Jay Lyn Roma, an overseas Filipino in Bangkok, Thailand, had the surprise of her life when she unknowingly went on a video call with one of Philippine music greats, Gary Valenciano. This was broadcasted as part of the latter’s digital concert 'FAITH, HOPE, LOVE' for the benefit of Pantawid Ng Pag-ibig – ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, Inc. (ALKFI)’s fundraiser that ensures food is brought to the urban poor families in the country affected by COVID-19.
"I am excited because this is the first time I am going to do something like this," says Valenciano as he introduced the concept brought about by his wish to give honor to the unsung heroes that have risen above their personal ordeals during the pandemic.
"Together with TFC, we decided to do a call to meet people I’ve never met before from three different places around the world. I think some of you will be very proud that despite not being here (in the Philippines), they are still very Filipino by heart," he continued.
Roma was joined by Lou Parroco from Dubai, UAE and Robby Obidos from California, USA. Parroco founded ABCD (Amicable Barter Community in Dubai). From her simple act of giving up some bags from her collection in exchange of sending sacks of rice to her hometown, the online community is now with over 100,000 members. To date, the initiative has already benefited over 700 families in the Philippines. Obidos, a Sharon Cuneta impersonator, was able to muster strength from being in the frontlines as a lab worker, losing his father only days before Father’s Day and being a COVID-19 patient on quarantine – thanks to his humor and will to survive.
Roma emotionally imparted the journey that led her to becoming an online seller in Thailand. Once an entrepreneur with over fifty employees, she left the Philippines and became a nanny when all her businesses went bankrupt.
"Naiiyak ako pag naaalala ko yung sobrang hirap (I can’t help but cry when I remember how hard it was)," she says of her humbling experiences while being employed to a Thai family.
She then pursued her passion for selling putting up an online store, 'Tindahan ni Aling RJ.' Her clientele are fellow overseas Filipinos who would purchase appliances, gadgets, and designer items. Her business, however, was challenged yet again when the pandemic began to affect the movement and livelihood of residents in Thailand. She had to resort to selling more basic commodities such as calamansi (Philippine citrus fruit) and dried fish, delivering them door-to-door until late in the evening.
This hasn’t stopped her from counting her blessings and being one to fellow Filipinos in Thailand. She uses her platform to help those on ‘no work, no pay’ who wish to sell off their stuff. Considering her limited income, Roma regularly drops off sacks of rice and trays of fresh eggs to Filipino organizations who conduct donation drives for the benefit of Filipinos who are greatly affected by the pandemic. Gary Valenciano himself expressed his admiration of her persistence to overcome whatever life throws at her.
The surprise, it seems, was all she needed to forget the sore feeling she got from being on the road all day and her late night deliveries: "Never in my whole life that I thought someone so big would interview me! It was a wonderful experience. Nawala pagod ko (I no longer feel tired). God is good all the time. I want my fellow Filipinos in Thailand to keep the faith… Huwag natin kalimutang magdasal (Let’s not forget to pray). Thank you Kapamilya. Thank you TFC!"
‘Mr. Pure Energy’ capped their segment with a live performance of Galing Ng Pilipino (The Filipino Excellence). He whole-heartedly sang of their greatness and that of the millions of overseas Filipinos who remain steadfast to their mission in bringing Filipino pride to the world.