Taipei, April 15 (CNA) An annual literary contest aimed at giving a voice to immigrants and migrant workers opened Sunday in Taipei with a call for submissions from expatriates not only in Taiwan, but also in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia.This year's Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants competition kicked off with Joseph Christian P. Aranas, a Filipino migrant worker, reading "Cry of the Poor" -- his winning piece in last year's awards -- in Tagalog, one of the major languages spoken in the Philippines.
Photo courtesy of Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants
Joseph Christian P. Aranas, a migrant worker from the Philippines, won a Teen Choice Award in the competition last year for his work “Cry of the Poor.”
The reading was followed by a play performed by Filipino migrant workers depicting inhuman working conditions endured by migrant crew members that concluded with the workers standing up for their rights.
Among their appeals: "We enter Taiwan because we need a long-term job, but employers treat us like slaves;" "please, don't abuse us;" and "we are not machines."
Migrant workers move far away from home to seek jobs to support their family and their home countries, Aranas told CNA.
"The life of being a migrant worker is very hard," he said. "Because most of the time, you can't depend on anyone else; you are all by yourself."
Organizers of the award, initiated in 2014 by Chang Cheng, who runs the Southeast Asian bookstore Brilliant Time in New Taipei's Zhonghe District, held a press conference to announce the launch of the competition.
The purpose of the award is to allow the voices of the disadvantaged to be heard, Chang said. "It's not that their voices will thus become dominant in society, but as long as they are heard, we get a little bit closer to justice."
With eligibility expanded this year to include immigrants and migrants in Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia, Chang expected that this year's submissions will contribute to a transnational perspective and understanding of migration literature.
"The competition is an opportunity for all migrants to express our feelings and experiences of working in Taiwan, to show our talent, as well as to share our thoughts with other citizens," Inesita Dela Cruz, a Filipino caretaker, told CNA.
Getting to know literary works or other forms of art by immigrants and migrant workers will help everyone recognize they are part of society, said Lennon Wong, head of the Service Center and Shelter for Migrant Workers run by the Serve the People Association in Taoyuan.
"We can also understand the rights they are deprived of and the need to help them break free from unreasonable shackles," Wong said. "That would help them live more like a human, live a life with dignity."
The organizers are accepting literary works written in any form or genre in such languages as Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai or Tagalog, with a limit of 3,000 words. The entry deadline is May 31.
Details of the contest can be found at http://tlam.sea.taipei/