) said: “With extreme sadness, we report the death of 3 OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) during the flooding in the UAE.”

“Two OFWs died due to suffocation inside their vehicle during the flood. One other OFW died due to a vehicular accident,” he added.

Cacdac did not provide details about the identity of the victims or where the incidents happened but underscored that “DMW shall provide utmost support and assistance to their families.”

Close coordination with authorities

On reported fatalities, the PCG said, they have “received official confirmation from police authorities regarding the unfortunate demise of three Filipino nationals.”

“In Dubai, a 47-year-old Filipino male worker tragically succumbed to a fatal vehicular accident on a road damaged by heavy rains on Tuesday night. Additionally, Sharjah police authorities have confirmed the passing of two Filipinas who lost their lives while inside a vehicle submerged in floodwaters”, the PCG added.

The Philippine Consulate General (PCG) in Dubai also released a statement on Thursday, “assuring the public that all efforts are being undertaken to ensure that Filipinos affected by the floods are provided assistance”.

“The Consulate and MWO-OWWA (Migrant Workers Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Association) are in close coordination with Dubai authorities to obtain accurate and updated information so that we can give urgent support to our countrymen affected the extreme weather conditions,” PCG added, noting: “On the reported deaths of Filipinos in Dubai, the Consulate is coordinating with Dubai Police to ascertain details including the cause of death. This will also allow us to provide necessary assistance for the NOK (next of kin).

The PCG said they are “working hand in hand with the Filipino community organisations in Dubai to be able to reach out to those affected.”

“So far, the reports being received is that Filipinos are helping fellow Filipinos as well as other nationalities in Dubai, proof that bayanihan (community volunteerism) is alive and well.

“The Consulate is also coordinating with Dubai airport authorities regarding stranded passengers due to cancelled flights,” PCG added. #

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This report was originally published by the Khaleej Times where the reporter is a senior deputy editor.

UAE: Filipina expat among those killed in Sharjah tower fire

The consulate is coordinating with local authorities and community leaders to ensure all affected Filipinos receive the support they need

by Angel Tesorero / Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–A Filipina expat was confirmed dead and her husband is in intensive care following a devastating fire that happened in Sharjah’s Al Nadha area on Thursday night, the Philippine Consulate-General (PCG) in Dubai said on Saturday.

Ten other Filipinos who live in the same building are currently in hospital, the mission said.

“The consulate is coordinating with local authorities and community leaders to ensure all affected Filipinos receive the support they need during this difficult time,” the PCG added.

“We extend our heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased and pray for the swift recovery of her husband, as well as the other 10 injured Filipinos who are receiving the necessary medical attention.”

Snapshot of a YouTube video of the Sharjah Tower fire that killed 1 Filipino and injured 5 others.

According to the Sharjah Police, five people died and 44 were injured after a fire erupted at a high-rise residential building in Al Nahda on Thursday night.

The deaths were believed to have been caused by suffocation. Out of those injured, 17 are currently in hospital while 27 were discharged soon after receiving treatment, the Sharjah Police added. #

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The reporter is a senior deputy editor of The Khaleej Times where the story above was first published.

Dubai: Why some Christians are cancelling Christmas celebrations this year

By Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times

United Arab Emirates–There are no halls decked with boughs of holly; Christmas trees with lights, garland, and tinsel ornaments; or Yuletide stockings and other decors on the wall in some houses of UAE residents this Christmas. Some Christians are not keen on celebrating Christmas or will have a muted celebration because of what’s happening in Gaza.

But churches will be full and homes filled with prayers. There will still be gatherings with friends and family as they ponder on the “meaning and celebration of Christmas.”

Khaleej Times spoke to some Christians living in Dubai and they said: “There’s no denying that this year has been harder than usual on many people – especially the Palestinians in Gaza.”

“In lieu of the usual festive celebrations, we decided to mainly focus on contemplation and prayers to convey our message of solidarity with the victims of this atrocious war,” they added.

Lebanese expat Suzan Kazzi said: “Christians’ true celebration of Christmas is very spiritual and modest. At church, we will be praying for Gaza and all people in war zones.”

