"My life story is like a puzzle," Edcel Benosa, the first prize winner for poetry in the 2006 Foreign Workers Poetry and Essay Writing Contest said yesterday after an award ceremony in Taipei.
Benosa's poem stood out among the works submitted by 1,179 contestants this year. She was awarded first prize out of 11 prize winners in the poetry section and six finalists in the essay section.
The prizewinners were honored at a ceremony held by the Taipei City Government's Department of Labor.
Benosa said she titled her prize-winning poem Palaisipan, which means "puzzle" in Tagalog, because her life has been composed of different fragments.
She portrayed a drifting life and segmented dreams in the poem.
The sixth child in her family, Benosa said she had dreamed of becoming a teacher, but poverty prevented her from realizing her dream.
She came to Taiwan about two years ago to work as a housekeeper. Though she said she is very lucky to have a kind employer, the financial burden on Benosa has been heavy. She told the Taipei Times that she is the only one in her family working as a migrant worker because she is not married.
The rest of her nine brothers and sisters are either too young to work or married.
Benosa said that for the past two years, most of her salary has been sent to her family. She has paid for her younger brothers' college tuition and a kidney transplant for an older brother.
"This has been the most difficult, because kidney transplants are very expensive," she said, smiling as she added, "I'm very willing [to make the] sacrifice."
As she put in her poem: "Life is like a puzzle, constructed, connected and arranged piece by piece. Clench the teeth with perseverance. All the suffering will end eventually."
As she is turning 28 years old at the end of this year, Benosa said she is still looking for new experiences to add to the puzzle of her life. She said she will not give up her dream, though.
"I still want to become a teacher," she said.
The winner of the essay section, Tran Thi Tuyet of Vietnam, focused on homesickness in A Night in March. The smell of white flowers outside her window made her long for Hanoi one night, she said.
"I have never missed Hanoi so much since being in Taiwan for 20 months," Tran wrote.
She said the fragrance seemed to shorten the distance between Hanoi and Taiwan, making her feel like she was back home.