Christmas celebration breaks barriers for migrant fishermen

12/21/2019 08:56 PM
Members of Saint Christopher
Members of Saint Christopher's Church, Taiwan Filipino Chinese Association, Yilan County Fire Bureau, migrant fishers and the local community in Yilan

Taipei, Dec. 21 (CNA) Hundreds of people gathered Saturday at a church in Yilan County, northeastern Taiwan, to celebrate Christmas with the county's migrant fishermen and recognize their contributions to society.

At the "Christmas Celebration -- Wellness for Fishermen in Su'ao," some 300 people, including migrant fishermen, gathered at the township's Holy Trinity Catholic Church to feast, play team- building games, exchange gifts and attend mass.

Father Domingo Farnacio, a Filipino and parish priest, told CNA that the event was special because it united people of different races to celebrate Christmas and show their appreciation for the migrant fishermen in the area.

Father Domingo Farnacio
Father Domingo Farnacio

"There are Indonesians, Vietnamese, Filipinos and Taiwanese joining us here today," the priest said.

Amado Pantaleon (甄松柏), founding chairman of the Taiwan Filipino Chinese Association, said his non-profit organization was present at the event to support the fishermen because of the dangers of their jobs.

The welfare of fishermen came under the media spotlight earlier this year when a bridge collapsed into the harbor at Nanfang'ao in October, taking the lives of six migrant fishermen and leaving some 19 homeless when their boats were destroyed.

The Taiwan Filipino Chinese Association donated a total of NT$15,000 (US$498) in cash and groceries to Saturday's event, said Estrella Sy (莊銘亮), director of the organization.

Agatha Te (戴佩玲), a critical care specialist from Cheng Hsin General Hospital, showed her support and appreciation for the migrant fishermen by offering free medical advice and basic checkups at the event.

Agatha Te (戴佩玲, left)
Agatha Te (戴佩玲, left)

Te, who grew up in the Philippines, speaks Tagalog, Ilongo, English, Mandarin and the Chinese Fukien dialect.

"People outside of their country might not always be confident in being able to communicate with local doctors, so it is always good to have someone who can understand you," she said.

The Yilan County Fire Bureau also dispatched a team to the church to teach migrant fishers how to perform CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.

Yilan County Fire Bureau teaches migrant fishers how to perform CPR
Yilan County Fire Bureau teaches migrant fishers how to perform CPR

"The purpose of the event is to let the fishermen know they are not forgotten and are welcomed by society," said Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet, assistant parish priest at Saint Christopher's Church in Taipei and chaplain to Vietnamese migrant workers.

Gioan Tran Van Thiet (right) with a captain in the Yilan County Fire Bureau
Gioan Tran Van Thiet (right) with a captain in the Yilan County Fire Bureau

A Filipino migrant fishermen identified as Adones, who was left homeless after the port bridge collapsed on his fishing boat in October, said he was very grateful to Saint Christopher's Church for organizing the event.

Accompanying their gifts, the fishermen also received Christmas cards from 11th graders from the Dominican International School in Taipei, thanking them for their hard work.

Sister Mary (left) from Vietnam and Sister Rosa from India
Sister Mary (left) from Vietnam and Sister Rosa from India

Su'ao Township's Nanfang-ao Port is one of Taiwan's major bases for coastal fishing, with over 1,000 migrant fishermen living and working in the area.

John Vincente Royo (right), a survivor of the Oct. 1 port bridge collapse in Yilan
John Vincente Royo (right), a survivor of the Oct. 1 port bridge collapse in Yilan
Father Ari (right) from Indonesia inspects the hand injury of a fellow compatriot who survived the Oct. 1 port bridge collapse in Yilan
Father Ari (right) from Indonesia inspects the hand injury of a fellow compatriot who survived the Oct. 1 port bridge collapse in Yilan
Vietnamese community in Yilan
Vietnamese community in Yilan
Christmas tree
Christmas tree

(By William Yen)

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