Suzan Kazzi. Photo: Supplied

Suzan Kazzi. Photo: Supplied

Evgheni Pogonii, from Moldova, added: “This year, Christmas for me is not just a time for joy and celebration, but also for contemplation and compassion. The situation in Gaza is tragic, and I cannot remain indifferent.”

Evgheni Pogonii. Photo: Supplied

Evgheni Pogonii. Photo: Supplied

“My prayers encompass a wish for peace and well-being for all those suffering from conflicts and disasters worldwide, especially the residents of Gaza. During this special time of Christmas celebration, I focus on hope for peace and assistance for those in need,” he added.

The pain is very evident among Palestinians, bordering on despair. A Palestinian mother who asked not to be named said: “Christmas is my kid’s favourite holiday, and our family – that is considered a bit on the religious side – would go to mass and have a typical Christmas day. But this year we aren’t excited or even merry.

“Christmas doesn’t feel like a holiday but it’s forced. It’s kind of like no one deserves to celebrate because of the martyrs in Gaza. Bethlehem cancelled Christmas celebrations and Ramallah will most likely too.

“So, we decided not put up a Christmas tree to at least show respect and love to Gazans. To be honest we’re still thinking whether or not we want to get the kids gifts or not this year. Obviously we don’t want to upset them but we need to teach them to respect their families in Gaza. Some families also decided not to put their Christmas trees but instead focus on praying for the martyrs and suffering Palestinians,” she added.

Another Palestinian expat living in Dubai added: “There are no Christmas tree or decorations or celebrations this year. I will be with my mom, brothers and sister-in-law at home, praying for the rest of our family in Gaza who are seeking shelter in Latin and Orthodox churches.”

Born on a pile of rubble

The scene of baby Jesus not in swaddling clothes but wrapped in Palestinian keffiyeh and born not in the manger – as traditionally depicted in the Nativity scene – but on a pile of rubble, is a stark symbol of destruction in Gaza for Filipino expat Michelle Oribello. She said she had seen so many pictures on social media of young children being pulled out the rubble, lifeless.

The photo was tweeted by Rev. Munther Isaac, Evangelical Lutheran Pastor in Bethlehem, who said: “We did this to emphasise that Jesus is in solidarity with those who suffered… This is our message to the world that this is what Christmas looks like in Bethlehem. This is what Christmas looks like in Palestine, with occupation, with destruction, with the bombardment of children. While the world is celebrating, our children are under the rubble. While the world is celebrating, our families are displaced and their homes are destroyed. So this is Christmas to us in Palestine.”

“This year, Christmas celebrations are cancelled in Bethlehem, and for obvious reasons. It’s impossible to celebrate while our people in Gaza are going through a genocide, when children are being massacred in such a brutal manner. All the heads of churches in Jerusalem decided that Christmas celebrations will be mainly prayers with no festive celebrations,” he added.

Prayers and solidarity

A Nigerian expat is deeply affected by the war. Kenneth Chinonye Chukwuleta said: “There seems to be nothing to celebrate because of the crisis and bloodshed this year. I pray not only for people in Gaza but also in Nigeria.”

Kenneth Chinonye Chukwuleta. Photo: Supplied

Kenneth Chinonye Chukwuleta. Photo: Supplied

Sudanese expat Sarah A. Latif added: I prefer to have a muted Christmas celebration in solidarity with the difficult situation in Gaza. I find it hard to rejoice while people, especially kids, are being killed. I will always keep the people in Gaza in my prayers and instead of spending money on Christmas parties, I will send them for donation to the Gaza people.

Sarah A. Latif. Photo: Supplied

Sarah A. Latif. Photo: Supplied

Estheisy Peña, from Dominican Republic, is also offering her solidarity and prayers for people in Gaza. “My heart aches,” she said, adding: “I include them (Palestinians) in my prayers. My wish this Christmas is for ceasefire in Gaza and freedom of its people. Above all, I wish for peace worldwide, hoping for an end to conflicts ravaging countries globally.”

Estheisy Peña. Photo: Supplied

Estheisy Peña. Photo: Supplied

Indian couple Jennifer and Clifford Mendonsa noted: “Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Palestine. Christmas is the feast of peace. We will be including both Palestine and Israel in our prayers for peace to reign on their land.”

Jennifer and Clifford Mendonsa. Photo: Supplied

Jennifer and Clifford Mendonsa. Photo: Supplied

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This article is original to The Khaleej Times where the author is senior deputy editor.

