Coming home of game changers: The Zolinas and the Fraynas…Of beekeepers and chief engineers

Two families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)—one from Davao City and the other from Davao del Norte received the Regional Model OFW Family of the Year Award 2018(Mofya) from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa)  last October 7, 2018 at The Ritz Hotel at Garden Oases, Obrero, Davao City.

The family of   Elmor C. Zolina from Kapalong, Davao del Norte, worked as an Apiary Technician in Canada for more than ten years, won the land-based category while the family of engineer Isidro F. Frayna from Belisario Heights, Lanang, Davao City,  worked as a Chief Engineer in various shipping companies worldwide for 37 years, was picked for the sea-based category.

The Mofya is an annual event of the Owwa aimed at recognizing outstanding OFW families.

Zolina humbly admits that their family was among poorest in their community back then. As the sixth child among the twelve siblings, he experienced working in the farm during his childhood to survive daily.

Although they lived in poverty, he had big dreams for himself and for his family; this led him to make a choice between farming for the rest of his life or to finish his education.

When he was in High School, one of his teachers asked the class one by one about what they want to achieve in the future.

Elmor, with so much excitement and enthusiasm answered “I want to be able to go to Canada.” However, his teacher replied, “Kaya mo ba? Magagawa mo ba? Ni hindi ka man lang makabihis?” Such statement encouraged Elmor to work hard and still believe that one day, he will be able to make it to Canada.

Although he was a working student, he graduated Bachelor of Science in Commerce in the University of Mindanao, Tagum, City. Elmor and his wife Cindy were college sweethearts and they were blessed with two children.

Elmor worked in the Department of Agriculture for six years before he found the opportunity to work in Canada as a “beekeeper.”

In 2006, Elmor left for Canada and worked as an Apiary Technician in the honey farm of Philpott Honey in Brooks, Alberta, Canada. While in Canada, he was able to support the education of his six siblings who are now professionals and one of them joined him in Canada.

He worked in the company for almost eleven years and in 2016, he decided to settle in the Philippines for good after their eldest child, Twitchelle, finished college.

“Ang mga honeybees ay parang mga OFWs. They have to travel miles to be able to bring that sweet nectar needed to make honey. The honey that they make is being shared to many.  Kaming mga OFWs, we travel miles to be able to bring that sweet honey of success hindi lang para sa aming mga pamilya kundi para din sa iba,” said Zolina.

Growing up in one of the poorest families in the community and suffering discrimination in the past, Elmor is now fighting against discrimination through uplifting the living conditions of the Lumad Community. The Zolina Family initiated programs, resolutions, and projects aiming to make a difference among the Lumads of Talaingod.

Since Elmor suffered discrimination in the past, he and his wife Cindy taught their children that everybody is equal and that discrimination is evil.

Their Family now owns a 35-hectare farmland and five hectares of the land is being used as a demo-production farm free of rent for the Lumad Community. They also own the J. Zolina FurniArts and Marketing, the EZ General Merchandise, and the EZ Catering Services.

The Zolina family’s businesses were the fruits of their hard work and discipline and they works as a team in helping those who are in need especially in the Lumad Community.

Zolina’s children, Twitchelle and Christian are actively involved in the community outreach programs of their parents. Growing up being exposed in the Lumad Community, Twitchelle and Christian can speak the Lumad’s dialect. Twitchelle is an award-winning culinary genius and works as a second cook and a garde manger for an international culinary internship program in West Virginia, USA.  Christian James is still in Junior High School.

On the other hand, Isidro Frayna known as “Dings” believes that service is a form of worship. As a steward of the people of the sea, Engr. Frayna advocates in building a housing community for the fishermen of Davao Oriental.

He is happily married to Luz B. Frayna, a retired nurse. They are blessed with three lovely children who are now successful in their respective careers.

It is undeniable that Engr. Frayna’s career makes him a good provider. There were times when the children asked him to stop sailing because they wanted their family to always be complete.

However, as their children grew up, they understood that their father’s job was more than just gathering chocolates for the family. There was a time that Luz also joined Ding on-board several times not only to rekindle the passion in their marriage but also to appreciate her husband’s job better.

“Ang pamilya, parang barko yan; and the heart of the ship is the engine.  As a Chief Engineer for more than twenty years, I know that if you don’t take care of the ship’s engine, it will never reach its destination. Ang pamilya, if it does not receive the kind of love, support, and nurturing that it needs to keep sailing smoothly through life, then we will never find the shore of success,” said Frayna.

This heart-wrenching reality was something Ding had to address to be able to balance his career as a seafarer and a father.

Ding explained his future plans for the family to the children and the couple initiated the habit of making long-distance phone calls, sending letters, greeting cards, and tape recordings to strengthen the family relationship. When technology improved, the family finally had better ways to stay close together even when they’re miles away as they constantly communicate through group chat and video calls.

Acknowledging that seafaring is not a lifetime career, the Frayna family turned their preparations for the future from possible to profitable. The family investments were proven to be stable and feasible.

“Many are called but few are chosen…” This verse in Matthew 22:14 is one of the favorite Bible verses of the Frayna Family. Every person hears the external call to serve; but only few people will respond to that call. The lesson in Jesus’ parable is an inspiration for the Frayna Family to respond to the call for service.

The Frayna Family has been a regular benefactor of the Scholarship of Hope. The family extends annual monetary support to provide school uniforms, school supplies, food, and allowances to school-age students who live in poverty.

Engr. Frayna and his wife Luz also financed and supported the education of their house helpers. Their former house helper was able to complete her college education and is now enjoying a teaching career in Sweden. Presently, they are supporting their staff at the Pet Supply Store complete her Hotel and Restaurant Services course.

Petrona M. Bergado, OWWA XI regional director, said the family were assessed and evaluated according to the following selection criteria: wholesome OFW Family – 50 percent, civic/community involvement of OFW and/or family members – 20 percent, success in education or profession of OFW and/or family members – 20 percent,and success in managing family finances – 10 percent.

“OWWA is committed to highlight the gains of overseas employment as we recognize the contribution of OFWs to the national economy,” said Bergado.