In 1994 when our family left Rota as a result of our advocacy for the foreign contract workers, we were staying in Saipan when out of the blue I received a phone call from a stranger who lived on Guam. He told me that he had read the three-part series about the abuses of the Filipinos that reporter Floyd Whaley had written in the Pacific Daily News, learned of our exile to Saipan, and wanted to help us with the cause to get justice and rights for the foreign contract workers.
"What do you need; how can I help?" he asked. That was the beginning of a 16 year friendship with Dr. Eduardo del Rosario, or Dr. Eddie as we called him.
Today Dr. Eddie's sweet wife, Belay (Maribel) called to tell us that sad news that Dr. Eddie has passed away. He was in Manila working on one of his causes when he suffered a massive stroke. He passed away in Makati Medical Center on July 6th.
Aside from the years he devoted to ensure that the foreign contract workers had justice and fair treatment, Dr. Eddie also worked to get benefits for Filipino WWII veterans and to get Medicare claims accepted in the Philippines.
Some people have a moral compass, but Dr. Eddie had moral GPS. He didn't just know what was right or wrong, he dedicated his life to fixing all that he saw that was wrong. He was a humanitarian who served those in need in Alaska, the Philippines, Vietnam, Guam, and the CNMI among other places.
Dr. Eddie was appalled by the human rights and labor abuses in the CNMI, and not only joined us in our fight for reform, but he recruited many others to help, including influential Filipino and Asian groups from Guam and Hawaii. Dr. Eddie would arrive at our door in Saipan unannounced with cases of food for needy and grateful foreign workers. He assisted with forming the first union in the CNMI, and sought help from federal officials and others for particularly unjust cases. He led the Asian Community of Guam in writing a resolution denouncing the treatment of the foreign contract workers. It ended up in the Halls of Congress in Washington, DC and helped to advance our cause.
In December 1994, Boboy received the Bagong Bayani (New Hero) Award from Filipino President Fidel Ramos in Manilla, Philippines for his work in helping the overseas workers in the CNMI and for his musical contributions. After Boboy received his award, we were talking with Congressman Tomas Concepcion and the Secretary of Labor, Nieves Confesor, when Dr. Eddie casually walked up and joined the conversation like we knew he was expected to be at the ceremony.
While still in Rota, Boboy and I helped two victims of forced prostitution to escape to Saipan where friends brought them to local and federal law enforcement officials and helped them to find jobs on Saipan while they were pursuing their cases. One of the victims learned that she was pregnant from one of the "take out" men who "bought" her from her employer. By the time we arrived in Saipan in August 1994, her baby son had been born. Within a couple months we learned that he had a heart condition, and was to be referred to Hawaii for surgery.
The CHC told the mother that she could not go to Hawaii with her son because she was an alien. Outraged and panicked, we called Dr. Eddie. Within hours he called back. He had already called federal officials to start the process of getting a visa for the mother to bring her U.S. citizen son to Hawaii. He had already called a radio program to arrange to go on air with the story and appeal for funds for the mother and baby. He had already called medical friends and advocates in Hawaii who would later take care of the mother and baby and also become outspoken advocates in our cause for justice for the foreign workers.
Dr. Eddie also helped with Katrina, the 14-year-old girl who was trafficked from the Philippines to perform sexual acts on stage in a Saipan club. Katrina was eventually brought safely to Hawaii where, through connections of Dr. Eddie, she was cared for by the advocates and a reporter.
It was with a heavy heart that we made the decision to leave the CNMI in 1995. When we got to Guam, Dr. Eddie, his wife and friends met us to say goodbye and wish us well.
Dr. Eddie had a hilarious sense of humor, and could make me laugh until I cried. He had wonderful stories that often had hidden messages or were told to cheer people up. He could also play the guitar and sing. He had a beautiful speaking and singing voice and he loved to sing patriotic Filipino songs. When he visited us in Florida when Nani was young, he sang her the "Monkey Song" and she still knows it. (That's the two of them after singing the Monkey Song pictured below.)
From 1997 to 1999 human rights and labor rights abuses were particularly horrible in the CNMI. There were literally hundreds of abandoned foreign workers who were victims of illegal recruiters, scammers and unscrupulous employers who had no shelter or food. Dr. Eddie and I constantly emailed and called each other to coordinate with foreign workers. He flew to Saipan to help with some outrageous situations and assisted the union members.
After Jack Abramoff was hired by the CNMI government and their campaign of destructive deception was launched, Dr. Eddie was there to help the workers. Bangladeshi workers and union members called me in despair to report that foreign workers that were being held at the detention center were being denied access to attorneys, were not allowed to have visitors, and in some cases, were allegedly being assaulted by prison officials. After my appeals to CNMI officials were ignored, Dr. Eddie flew to Saipan and confronted DOLI Secretary Mark Zachares. He refused to leave until he saw the prisoners and he demanded that they receive just treatment.
In 1999 when we learned that Rep. Don Young would be going on an Abramoff junket to the CNMI, Boboy and I helped to coordinate a rally for the workers to greet the congressman. Dr. Eddie not only helped us to provide funds for essentials (supplies to make placards, water for the protesters, and gas to pick up workers, etc.), but he flew there to assist the foreign workers and to stand with them as they held the peaceful protest.
In 1998 we were contracted by the DOI under the Clinton Administration to document the status and conditions of the foreign workers. We discovered some extremely ill foreign workers living in squalor. We called Dr. Eddie and he immediately flew to Saipan to help. We learned later that several of the workers had tuberculosis and one worker was seriously ill with a heart condition. Dr. Eddie worked to get the sick workers medical attention, and with the assistance of U.S. Department of Labor Attorney Faye von Wrangel, helped to get the worker with the heart condition to the states where he received treatment.
In July 2007 when I returned to the CNMI to meet with the foreign workers, Dr. Eddie flew from Guam to Saipan to meet me and helped to interview some foreign workers. Again in December 2007, Dr. Eddie joined me in the CNMI at the Unity March. Once again he was there to demonstrate his support to the foreign workers. He wasn't well enough to march, but he rode in a car to the American Memorial Park, and we joined each other on stage.
Dr. Eddie was born in San Jose, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. He and his wife, Maribel, had four girls - Marissa, Regina, Cristina, and Margarita, and several grandchildren. Our love goes out to them as they mourn the loss of their beloved husband, father and grandfather.
It is very seldom that we cross paths with someone as pure-hearted, selfless and wise as Dr. Eddie. During his life he touched thousands of lives with his generous heart and joyful demeanor. I know he certainly touched our lives, and he will have a place in our hearts always. Paalam aming kaibigan.