Dioscora Suen has lived since 1998 in Taoyuan County, Taiwan, where she owns a jewelry store. She has been an active volunteer at the Hope Workers Center, serving Mass in our Lector and Commentators program, as a lay minister, and as an usherette, and in leadership roles as a coordinator of CAIF, on the PPC (Parish Pastoral Council), and as the coordinator for El Shaddai. Diosie has written about her experience as an immigrant in Taiwan as part of the documentary series, “The Migrant Worker’s Face.”
By Dioscora Suen
Edited by Hannes Zetzsche
I was afraid when my now-husband asked me to marry him.
He proposed to my family and me in the Philippines, and the thought kept racing through my head: What will there be for me to do in Taiwan? My husband assured me, “You won’t be bored. They have a church!”
I married my husband and moved in 1998 to his home in Zhongli, Taiwan. My family did not want me to marry this man, a businessman from Taiwan; they wanted me to take a nursing job I had been offered at a hospital in Singapore. But at 28, I loved this man and believed in the sanctity of marriage—I would not allow myself to live with him out of wedlock—so I agreed to marry and join him in Taiwan.
As a Filipina and a Catholic, my new life married to a Taiwanese man was not always easy or pleasant. It is Taiwanese tradition that the eldest son in a family will live, along with his wife and children, in the house of his parents. Thus, living with my mother- and father-in-law caused occasional strife, such as when they complained that I spent too much time in the church. My husband and I also experienced conflict along our differences in religion; he once tried to require a 6-o’clock curfew of me on Sunday evenings, a day I wanted to dedicate fully to God. I knew that if my husband ever told me to give up my religion, I would divorce him. But we have continued to grow in marriage and he realizes how important my God is to me.
In deciding whether or not to marry, I remember praying to God. I had been very active in my church at home, the Fellowship El Shaddai in Manila, and I asked God to give me a place in Taiwan where I could also serve him. Hope Workers’ Center was an answer to my prayers.
There were very few volunteers when I first began attending mass at Hope Workers’ Center in 1998. I sought opportunities to support God’s ministry there, and I began by cleaning the church every Sunday. I admired Father Peter O’Neill’s homilies and he helped me in my faith. Father Peter also reached out to my husband and helped to persuade him that I was needed in the church. With the support of Father Peter, my husband, and a growing community of Filipino volunteers, my volunteer role at the Hope Workers’ Center quickly expanded and I began spending my whole Sundays at the church, often from 10 in the morning to 8 at night.
I joined CAIF, a support group for Filipina women married to Taiwanese men, and coordinated the ministry for five years. I counseled women whose marriages were painful, who were beaten or raped by their husbands but feared for their children and for their right to continue living in Taiwan if they should divorce. I was able to pray for these women and provide solidarity as a woman also married to a Taiwanese man. I joined El Shaddai and I have now been active in the group for 23 years, dating back to my time in the Philippines. It is our mission to proclaim the good news by worshipping our Lord. We dance, sing, and pray for each other.
Soon after arriving in Zhongli, I opened a small jewelry store. I prayed for a building where I could expand my business and God made a building available, for a reasonable price. God has blessed my husband and me financially—we have a car, a house, a son, enough to eat—and we can’t repay God for our whole lives. For that reason, I dedicate the fruits of God’s blessings to him—we close our businesses every Sunday, and I always tithe at least 10 percent of my business’s earnings to the church, often more.
I have lived and served for all these years in Taiwan because of God’s answer to my prayers. When my husband came to my church many years ago, before he knew me, he had asked God for a wife. He wasn’t even Catholic, but I believe that God worked through him to bring him to my church and to me. I married him on the condition that I would always be able to worship my God.
To this day, I still ask God for his will in my life, by praying every three hours to him. I pray at 3 in the morning and angels are there. I ask God to be with people who have cancer, who are taking important exams, or who are facing a job interview. In the peace of the early morning, I sometimes see God in small lights blinking around me, and it is so amazing to feel God there. So many people today have problems and so I pray for them. Prayer is like treatment with medicine.
I thank God for the gift of my life. My life in Taiwan has been an answer to my prayers.
This reflection by Dioscora Suen has been published by the Hope Workers’ Center as an entry to “The Migrant Worker’s Face” documenting project. The Hope Workers’ Center continues to seek stories like this so that we can add detail to migrants’ intricate face. There are two ways that you can help us. If you are a migrant worker and would be willing to share your story, we want to hear from you directly! You can read instructions about how to participate here. If you are not a migrant worker, then we ask you to continue supporting our project: read our stories weekly and invite others to do the same.
The Hope Workers’ Center is dedicated to supporting migrant workers in our community. Through this project, we hope to appreciate the beauty of each person’s life while fostering recognition among a wider audience of the struggles that migrants regularly encounter in their work. Thank you for your support!