Dubai OFWs to ask Marcos about high prices of goods in PH during UAE visit

By Angel L. Tesorero

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. will arrive in Dubai on November 29 to attend COP (Conference of Parties) 28 and also to visit the huge Filipino community in the emirate. It will be the first time in 14 years that a Philippine president will come to the country and meet his compatriots.

Marcos shall participate in the United Nations Climate Summit, but there are other concerns his fellow Filipinos would also like to hear from him, including “effective response to economic issues besetting Filipinos back home, while underscoring the urgency for effective solutions towards a more environmentally-resilient Philippines.”

They would like to hear solutions to soaring prices of commodities as much as they would like to know the Philippine government’s stance on mining, decarbonization and transition to clean energy.

The reporter spoke to Filipino community leaders, entrepreneurs and long-time residents to capture the collective spirit of more than 600,000 Filipino expatriates and know their agenda and expectations during a meeting with the Filipino community on Wednesday (November 29) at Dubai World Trade Center.

More than a diplomatic trip

Rex Bacarra, Ph.D., university professor of Philosophy and Ethics, said: “As a Filipino expatriate living in the UAE for 16 years, I view the official visit of President Marcos as more than a diplomatic trip. It is set against the backdrop of the Philippines navigating through the turbulent waters of rapidly rising prices of everyday goods. I look with anticipation and scrutiny his engagement with the Filipino community would mean addressing the questions about pressing economic issues while underscoring the urgency for effective solutions towards a more resilient country.”

Rex Bacarra, Ph.D., university professor of Philosophy and Ethics. — Supplied photo
Rex Bacarra, Ph.D., university professor of Philosophy and Ethics. — Supplied photo

“As somebody who regularly sends money to the Philippines, the visit of President Marcos to the UAE presents a unique opportunity for critical dialogue to know and understand if there are clear, practical solutions to address the concerns of Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad,” he noted, adding: “Do we have long-term policies to ensure sustainable growth and stability of prices?”

Bacarra continued: “As Pres. Marcos will be participating in COP28, I also would like to know his administration’s stance on mining and environmental protection, as well as protecting our economic interests and border security in the West Philippine Sea.”

Better consular services

Streamlining immigration procedures for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), broader protection abroad and better consular services are also among the pressing issues Filipinos want addressed.

Community leader Josie Conlu. — Supplied photo
Community leader Josie Conlu. — Supplied photo

Community leader Josie Conlu would like to hear from Marcos “ways to streamline and simplify the immigration procedures while ensuring the protection of Filipino workers’ rights and welfare. He should address concerns such as visa processing, employment contracts, and the prevention of human trafficking.”

Long-time Dubai resident Joyce Villalino-Alexander added: “To lessen the burden on OFWs, there should be consistent consular services on weekends at the Philippine missions and Migrant Workers Office (MWO) so we don’t have to take time off from work on weekdays. Charges for contract verification fees should abolished or at least reduced.”

Long-time Dubai resident Joyce Villalino-Alexander. — Supplied photo
Long-time Dubai resident Joyce Villalino-Alexander. — Supplied photo

Rights and welfare

Migrante Middle East, an organisation promoting migrants’ rights and welfare, would like to hear about sustainable job creation in Philippines. They noted “the lack of employment opportunities has resulted in unabated exodus of Filipino overseas workers.”

They also asked for more welfare officers at MWO to address the needs of distressed OFWs and effective response to unfair labour practices and human trafficking.

Boost to bilateral relations

Meanwhile, nurse and entrepreneur Junah Balungcas would like to see Pres. Marcos “fostering stronger economic ties with the UAE for the benefit of more Filipino entrepreneurs and businesses in the country.”

Nurse and entrepreneur Junah Balungcas. — Supplied photo
Nurse and entrepreneur Junah Balungcas. — Supplied photo

“As a business owner and healthcare professional, I appreciate the opportunities and support offered by the UAE. I am also fully supportive of Pres. Marcos and I appreciate the positive steps he is taking for the betterment of our country,” added Balungcas, founder and CEO of Baofriend Restaurant FZCO.

