I was delighted to get Phil's approval of me writing blogs about the Filipino teaching community. I thought of featuring Filipino teachers' stories and tackling some employment issues concerning foreign teachers from a Filipino's perspective which I hope might add to the tone at ajarn.com. So, wish me luck!
Well, to start with the blog, I've come across with Michael's inspiring story just today. His is not just a common story of many Filipino teachers' struggle in looking for jobs and in the end, finally got employed...blah...blah...blah. His isn't exactly a success story but it's a combination of true tales on his battles against employment prejudice, friendship betrayal, depression and a rare cancerous disease that certainly can cause his life....and yes, it all happened in Thailand.
Michael is from Tarlac City, Tarlac, Philippines. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication at Cagayan State University. He used to work at the Philippine Women's University prior to his coming here in Thailand. In 2002, he was diagnosed with a jawbone cancer. He underwent surgeries in his hometown and in Manila in 2002 and 2005 respectively. The cancer was benign and so the surgeons advised him of a total reconstruction of his jawbone. Due to financial constraint, he continued working in spite of his condition. Michael is the only member in their family with a university degree.
In 2007, Michael tried his luck in the Land of Smiles to support his family back home and save some for the planned surgery. His "accent" was "acceptable" so said the school employers but he failed in one thing: physical appearance. One might find it funny but in all honesty, here in Thailand , you might easily get the job just because you're extremely good looking. Anyway, Michael knew that he had a problem with his jaw but not his entire physical being but he didn't realize it's a big thing in Thailand. His "fractured" jawbone slightly affected the positioning of his mouth but it didn't greatly impinge on his speech. In fact, he was very fluent and his speech was comprehensible. But to Michael's soon-to-be employers, it was just an unfortunate luck.
When Michael was in Thailand, he didn't realize that his condition was getting worst. He didn't feel anything unusual but his face started to disfigure. He got uncomfortable with all the stares he was getting. So, he finally decided to see a doctor. Specialists at Mahidol University said that it was a unique case...a rare benign tumor in his right jawbone. The doctors advised him to have an immediate surgery before it's too late. But with a meager salary, a hundred thousand baht for his surgery was impossible to raise in due time. The situation was disturbing but he had to work first and deal with the problem later. He got a teaching job somewhere in Uttaradit but it didn't last long because he's terribly coping with the physical difficulties caused by the illness. It was on the same year that he has nobody to turn to. His friends couldn't do much on his predicament. He felt abandoned. He tried to look for a other jobs but couldn't find one.
In December 2007, Michael decided to go back to the Philippines. He was then contacted by Mahidol University's doctors and they offered him a free surgery for a case study. They told him that he needed to undergo a series of delicate surgical procedure with compromising result knowing that his case was unique and so it's a first for the doctors doing the procedure. He took that risk. The tedious procedure was a success but he needed to recuperate for a few more months. A Baptist pastor took him in while he's recuperating. Thanks to the generosity of his doctors, he was able to regain his health back, and his "physical appearance" has become the least of his problem.
Michael is currently teaching in Chiangrai. He was recognized by the school of his dedication and hard work. Knowing that he was able to conquer all his tribulations, he believes he can cope with all other life difficulties that come in his way. But he also knew that his odysseys aren't over yet. There are two more operations he needs to undergo trough except that there are no more freebies this time. He's preparing himself for the next two surgeries but for now, he has to work and save.