ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands - For many Filipinos, death or old age is not something they prepare for. Usually back home, the responsibility to take care of sick or ageing family members are passed on to the children or the nearest kin.
But what if you are an overseas Filipino? How do you prepare when you get sick or old and the inevitability of death?
For Corazon Espanto, a migrants’ group leader, it is often a difficult decision for many Filipinos in the Netherlands. She has seen fellow Filipinos who are not prepared for these eventualities in life.
“Nakikita ko na problema ito sa Filipino community, kapag may namamatay,” she said.
(I see this problem in the Filipino community when someone dies.)
She said many Filipinos do not have enough insurance or savings to cover serious illness, old age care or death. The decision to repatriate the body to the Philippines, or be buried or cremated in the Netherlands is stressful for the family, especially when they are in the Philippines, according to Espanto.
“Nag-a-ambag, ambag ang mga kaibigan (friends chip in),” said Espanto about friends who help come up with funds to bring a dead overseas Filipino's body back to the Philippines, which costs a lot.
Espanto came to the Netherlands in 2003 as a domestic worker for an Arab diplomat. She has since stayed here. She will be a Dutch citizen soon but wants to come back to the Philippines when the time comes.
“Kaya nag-decide na ako kumuha ng death insurance para wala nang problema ang pamilya ko,” she said of her decision to take care of herself in case something happens.
(That's why I decided to get death insurance so that my family won’t have a problem anymore.)
She said she asked friends who have insurance coverage and inquired online. She now pays 64.20 euros a month, which has a coverage of 15,000 euros (around PhP900,000), funds enough to pay for death-related services including repatriation of the body to the Philippines. The amount also includes extra funds that may be left to the family.
But Espanto is only among a few who are ready. The matter of preparation for many Filipinos only occurs when they become seniors.
Stichting (Foundation) Bayanihan - Centrum voor Filippijnse Vrouwen in NL (Center for Filipino Women in the Netherlands), an organization helping Filipinos from adjusting to a new country to dealing with abuses, has added to its programs sessions on ‘Levenseinde Fase’ (life’s end phase). This is meant for senior citizens to tackle this phase with complete readiness.
“Based from my experience with Filipinas attending the information session on ‘Levenseinde Fase’, most of the participants are seniors and are aware of the importance of talking about this topic. They are glad there is a venue wherein they can express what they feel about this confronting issue. In this way they will be encouraged to expand more questions bothering them and will be guided where to go for help. This sort of information session will prepare them eventually for the ‘levenseinde fase’," said Bayanihan founder Diana Oosterbeek-Latoza.
The group had a session last October 29, where participants were very open in expressing their ideas about it “but at the same time they were very much confronted by the reality of life as one grows older,” said Oosterbeek-Latoza.
When asked where they want to be buried when their end comes, 4 out of the 10 participants answered the Philippines, 5 in the Netherlands and one still did not know. One wants to be cremated, 7 would like to be buried, and 2 still did not know.
When asked about when the time comes when they cannot anymore take care of themselves, all wanted to stay home and avail themselves of health care benefits. None would like to go to the institutions.
The participants said they saw how elderly people are treated in care homes for the aged.
The caretakers have limited time to talk to them because they have many patients to look after. Due to these limitations the patients have nobody to talk to and feel so lonely that they deteriorate and eventually die.
Ooosterbeek-Latoza said not all care homes for the elderly have this situation so it is important that one look for an institution with good reputation.
She added that these sessions helped the participating women towards a realization that they have to talk to their partners and children about their needs and wishes as to where they want to be buried, the kind of funeral they want, and to clarify what to do in case one of the partners pass away ahead of them, their wishes where to stay and what to do when their health fails, and to prepare a testament that covers matters such as property and inheritance, among others. In this way, they will not burden their surviving family.
This continuing information session is organized by Stichting Bayanihan and is facilitated by Ooosterbeek-Latoza, a social-cultural worker herself, with the help of resource person Anafel Miggelenbrink, a Filipina geriatric nurse working with the Verzorgingshuis, a care home for the elderly, and Innoforte, which specializes in Dementia.
Stichting Bayanihan is also involved in projects of NOOM (Network of Organizations of Senior Migrants in the Netherlands), which the Dutch government recently tasked to implement a culture-specific program to improve the situation of senior migrants.