Rolly Brucales, managing director of Off The Hook restaurant. — Supplied photo
Rolly Brucales, managing director of Off The Hook restaurant. — Supplied photo

Filipino businessmen are also calling for the immediate passing of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) which began in February 2022. Filipino restaurateur Rolly Brucales, managing director of Off The Hook restaurant, said: “We need to strengthen the trade relationship with the UAE. We also would like to see stricter implementation of trademarks and franchises.”

Climate action

For her part, Bobbie Carella, chairman emeritus of Philippine Business Council-Dubai and Northern Emirates, would like to hear Marcos “championing climate action by embracing renewable energy sources, managing forestry and natural resources, and strengthening and enforcing environmental policies, among others.”

Bobbie Carella, chairman emeritus of Philippine Business Council-Dubai and Northern Emirates. — Supplied photo
Bobbie Carella, chairman emeritus of Philippine Business Council-Dubai and Northern Emirates. — Supplied photo

“This isn’t solely about today; it’s about ensuring a vibrant, cooler, greener, and sustainable world for future generations. After all, there is no planet Earth B,” she added. #

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This report is originally published on Khaleej Times where the reporter is a senior deputy editor.

Filipinos detained in UAE over TikTok video in good condition, says consul-general

Mifrante International calls on PH government to review pre-departure orientation for OFWs

by Angel Tesorero / Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The five Filipino expatriates who were detained by Sharjah Police after reportedly posting an allegedly indecent video on TikTok are in good condition, Philippine Consul-General Renato Dueñas Jr to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said.

Dueñas said: “The Philippine Consulate’s ATN (Assistance to Nationals) representative and its legal counsel visited the five detained Filipinos in Sharjah on Wednesday to ascertain their condition. They were given legal advice in preparation for their upcoming hearing.”

“The consulate, through DFA-OUMWA’s (Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs) ATN Fund, will provide them with welfare assistance for their basic needs while in detention,” he added.

The five Filipinos were arrested after reportedly uploading an “indecent video” on TikTok back in March. They thought it was “just for fun” and had no idea it could get them into legal trouble. “They were mistaken for prostitutes,” said a sibling of one of those arrested.

The Philippine Consulate has reiterated its call for Filipinos in the UAE “to respect the customs of the host government and be mindful of content that they post on social media.”

Under Article 17 of the UAE Cybercrime Law, online posting of pornographic materials, gambling, or any activity that may afflict public morals is punishable by imprisonment and a fine of up to Dh500,000. The offender may also face deportation after the service of sentence.

Proper deployment orientation

A legal expert and migrant workers advocacy group Migrante-Middle East are calling for the Philippine government to review and update their Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) given to Filipinos who seek employment abroad.

Barney Almazar, who is a member of the Philippine Bar and holder of a UAE legal consultancy license said the “incident involving five Filipinos could have been easily avoided had they familiarized themselves with the UAE laws.

“The violators have no intent to break the law, their only mistake was to assume that the ways they were accustomed to way back home have no criminal implications in the UAE,” he said.

Almazar explained: “PDOS is a mandatory one-day seminar for Filipinos who are going to work abroad. Seminars are region or country specific to address the peculiarity of certain job sites. Those being deployed to UAE undergo the Middle East module which, unfortunately lacks discussion on the practical day-to-day application of Sharia law.”

“PDOS implementation needs to be re-examined. Since its implementation in 1993, it has not evolved with the needs of the time. When participants enter the seminar room, their only focus was to finish the requirement and get their certification to be able to exit the country. The modules are outdated,” he added.

Know the law

Almazar underscored: “We have to properly equip our migrant workers with practical and useful legal knowledge in the UAE. Under Article 29 of the UAE Civil Code, ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith. It is the responsibility of each expatriate to know the rules and local customs in the host country, especially that their continued stay in the UAE is not a right but a privilege which can be revoked should they violate the law.”

Migrante-Middle East added labor-sending countries like the Philippines “must educate their workers on the laws of the host country, including Cybercrime law, especially that expatriates are heavy users of social media.”

The group also called for additional funds and more protection for OFWs (overseas Filipino workers).

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This April 13, 2023 report is original to Khaleej Times, hereby republished with permission from the reporter.

