‘I am Filipino and I am proud’

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Gem (second from left) receiving her award

WITH an opening line that states “I am Filipino and I am proud’ and the famous quote “ask not what your country can do for you, [but] ask what you can do for your country”, Gemma ‘Gem’ Lauraya emerged as the winner of the on-the-spot  essay-writing contest held at the Kennedy Town Bayanihan Center on Nov. 19.

The essay-writing tilt was a highlight of the “2017 Bayanihan Showcase-Ikaw ang Kampeon Dito”, where participants were given 10 minutes to write about the topic “What can an overseas foreign worker (OFW) do to help their country become a great nation that can stand proud in the international community?”
Gem first came to Hong Kong in 1995. She was born in Lipa City, Batangas, studied in Makati, while Sta. Cruz, manila is  her family’s current residence.

Although a teacher by profession, passing the board exam in 1991, her coming to work in Hong Kong was due to her desire to provide a better future for her family.

Her 23-year old daughter Bea Ysabelle has graduated and is now working as Credit and Collection Specialist in Manila.

Gem has worked for three employers since and had good working relationships with them and their children. But, she said, being an OFW entails endless sacrifices.

“Working abroad can be prestigious as it sounds but, in reality, there’s always anxiety and fear and, oftentimes, home-sickness and loneliness. Not to forget the culture shock, but you’ll get used to it in a different perspective of our surroundings”.

In her essay, Gem wrote: “As a migrant and global Filipino, I can be a good citizen of my country by setting an example to my fellow countrymen in doing what is right in the foreign land where I work.

“As an OFW, I can help sustain our country’s economy because of my remittances that can likewise help my family to have a better and decent life. I am a global Filipino that is productive and resilient. I can be of help through volunteering and helping others in need,” she said.

Gem joined National Organization of Professional Teachers-HK Chapter (NOPT-HK) in 2000 as secretary, when she was appointed by then president, Lolita Brana, and then becoming the representative of Region 3 and NCR. Since then, Gem has served as a volunteer during licensure examinations and a lecturer in review classes of NOPT-HK.

Quoting Mother Teresa’s words “not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love”, she said that small acts of kindness all the time, in small steps together can change the world.

“People think that volunteering is to help others but in fact the biggest beneficiary is ourselves. We learn from it and we can see the world through others because we see our purpose,” Gem said.

Her essay also touched on this point.

“Together, we can do great things for God, for our country, for our fellowmen, for our families back home. Together we can look forward for a better planet to live in harmony and prosperity,” she added.

Gem is currently the president of NOPT-HK, having been elected in May 2016.

She wants to lead by example and she is committed, and ready to step up and push forward the organization’s goals.

“Leaders are people who make things happen and it is my desire to serve others and do the best I can,” she said.

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