When What You Think of OFWs is a Mistake


“But behind these OFW stories, Filipinos in the Philippines are still blind and deaf to the real plight of these workers abroad. What is mostly planted in the minds of most Filipinos is that Filipinos abroad are walking or driving on carpeted roads, eating delicious food in world-class restaurants, sleeping in a five-star hotel, and dollars are raining to them. This is the reason why the word “kulang” (not enough) is the vocabulary an OFW hears from his family every time he wires them money. When a balikbayan goes home, people perceived him as the richest man on earth and start barking at him with “Painom ka naman diyan” or “Wala ba tayong dollar diyan?”

…writes Ireneo Marcelo in the Introduction of his book Between Two Worlds

[Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]

I was in Baguio that Saturday morning. It was around eight as the morning sun blanketed the Session Road just like the float parade of flowers during Panagbenga Festival.

At a corner, I dropped by a store of my kababayan from Kibungan. After receiving wonderful words of appreciation about my book The Gift of the Ordinary, Ate Cora said that a fellow kababayan will be launching his book in the afternoon at the Benguet State University.

“You should stop by at 1pm.”

“Oh sure, I think I have time. I will. See you there!”

Then I walked down the street to my Alma Mater University of the Cordilleras to hand the copies of my book to the Dean of the College I attended and to my former university paper adviser.

Later that afternoon, after coming back from my sister’s place, I stepped into a roomful of people where the book launching of this teacher-turned-OFW who wrote a book called Between Two Worlds: Stories of Struggle and Symmetry of Filipinos Abroad.

The author’s name is Mr. Ireneo Marcelo. His friends and editor fondly calls him Manong Rene.

He has been writing in his school days, been an active school paper adviser while teaching, then found his way to teach in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In his long years of stay abroad, he met a lot of OFWs with different stories. And these are what he shared in his book.

I haven’t finished reading the book yet. I just read the introduction and started the first chapter. I’m excited to read the stories in it.

Yes, I haven’t finished reading the book yet but even right at the Introduction, I felt what he was trying to share. Aside from the Stories of Struggle and Symmetry he is to tell in the chapters I’ll be reading, I was struck by one of the paragraphs he wrote. This paragraph is the one I quoted above.

Somehow, even if I am not at an OFW, I’m one with him in this observation.

We might think they are but they aren’t…

Our friends, relatives or family members who are working abroad are [most often] not driving fancy cars, not walking on carpeted paths, not living on a five-star-hotel-like houses. We might be thinking they are living comfortably – maybe they are – but what we forget are the hardships they endure at work, the pain not just of being away from their family but of some not-so-good employers, and the fact they are there working hard and not swimming in a river of dollars!

Admittedly, this is what I thought about OFWs when I was a kid. I thought they are living a happy rich life and that I should ask for their dollars – a huge one – and it shouldn’t even pain their wallet at all.

A sad fact not just with OFWs but with others working away from home…

Yes, this is not just true with OFWs but also with others who are provinces or cities away from home. Some friends or kababayans would have this wrong notion. What they don’t realize is that working in Baguio or Makati or Cebu or Pampanga or Subic or Qatar or Calgary or Quezon City or Global City DOES NOT mean sleeping on a bed of thousands of Central Bank bills and notes.

Yes, they may be earning more but their cost of living is also higher. This is true as you move from good cities to better cities in the Philippines or abroad.

So what’s the point I am driving at?

It is this – just like anyone else – these people are working hard, earning hard, and also spend money in their daily life. They are not just whistling around and earning dollars.

Add to this, we should support them and not simply think of them as a spring-like source of dollars. Yes, if they send remittances – be thankful. And being thankful is not just in words but also in deeds.

In deeds – meaning – in spending those remittances, do you do it wisely? Do you even think of saving a portion of it? Do you even think of investing a part of it?

Those dollars (or pounds or pesos) are fruits of sacrifice and should be valued as well.

Do spend it wisely. Save some and invest the rest.

Use them in worthwhile things and not on useless luxuries.

Sure, you may want to splurge once in a while in celebrating with your family. But spending those remittances like there’s no tomorrow and unconsciously thinking that those remittances would forever come flowing – a big mistake!

This wrong notion, this wrong way of thinking and mindless spending should be corrected.

They say that these Filipinos abroad, when asked, would say they still want to go back to the Philippines but they cannot give up what they are earning. When you ask some of them, they have been there for 10, 20, or 50 years. That long!

You could not blame them. They are doing it for their families. It is a huge sacrifice for them.

But these pains could also be alleviated somehow when the financial side is considered and that correcting the wrong notion be employed.

And probably, one day, the families of these OFWs and even they themselves would start valuing their hard-earned cash, their father’s remittances, and start doing the right thing – to save a portion, to invest some, and to spend wisely.

So that one day, the one who sent that money would probably be able to come home because he and his family was able to manage his huge earnings of dollars. Now, portion of it has grown in investment and the rest, multiplied in businesses. And because of this, he is now home if not closer to home. Now – enjoying happy days and celebrations – together.

This is not just for OFWs and their friends and families. This is also for you and me who are working to earn a living!

Today, let us start rewiring our mindset and start taking charge of our personal financial life!

.

Live your life, young mind!

Chris Dao-anis

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