No less that President Aquino was the official greeter of some 500 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport Thursday afternoon to spend Christmas in the home country.
The OFWs on two flights from Qatar and Dubai received the distinct honor of a “presidential salubong” under the government’s annual Pamaskong Handog sa OFWs.
Three OFWs were the recipients of hundreds of thousands of pesos in cash, gift checks and savings accounts each from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) and other government agencies and corporate sponsors.
Pamaskong Handog, now on its 19th year, is the government’s way of paying OFWs back, they being “modern-day heroes” whose dollar remittances help keep the Philippine economy afloat.
The President, accompanied by Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya, Owwa Administrator Carmelita Dimzon, Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon and other officials, shook the OFWs’ hands before giving them gift bags at the passenger concourse.
Many of the OFWs, thrilled to be meeting the President, pulled out their mobile phones, cameras and tablets to have their pictures taken with him. Mr. Aquino gamely obliged with members of the Presidential Security Group pressing the shutters.
One of the three winners, Virginia Tulagan Miranda, 43, of San Carlos City, Pangasinan, arrived on Emirates flight EK-332 at around 4 p.m.
She was teary-eyed after receiving her prize.
“Thank you very much, this is an unexpected Christmas blessing for me and my family,” she said. Miranda is a domestic worker in Dubai.
She received P100,000 in cash from Owwa, $2,000 (P84,000) worth of gift certificates from Duty Free Philippines, and gift checks and savings accounts from Land Bank of the Philippines, Banco de Oro, Shoemart and DHL Express.
A mother of two who has been an OFW for 16 years, Miranda said she will use her prize to build a house.
The other winners were beautician Mary Grace Arcebuche from Quezon City and welder Romeo Ocampo from Angeles City, Pampanga. Both work in Qatar.
As part of the red carpet treatment for OFWs, the airport concourse was decked with a Christmas tree and colored lights. A choir sang Christmas carols.