Filipino victim at Abu Dhabi gas explosion was on his way to a medical check

Clark Gasis’ wife Elna says he was a loving husband and a doting father

By Angel L. Tesorero

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates: One of the two Filipinos who died following a gas explosion at an Abu Dhabi restaurant on Monday was on his way for a medical check ahead of his visa renewal, a family said.

Elna Villason Gasis, 32, wife of the deceased Clark Gasis, 38, said: “My husband seldom left the house as he was working from home. On that day (August 31), he dropped me off to work at 8am. Then he went to his office to get some papers and proceeded for his medical check-up.”

“At around 10.30 am, our office chat group was abuzz with news of the restaurant blast. I immediately messaged my husband because we used to live near the restaurant – a family favorite – along Rashid Bin Saeed Street. When I did not get any reply, I decided to call him but his phone was off. I called him four more times but his phone was not ringing. At 1pm, during lunch break, I decided to go to the clinic to check if my husband was still there. I had no cash with me, so I borrowed Dh50 from a friend for a taxi. I was very anxious and my fears were growing.”

Elna said she called her husband’s office but a workmate told her Clark had not returned. She said she then went to the restaurant area and from afar, could see her husband’s car.

Elna with her husband and kids in happier times. (Gulf News photo)

“I found a way to get nearer and saw the car was empty. There were only papers, some bread and a half-empty water bottle,” she recalled.

She said her worst fears came true. In the evening, her friends broke the news to her.

“My friends prepared me dinner as I hadn’t eaten the whole day. Gently, they broke to me the heart-breaking news – my husband was one of the confirmed casualties. The following day, I also got a call from the Philippine Embassy. They assured me that they will provide all necessary assistance,” Elna added.

Loving husband, doting father

Elna said she still could not believe his husband is gone.

She described Clark as a “very loving husband and doting father”.

“Very kind, patient, hardworking, considerate and thoughtful – that was my husband,” Elna said. “Even if he was busy working, he would find time to cook and do other household chores. And after a day’s work, he would spend time with our kids – aged five (girl) and four (boy) – and do Zumba. He was also very focused on our kids’ online classes,” she said.

Elna with her husband and kids in happier times. (Gulf News photo)

“He was just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time,” she continued.

Elna described Clark as her best friend and confidante. They came from the same province of Surigao del Sur in southern Philippines. They became friends in 2008.

In 2013, Clark decided to come to the UAE to find work and Elna followed afterwards. They got married in 2014 and soon had two kids who were born and raised in the UAE.

Clark worked as an Autocad draftsman while Elna has been employed as an office staff at a vehicle insurance company.

The couple just celebrated their son’s fourth birthday on August 29.

Bleak future

With two young kids, Elna, who is under her husband’s visa, said “the future suddenly looks bleak”.

“My husband always had a plan. We had started building our family house in Surigao and I don’t know how it will be finished, now that’s he’s gone,” Elna shared. “My two young kids still can’t fully absorb what happened to their father. My daughter, who has seen me crying these past two days, tells me: ‘Don’t worry, Ma. Just go to the hospital and hug Dad’.”

Despite the tragedy, Elna said she is mustering enough courage for the sake of her two kids.

“My husband’s death was tragic, but I would rather choose to celebrate his life,” she said. “But I still don’t know how I will be able to raise my kids alone. I need all the help I can get to ensure my kids will have a good education,” she added.

Elna said the immediate task before her was to take her husband’s remains to the Philippines. #

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This report is original to Gulf News.

Love in the time of coronavirus: Weddings back on in Dubai at Philippines Consulate

After weeks of delay, Dubai couples finally got to say ‘I do’

By Angel L. Tesorero

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–It was not how they planned their big day. But, at least, all’s well that ends well for two pairs of lovebirds who finally professed their marriage vows on Monday, after weeks of delay due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Love in times of coronavirus: Weddings are back on in Dubai (Video by Irish Eden Belleza and Angel Tesorero)

Filipino expats Vanessa Panotes, 32, and Fretch Brian Pagaduan, 28, were supposed to tie the knot on April 30 in a civil wedding ceremony, followed by a big celebration attended by around 100 guests and a trip to Georgia for their honeymoon.

The second couple, Glaiza Mae Gevero, 27, and Prince RJ Paraico, 31, also planned a big gathering after their wedding that was initially set on April 2.

