Annalou Redondo has worked since 2011 for a textile company in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. She also volunteers in the noon-time choir, singing during mass at the Hope Workers’ Center every Sunday. Annalou has told the story of her experience as a migrant worker for the documentary series, “The Migrant Worker’s Face.”
By Annalou Redondo
Edited by Hannes Zetzsche
My favorite time of every week is 12:30 p.m. on Sunday when I get to sing with my choir to God.
When I sing, I feel God’s blessing. I believe when you sing from the bottom of your heart, it helps you to feel God’s presence and there I thank him for my life. Don’t we all just borrow our lives from him?
I was born in Mindanau, the large, southern Philippine island, to Jaime and Concurdia Redondo.
I was the second born child in my family, born less than two years after my older sister, Novelyn. My big sister and I have four younger siblings: Maricel, Gourden, Ronald, and Rutchel.
When my mother discovered she was pregnant with Rutchel, the doctors said they saw twins. I remember being excited for two baby siblings! However, as her pregnancy developed, my mother became very ill; the doctors told her that one of her babies was growing inside of her Fallopian tubes and wasn’t getting the proper nourishment from my mother’s ovary. I remember that time being one of great stress and worry among my family. As she neared her due date, my mother would go to the doctors almost daily, to ensure that nothing had changed to endanger her own health or her babies’ growth further.
My mother barely survived the birth. When she began contractions, I remember being worried for my mother’s safety; she was very ill. I prayed all night, begging God to keep my mom safe. God kept her safe, and one of her babies survived too, but not the second. My family was blessed for our smallest member, my little sister Rutchel.
After the complicated birth of Rutchel, my mother continued to suffer from its aftereffects. She battled mental illness and frequent nervous breakdowns. My family’s tension was exacerbated because we struggled to make ends meet.
At the time, my father worked in a factory, on an assembly line. Though the work was steady, it didn’t pay well and my parents struggled to cope with the cost of their youngest child’s birth and my mother’s ensuing illness. My parents had owned some land—about five hectares near our home—but had to sell it to survive. The land had been in our family for many generations and its loss devastated my dad.
Always a happy-go-lucky, independent child, I became the mother of my family. My parents seemed to trust me immensely, even at seven years old, and so I began raising my four younger siblings.
Unable to offer the intensive motherly care that she had provided before, my mother alternatively began a small convenience store in our home. From our living room, she would sell snacks, soaps, and whatever merchandise she could salvage. Sometimes I would also earn money from neighbors, doing chores and odd jobs, to buy merchandise that my mother could sell.
Throughout all of this time, my father was a real inspiration to me. I know how devastated he must have been seeing his wife suffer through the birth of their baby and I know how distraught he was in selling the five hectares land to provide for his family, but I know that his faith in God remained constant.
Throughout all of the years my father worked in the factory, he never missed an opportunity to serve in our church as well. Despite having worked many hours overtime—without the recompense of overtime pay, mind you—he would still make time to serve Sunday mass, preparing the church in the morning hours before mass and often delivering a sermon as well. Throughout his life of service, my dad has learned a lot about the bible; he has served at the same church for 40 years!
My father was generous with his money, as well as his time. Though we never had extra money, he would always tithe and he was always giving aid to friends whom he thought needed the support. My dad would say, “Poor or rich, we all still go back to the ash.”
I arrived in Taiwan in August 2011.
After completing high school, I studied for two years at Andres Soriano College in Mindanao, gaining an Associate Degree in Computer Technology. After completing my formal education, I worked for several years in an electronics company in the Philippines. The job was directly in the field I had studied and I was a regular employee at the company with benefits, but my salary was very little. I had begun paying for my siblings’ educations as they grew to be of high-school and college ages, and I knew I needed to earn more to support them.
Once in Taiwan, I began working for a textile factory in Taoyuan. Although the work was dissimilar to the field I had studied in college, the pay was much better than I had earned in the Philippines. I enjoyed the work and learned the language quickly.
Soon after arriving, I began dating. I worked with Veerasak Welcorn and we got along very well. Though from Thailand, he spoke enough Chinese that we could communicate our feelings for each other soon after we met. We have now dated for three years and I anticipate that we will marry soon. Though he recently began a new contract of work in a factory in South Korea, we still talk on the phone every day. We have realized that neither of us can sleep at night unless we have talked on the phone first. He has told me that, one day, he wants to move to the Philippines with me.
Several times in the last year, my boss has asked me to become the workers’ coordinator in our company. He tells me that my Chinese has become very good and I would be a good liaison between the foreign workers in our factory and our bosses. But I have seen the troublesome pressure that positions of authority can bring their holders and I have declined his offers.
From my perspective, having worked in Taiwan for almost six years now, the most frequent and dangerous obstacle faced by Filipino workers around me is the sentiment of insecurity. They complain frequently, fearful that their bosses play favoritism at their expense. I have heard many coworkers, craning their necks to my job site, criticizing, “Why does your boss grant you so much more luxury at work than mine does? Is he playing favoritism? Unfair!” I understand that Filipinos want equal treatment, but I find this pattern of constant and envious comparison to others unhelpful.
My greatest fear since beginning work in Taiwan has been that I provide too little for my family. My purpose was clear when I arrived—to earn enough so that my father could stop working and so that my siblings could afford educations—and I sometimes feel myself wondering if I’ve done enough.
My mother died in March 2017, just three months ago, and I was heartbroken.
I loved her very much. It particularly hurt because I know how pained my dad was by her death. I was granted a short time from work to be home with my family and, during that time home, I remember my dad telling me, “I loved your mother, but I could see the pain she carried. Move on. She is happy now and very proud of you.”
It has been my goal since I earned my first paycheck in Taiwan to buy back the land my dad sold during my childhood. It meant so much to him to sell it and I knew that his heart would be lifted to have it returned to the family. In the past year, I bought the final hectare in my father’s name. The total is again five hectares; next week I will travel home to help clean the land, organize the property, and plant a tree in my mother’s honor.
My younger sister, Maricel, now works in Taiwan as well, near Taitung. Since she arrived, we have been combining our earnings to provide for our dad. At first, we pushed for him to stop working altogether, to focus only on his service to the church. But he refused, warning us he would atrophy and get sick if he became inactive. We conceded, agreeing instead to buy him a barber shop, where he now carries out his semi-retirement cutting hair and visiting with his friends.
When I was a child, I competed in a singing audition.
I remember the feeling of performing on stage, eight years old in front of adult judges, attempting to prove my voice’s abilities. The feeling in my nerves hindered me at that point and I didn’t push through. I was too shy and I concealed the talent I had as a singer and dancer.
Now, some 27 years later and as a member of the noon choir, I feel that I have been able to harness my talents as a singer and dancer to more wholesome, worthwhile ends. Music is so important to mass, a time devoted to the honoring of our gracious god, and I want to praise him. When we sing our first song, at around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, I can feel myself giving wholly to God.
I was invited to join the choir about year ago. In my factory dorm, my friend heard me singing and shared, “We have about twenty-five choir members. We sing songs for mass on Sunday morning and then we go out for lunch together. In the evenings, we sing some more, practicing for the next week. It’s a big commitment, but we would love to have you. Would you like to join?”
I remember thinking of my blessed life and of my dad’s legacy as a 40-year veteran of church service.
This reflection by Annalou Redondo 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 Annalou’s with which 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!