Cole* was an operating room clinical instructor at the Ateneo de Davao University. He would bring student nurses into the operating room and ask them to assist the surgical team as scrub nurses. He says that in this field of nursing practice, there is no room for error as everything must be accounted for, from cotton balls to surgical instruments.
But even such an important position was not enough to keep Cole in the Philippines. His firstborn child was diagnosed with autism, so Cole had to send him to occupational therapy, which was costly. It was then that Cole decided to take his chances in Japan as an assistant language teacher. Now on his seventh year as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW), he is focused on building a better future for his three children.
The challenge of finding gainful employment in the Philippines has forced many Filipinos to move to countries all over the world to provide for their families. Oftentimes, it is the difficulty of putting food on the table or the advent of a family crisis that drives a person to take a chance in a foreign land, despite language barriers and cultural differences.
Self-fulfillment versus security
Giving up one’s profession in favor of financial security seems to be a common thread among OFWs. Lyanne*, 28, was a nurse in the Philippines but opted to become a preschool teacher in Japan.
Though she is now on her third year of teaching, she still finds it difficult to live away from her family. She says, “I always miss them, every day, especially my daughter.”
Lyanne hasn’t quite settled in her place of work either. She explains, “It’s hard to communicate sometimes since I don’t know how to speak in Japanese with my co-workers.” Even her social life is limited as she only has Sundays or holidays to go out and eat or do a bit of shopping.
Sacrifices and challenges
For every OFW who works abroad, there is often a story of sacrifice to fill the needs of family left behind.
Grace*, 33, decided to work overseas as her mother was retired and her father was about to retire. While her two sisters are employed as teachers in private schools, they don’t make all that much. She explains, “Basically, our small unit was facing a challenge of managing a household on a tight budget.”
Though her will was strong, homesickness and miscommunication with her family have taken a toll on her. Being away to work abroad, she often feels lost, lonely, and alienated, occasionally even from the very family she is sacrificing for.
The journey of Althea*, 43, has also been intimidating. A senior accountant, she continuously faced discrimination in the nine years she has been working abroad. It is the thought of her loved ones at home as well as her dream of having her own business that has kept her going.
The need for independence
Of course, there are also Filipinos who choose to become OFWs as a step towards attaining independence. Risa*, 25, says she wants “to become independent and earn for myself without leaning on others for help. Only when I learn to be independent will I be able to help others.”
For Risa, working abroad is her ticket to securing a better future for herself and her loved ones, her mother in particular. “She has always provided for me on her own, and I know that she wants me to be my own person. When the time comes that she needs my financial help, I will always be here. But for now, I am focusing on making myself financially stable and independent.”
Reciprocating their love
The sacrifices OFWs make to provide for their families who are oceans or even continents away often remain unseen. They skip meals just to ensure that they can send the amount of money needed for their children’s enrollment on time. They accept extra jobs, even if it means working late hours, just to cover a parent’s hospital expenses. OFWs deal with homesickness, loneliness, and cry themselves to sleep, but get up the next morning and keep working every day.
Undeniably, OFWs are most passionate about providing for their families. They possess the desire to provide the best they can for their children’s needs, to build a better future for them, and to step up as the family breadwinner when aging parents have to retire, even if it means being away from family, the people they love, giving up their professions and venturing into new careers, having to learn a new language, dealing with discrimination, and living in a culture totally different from one’s own.
What’s most unfortunate is that they are often taken for granted. However, there are ways by which families of OFWs can help ease their loneliness and recompense their hardships.
Keep in touch with them on a regular basis. Technology has given many affordable options for families of OFWs to communicate with their loved ones. This will go a long way in soothing their feelings of homesickness.
Show them the fruit of their labor. OFWs who send their children or siblings to school would be happy to see good marks on report cards. A substantial amount on a savings account kept by an OFW’s family in the Philippines is another way of sending the message that his sacrifice is valued.
This holiday season, it’s time to show appreciation for hardworking OFWs. Surprise them with a simple welcome lunch where everyone pitches in to pay the bill or send them a care package of Filipino goodies.
OFWs work very hard and dream of the day when they can see their children succeed and their parents relax in comfort, a fruitful exchange for all their years of sacrifice. As those who were once children become adults, they can reciprocate by doing their best in their chosen careers and showing their parents the fruits of their labor of love.
Here is one possibility that OFW families can very well make a reality: https://www.facebook.com/CenturyPropertiesOfficial/videos/2104518982945679/
Do you have an OFW loved one? Surprise them with the best gift this Christmas – a free trip home! Just share any of the ‘Kami Naman’ films from the Century Properties Real Estate Facebook Page, include a caption of how you give back to your loved ones abroad, use the hashtag #KamiNaman, tag @CenturyPropertiesOfficial, and set it to Public to qualify as an entry. Three winners will receive roundtrip tickets to Manila for their OFW family members.
The online contest will run until January 12, 2019. Winners will be announced on January 14, 2019.
For more details, check out: bit.ly/KamiNamanPromo
*Names have been changed to protect their privacy.