Bride and Groom get an unusual entry welcome to the consulate
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

But the pandemic happened. Movement restrictions were imposed and big gatherings were banned to curtail the spread of the virus. Weddings at the Philippine Consulate in Dubai were canceled and the couples had to postpone and scale down their plans.

But then again, ‘true love waits’, as the saying goes, and the couples said they actually utilised the downtime to build a stronger bond and ponder on their future.

“During the lockdown, we actually had more time to know each other,” said Mr and Mrs Pagaduan. “Unlike before, when we were both busy at work, we had more time to talk about things and plan our future,” they added.

The Paraicos also were able to draw up concrete plans and set priorities for their married life because of the ‘new normal’ ushered in by the pandemic.

Social distancing and a limit of numbers makes for a more solemn affair – here Prince RJ Paraico and Glaiza Mae Gervero tied the knot
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

Here comes the bride

The wedding day, however, was no less exciting for the two couples. Both brides wore the traditional white dresses and each one carried a bouquet of roses. The grooms too came in white, symbolising their pure intentions.

There were ‘selfies’ but no photographers were allowed, except for the two companions each couple brought with them to bear witness to their wedding, as prescribed by Philippine law.

Precautionary measures were also strictly observed. Everyone was checked by the guard at the gate for their body temperature before entering the consular premises. Face masks and hand gloves were required to be put on throughout the ceremony, and physical distancing was observed – except for the couples, who were allowed to sat, shoulder to shoulder, beside each other.

Only four chairs were placed in the hall; there was no other furniture aside from the small table in front of the couple, where they signed the marriage contract. A rostrum was set for the solemnising officer, who was at least three metres away from the couple. There were the Philippine and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) flags and only the portraits of the Philippine president and vice president served as the other witnesses to the ceremony.

Prince RJ Paraico with Glaiza Mae Gevero: Awkward moments came when the bride and groom decided not to put the ring on the glove hand and whether to kiss with the mask on or off.
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

Simple and more solemn

Civil weddings are now done one at time at the Philippine consulate, unlike before when Rizal Hall, where weddings took place, was filled to the brim with at least 20 couples and their witnesses.

Solemnising officer, Philippine deputy consul-general Renato Dueñas Jr., said: “The difference now is we do the wedding one couple at a time. It is actually quieter and more solemn as it should be.”

“Before, the hall was crowded with more than 20 couples – because we had weddings only once a week. Now, we had to observe physical distancing but the good thing is the ceremony has become more solemn and more meaningful to the couples,” he further explained.

He added: “As for my advice, I hope they will be stronger in facing the challenges in life and have a real, lasting relationship as husband and wife.”

Solemnising officer Renato Duenas Jr prefers the decorum of less people and less couples
Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan, Gulf News

Start of a new life

Each ceremony was over in under 15 minutes. There were a few awkward moments during the wedding. At one time, one of the brides can’t decide whether or not to put the wedding ring with the hand glove on. One of the grooms also can’t decide to remove the mask before kissing the bride.

The couples also had simple receptions after their wedding, with only immediate family members and a handful close friends attending. Honeymoon plans were postponed and bigger celebrations will take place some other time.

But the marriage itself, according to the couples, was an indication that things will return to normal soon.

“Our weddings symbolised hope and the start of new life in the time of COVID,” the couples agreed. #

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This article was first published by Gulf News.

Filipino medical frontliner in UAE ran, cycled for 19 days to raise COVID-19 awareness

By Angel L. Tesorero

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: An Al Ain-based Filipino medical frontliner has distributed relief goods and medical supplies to his home country and a few workers accommodations here in the UAE after completing his COVID-19vs19 Project, where he ran and cycled for 19 days.

Romeo III Tumayao Puncia, 33, who works as an emergency medical technician at the Emergency and Public Safety Department, Al Ain, is also an international athlete. Last year he became the first Filipino male and first UAE resident to complete the 517.5km Ultraman Florida. He swam 10-km in open water, rode the bike for 423-km and finished an 84-km-ultra-marathon in three days.

Puncia ran 361-km on a running machine (Image Credit: Supplied)

This time, while preparing for the Ultraman World Championship-Hawaii in November, he and his team came up with a project “to promote awareness on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and distribute relief goods as well as masks and personal protective equipment.”

