As a child, Mr Lucky Darl Amor Nariz Matias was always aware that he could one day leave home and work abroad.
What he did not imagine was the happily-ever-after love story he would experience in Singapore.
Growing up in Nueva Vizcaya, a Philippines province in north-eastern Luzon almost six times the size of Singapore, Mr Matias always had dreams of moving abroad.
Job opportunities at home were scarce. Many took up to a year to land a job. He also assumed that he would be able to earn more working overseas.
But his aspirations remained elusive — until 2015.
That year, he seized the opportunity to uproot and move to Singapore. It was a dream come true, he admits, but moving to a foreign country did not come without difficulties.
“My biggest challenge was adjusting to the culture,” he says of his first year in Singapore.
Then 24, he found comfort and familiarity in three friends from his hometown, who had accompanied him to work here, and among his colleagues at Sunshine Welfare Action Mission (Swami).
He also continued to stay in touch with his parents back home in the Philippines, sharing stories about his new job and sending them money twice a month with the Singtel Dash mobile wallet.
Since arriving in Singapore, he has been working as an enrolled nurse at Swami — an elderly nursing home in Sembawang. An enrolled nurse provides direct patient care under the supervision of registered nurses. Like him, most of the nurses there are foreigners.
Forging a new family
Now 29, Mr Matias feels at ease and at home; he says he has the folks at his workplace to thank.
“It’s been a real blessing. The residents (of Swami) are like a family to me. It’s almost as if they are my grandparents.”
At Swami, he serves elderly residents their meals and ensures that they take their medication and keep to their prescribed treatment plans.
When local Covid-19 cases began to appear in Singapore in January, Swami introduced a series of protocols, such as daily temperature checks and split-zone arrangements, in line with precautionary guidelines implemented by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
Visitors were not allowed as well to prevent the infection from spreading to its elderly residents.
On May 2, Mr Matias and staff at Swami, whose jobs involve interacting with elderly residents, were moved to Mandarin Orchard Hotel. They are among thousands of nursing home employees who are being housed in hotels or on-site at the nursing home where they work, as part of the Government’s efforts to reduce community exposure during the circuit breaker period.
Aside from helping to arrange alternative accommodation for staff who interact with elderly residents of Homes, MOH is also providing funding for Homes to arrange for dedicated transport for affected staff during this time.
“Transportation is arranged for us to get to work and then back to the hotel, but otherwise we are not allowed to go outside or mingle with fellow colleagues,” Mr Matias explains.
Notwithstanding the lack of social interaction amid the coronavirus outbreak, he looks forward to waking up every day. He says it is the residents at Swami that keep his spirits up.
One of his favourite sessions of daily nurse-patient routines is “talking with them and hearing about their life experiences”.
Lucky in love
True to his name, Mr Lucky Matias has been fortunate enough to find his life partner within the first five years of working here.
He met his fiancée, a fellow Philippine national and colleague, through a mutual friend in 2015. They were close friends for a few years before romance blossomed in 2018.
“I knew that she was the one for me,” he says.
When he popped the question at Gardens By the Bay in January this year, he was a bunch of nerves. “I was so nervous…I was afraid I would not be able to execute it properly.”
The couple’s home is a rented four-room Housing Board flat in Yishun. They plan to marry next January.
For now, they are being housed in different rooms at Mandarin Orchard. They have also been kept apart at work by zoning measures, which were implemented by the Home per MOH guidelines to minimise interactions between nurses from different wards.
Mr Matias shares that being separated from his fiancée is difficult, but he is determined to observe the rules to keep the elderly in his care safe.
“My main focus is to stay strong and stay safe. By not compromising my health, I can provide uncompromised service to the residents.”
App a helping hand in harsh times
While the healthcare worker’s love and life are now tied to Singapore, there is one key app that links him to his businessman father and civil servant mother: the Singtel Dash mobile wallet.
Mr Matias’ parents live by themselves in the Philippines as all three of their children are working abroad. His older sister works in Canada while his younger sister is also working as a healthcare worker in Singapore.
Dash’s remittance feature makes it convenient for him to remit money to his parents and his fiancée’s parents in the Philippines.
He has been using the app since 2018, after learning of it through a friend.
“I don’t have to waste time making trips to remittance shops at Lucky Plaza and waiting in a queue. I can now do it right from my phone.”
Dash enables users in Singapore to remit money to seven countries in the region: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines.
One of the key benefits of the mobile application, which customers from all telcos can download for free on their smartphones, is that it allows users to send money home quickly and conveniently. This is especially useful in a time of circuit breaker restrictions.
For example, he found Dash a real benefit when his friend desperately needed to send money to the Philippines.
“He came home crying as his niece was hospitalised due to a medical emergency. He needed to send money home to pay for the hospital bills,’ he explains.
Mr Matias immediately whipped out his phone and was able to quickly remit money on his friend’s behalf.
“It was late at night and no remittance outlets would be open, so I’m glad I was able to do it instantly from my phone.”
Ms Cindy Tan, head of marketing at Singtel’s International Group, says: “We’re heartened that Dash is able to provide a safe and convenient remittance solution for those with overseas-based loved ones, especially in stressful times of unforeseen emergencies like now.”
“It’s our honour to be able to support the foreign worker community and we will continue to make our services accessible and useful for them.”
Singtel Dash lets users remit money from their mobile phones without the need to leave home or queue at remittance outlets.
How it works:
Step 1: Users top up their Dash wallets with a local online bank account, or with cash at 7-Eleven stores and Singtel shops.
Step 2: Users can then remit money from their Dash wallet to bank accounts, mobile wallets and cash pick-up points in their home countries.
At present, Dash offers mobile remittance services to seven countries in the region: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines. Dash customers can also make online and in-store payments for goods and services globally.
Users can also make a peer-to-peer transfer between Dash wallets, allowing employers to easily send money to their employees.
Singtel has introduced new initiatives on Dash to help those who wish to remit money.
- Complimentary* remittance for healthcare workers
- One-time complimentary* remittance and $3 cashback for all users
- Free^ 30-day insurance for remittance of at least $100
*Complimentary remittance and cashback valid till 1 June 2020. ^ Free insurance is valid till 30 June 2020 and is protected up to specified limits by SDIC. Underwritten and issued by NTUC Income. T&Cs apply. Visit dash.com.sg/remit for info.
The Singtel Dash app can be downloaded for free on iOS and Android devices by clicking here or scanning the QR code.
Read the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Singapore and beyond on our dedicated site here.
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