Overseas Filipino Workers Are Heroes Of Our Time

April 5, 2015 News
OFWs Of Our Time

Members of OFWs should learn to respect and value their hard work. (Image by mark BALMORES)

The OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker) story has a rather common beginning: Life has become so tough in the Philippines that it is more practical to find work somewhere else. What are the experiences they face? Also, how is life for locals because Filipinos are around? Are Filipinos always the good expat? Generalizations cannot, of course, be made but let’s just talk about what I have seen for myself in the past few years in Singapore. While I can’t really say much about the experience in other countries, some of these stories are familiar enough. There is the usual story of the abused maid or yaya who seldom gets fed and is not paid adequately. In fact, an organization in Singapore has been put together to ensure that maids (not only Filipinas) are treated properly. If they are not, the group finds ways to get the maid out of the abusive household, fights for her rights, and sees to it that she gets what is owed her. It is heartwarming and encouraging that this group is made up of Singaporeans. While there are bad employers, there are also compassionate people who face risks themselves just to make sure no maid is poorly treated.

Bad treatment from employers is one thing but what about totally unappreciative family members? One girl on her way to Singapore has not seen her sister in 20 years but finally sees her just before the trip. The first thing the sister does? She asks to borrow R20,000. Years later, the money is still owed and no more contact is made with the sister still working in Singapore. Another story is of a young mother who realizes that what her husband earns is just not enough for the family. So she goes to Singapore to take care of a young boy with cerebral palsy. The husband takes the money she sends, stops working, and starts a relationship with one of the women in the neighborhood. The funds he uses for their dates? The money his wife sends. Thankfully, it is not all doom and gloom though. There are so many good Singaporeans that the general experience is usually quite positive. One guy sees a resurgence of life in church while he is looking for a job there. He becomes a catechist in his parish, teaches young children the basic tenets of their faith (all while usually enjoying a hearty laugh), and even joins the parish choir. These things he didn’t get to do while he was in the Philippines. One lady, who had a bad experience in the Philippines (ironically with a multinational company), gets an offer to work with one of the biggest companies in the world. There are adjustment issues, of course, but her bosses soon see just how valuable she is and give her unprecedented trust. Often, in high-level meetings, she’s the only Filipina there. Even those who doubted her at first now give her their full trust. Lady VP boss tells her that costs for the coming year have to be reduced by X million dollars and that’s what she does.

That’s all fine and dandy but… Truth be told, Filipinos do not always represent the Philippines well. Too many take their nasty habits with them when they go overseas. Have you noticed that one of the bestselling products in the Philippines is a videoke device? Filipinos have these really long videoke parties that reach up to 3 a.m. In the Philippines, that’s normal, though it’s no less irritating for neighbors. Put yourself in the shoes of the Singaporean neighbor, who lives literally a wall away. Not nice, right? It’s not even uncommon for the police to be called in to silence the, err, “concert.” What’s even more inconsiderate at times is the Filipino habit of talking very loudly in public. Some Filipinos do this on buses, or trains, or even in malls. This is just plain inconsiderate since Singaporeans value propriety. Perhaps one of the worst things Filipinos do is to cling to each other all the time to the exclusion of locals. Locals see this as an unwillingness to mingle with them even if they, themselves, are willing to do so. So, are they heroes? This question is a doozy. Yes, they are making sacrifices for the benefit of their families and helping the country with every remittance, but heroism is more than that. The OFWs represent us, Filipinos, their behavior reflects on all of us. Are generalizations valid? They seldom are but we can hardly blame the locals in other countries for making them because those are what they see. And admit it, we do the same to foreigners here. The idea here is that even our heroes of old Rizal, Del Pilar, Luna, and all the rest—had their quirks and they had to work hard to be better people. Even saints had their flaws. It doesn’t mean that we should leave it at that. Changes are in order. We should realize that OFWs are considered visitors of another country. It calls for elementary etiquette, OFWs should respect locals’ physical spaces, their culture, their habits, their values. It’s also time to leave the that madiskarte ang Pinoy but rather maayos at magaling magtrabaho ang Pilipino. Meanwhile, family members of OFWs should learn to respect and value their hard work. No more unceasing pabili of this or that. No demanding of money for the pamangkin’s tuition when the parents are able to work. Let’s face it. Too many of these heroes come home with very little money, much of which they have already sent to family members. If we appreciate what they do, thanks cannot only be in the form of the Philippine President greeting them as they disembark from their planes. Thanks should come from family members and their communities. Their employers and colleagues see their value. Why shouldn’t we? Source: mb.com.ph