“During the movement restrictions, we came up with a challenge which we called THE COVID19vs19 PROJECT, an indoor activity where I ran 19-km for 19 days and cycled 19laps x 19km,” Puncia said.

At his home in Al Ain, Puncia slugged it out on the treadmill for a total of 32 hours and 32 minutes, covering a distance of 361.34-km and, using a stationary bike, cycled 19-km laps for a total of 370.29-km in over 13 hours. The total distance he covered was 731.63-km in 19 days.

Puncia cycled 370-km on a bike (Image Credit: Supplied)

“The reason why I did the challenge was to inspire people that they can make a huge difference to somebody else’s lives while they are in the comfort of their home,” Puncia said.

“By completing the challenge, my team was able to raise funds which we used to buy goods to help frontliners, laborers and employees who were placed under no-work no-pay scheme. We were able to send 3,500 pieces of surgical masks, 100 pieces of face shield, 100 pieces of KN95 masks, 15 pieces of thermal scanner, and Dh3,000 worth of food items to the Philippine General Hospital and tribal and indigenous communities in Palawan, Philippines,” he added.

He admitted “the challenge was quite exhausting because I had to balance work, family and training. But because of the motivation and support of my team, I reached my goal.”

Relief goods like masks were sent back to Philippines and to some Workers Accommodations (Image Credit: Supplied)

Moving forward

Puncia said he is now gearing up for the upcoming Ultraman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, where only top athletes are invited to participate in the competition that requires 10-km swim, 423-km bike, and 84-km run. He is also warming up for the Ironman 140.6 in Kazakhstan and Ironman 140.6 in the Philippines.

An athlete with a mission, Puncia said he participates in various grueling international competitions to raise funds for his Katribo Charities Inc., which he helped set up back in 2005 in the Philippines.

Relief goods being boxed up and sent back to Philippines (Image Credit: Supplied)

He and his friends visit the ndigenous and tribal communities in Palawan once or twice a year to conduct feeding and medical programmes, education and sports activities, training and leadership skills and more.

More information on his charity work is available on and

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This report was first punlished by Gulf News.

Terminated UAE OFWs told to ask return tickets from employers

By Angel L. Tesorero

Dubai: The Philippine missions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) told overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) wanting repatriation to demand from their employers return tickets to the Philippines.

In an advisory issued Monday, April 13, the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Philippine Consulate in Dubai told terminated OFWs due to the corona virus disease (Covid-19) it is the obligation of their employers to purchase their return ticket to the Philippines.

“This is pursuant to the UAE labor laws,” the advisory reads.

Addressing the employers, the two missions said: “We are calling on the employers for their understanding and cooperation.”

The employer can book a flight via Emirates of Etihad Airlines, which have been permitted to fly to the Philippines, the diplomatic posts said.

A travel agent confirmed there is a special Emirates repatriation flight available on April 15 and 16. A one-way flight to Manila starts from Php13,800 (Emirates Dirham2,550).

“There is no need to call the Embassy or Consulate on this because they have been given special flights permission to land in Manila despite the lockdown in Metro Manila and Luzon,” the advisory adds.

A joint advisory from the Philippine Embassy and Consulate in Dubai. (Photo by Gulf News)

 The missions clarified however that only documented OFWs may avail of the benefit while “undocumented” ones may need to seek the help of their family, friends or their travel agencies.

 “If you have no employer or job contract and has arrived to the UAE to look for a job through the help of family and friends or through a sponsoring travel agency, you need to get their assistance to buy a ticket,” the advisory says.

“For those with no employer, relative or friend to help them and would like to go home for good, they should get in touch with the Embassy or Consulate to help assess their situation,” it adds.

The Embassy or Consulate will ask the Philippine government to purchase the return ticket for an undocumented OFW “if there is an available fund.”

Philippine consul general Paul Raymond Cortes. (Photo by Gulf News)

Fund is available

Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes said the total budget of the Philippine government for its Assistance to Nationals (ATN) is PhP 1 billion pesos annually for overseas Filipinos globally.

Cortes noted the ATN fund was instrumental in helping overstaying Filipinos in the UAE during the 2018 Amnesty Repatriation programme.

“Philippine authorities shouldered not just the airfare of amnesty seekers, but also their out-pass clearances and other administrative fees,” Cortes pointed out.

“We will facilitate your return to the Philippines,” the advisory notes. “(We are) ready to assist our compatriots and will do everything possible to help them weather this crisis,” it adds. #

152 OFWs get Dubai exit pass; 88 home by August 15

By Angel Tesorero in Dubai / Raymund B. Villanueva in Manila

Dubai, UAE – A total of 152 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were given an exit pass in the first three working days (August 1, 2 and 5) of the 90-day immigration amnesty program, Philippine consul-general to Dubai Paul Raymund Cortes said Tuesday.

An estimated hundreds of thousand dirhams of overstaying fines were waived by the UAE government while the Philippine Consulate paid for the exit permits, including the Dh221 for an outpass and Dh521 fee for lifting of the absconding case to clear the name of the overstaying expat from the immigration list and letting the person return to the UAE without travel ban.

The Philippine Consulate also booked one-way tickets (DXB-MNL) for the returning Filipinos.

“Out of the 152 amnesty-seekers, 93 were given free tickets; the rest were not aware that we are providing them with free tickets. Some of them have both tickets a month before. Unfortunately, we cannot refund the fare due to restrictions in the Philippine government auditing rules,” Cortes said.

He explained that booking should be done by the Philippine Consulate.

OFW Fernando Pacheho holding his UAE exit pass. (Photo by Angel L. Tesorero)

Cortes added that out of the 93 who were given free tickets, five are minors who will travel with their respective guardians and the travel expenses of the guardians will also be shouldered by the Philippine government.

The first batch of 88 returning Filipinos will fly out of Dubai on August 15 via Philippine Airlines flight PR 659 which will take off from DXB Terminal 1 at 7:35pm and arrive 8.15am the following day (Manila time) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2, where they will be met by officials from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Cortes pegged the cost of sending home an overstaying Filipino at Dh2,200 each, including the cost of air fare and exit permits.

Dubai newspaper Khaleej Times earlier reported that, according to a source at the Philippine Consulate, around 5,000 overstaying Filipinos are expected to avail of the amnesty program and would probably go back home.

At a cost of Dh2,200 (fees and plane ticket) per person, the Philippine government is set to shell out at least Dh11m, which will be taken from the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) funds.

Cortes added that an undisclosed amount of welfare assistance will be provided to the returning Filipinos while the DFA officials in Manila will assist them in their travel from the airport to their respective hometowns or provinces.

“We are glad that the first of batch of Filipinos are finally going home and will be reunited with their loved ones and respective families. We are very happy that the UAE government has given them a chance to return to the Philippines through the amnesty program by waiving the overstaying fees. We at the Philippine Consulate are also happy to be part of bringing our kababayans (compatriots) back home through the DFA funding,” Cortes said.

He added: “We want to assure our kababayans that all assistance will be given to them to the fullest extent. And for those who will prefer to stay in the country and rectify their residency status, we will also provide them with utmost assistance in the documentation of their papers. But we would like to remind them to fulfill the necessary documents such as birth certificate to get a passport.”

PH government welcomes amnesty

In Manila, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) claimed 100,000 overseas Filipino workers would benefit from UAE’s amnesty declaration for overstaying foreign workers.

An expected 87,706 undocumented and overstaying Filipino workers are expected to apply for amnesty in Abu Dhabi and around 14,400 in Dubai, DOLE reported.

The amnesty program is effective from August to the end of October.

Those who wish to rectify their illegal status may be given assistance at the Philippine Embassy in the UAE as well as at Philippine Overseas Labor Offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, DOLE said.

DOLE said there are 646,258 documented OFWs in UAE, 224,572 of whom are in Abu Dhabi while 421,686 are in Dubai.

In light with this, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III called on overstaying as well as beleaguered OFWs to rectify their status in the Emirates or seek voluntary repatriation back to the Philippines.

“Our government is ready to help them if they wish to go back home,” Bello said.

OFWs who will seek voluntary repatriation will receive assistance from Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), including airport at cash assistance as well as overseas or local employment referral, livelihood assistance, legal at conciliation service, competency assessment at training assistance under DOLE’s Assist WELL (Welfare, Employment, Legal and Livelihood) Program. # (Photo by AL Tesorero)