Monday, January 28, 2008

on OFWs

Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) calling Int'l Direct Dial (IDD) from abroad:

HUSBAND: Hon kumusta ang tindahan? (Honey, how's our small store business going?)
WIFE: Department istor na! (It's already a department store!)
HUSBAND: Ang Tricycle?
WIFE: It's now a Taxi business!
HUSBAND: Ayos! e ang dalawa nating anak? (Great! and how's our TWO kids?)
WIFE: eh..LIMA na!... (oh...there's FIVE now!...)

Jokes circulating on the OFWs such as these would be quite funny until the ring of reality hits. Carlo Osi in his column today over at the the Inquirer sees the Filipino diaspora as a form of revolt on the frustrating political-economic conditions. Meanwhile, Hubert D'Aboville in his ABS-CBN opinion piece, laments the brain-drain and hits the button on the social costs, saying:

"An average household has five members. The Philippines has a population of 90 million souls, including 10 million abroad. You do the math on how many Filipinos are living dysfunctional lives. What is the true cost of those broken families?"

But the government does not seem to be interested in counting the social costs with as much alacrity as counting the dollar remittances ($15B in 2007). Whenever one of the parents are physically separated from the family for whatever reason, it becomes dysfunctional outright. A family is meant to be together. Of course there's the long-distance call (like IDD - see above) , email, internet and maybe even PC video-conferencing. But nothing beats live, warm interaction. For how can you hug, kiss, wipe tears, pat backs, and give your shoulder to cry on - if you are thousands of miles apart?

An OFW's contract goes for anywhere from 2 to 6 years. Most of them renew contracts as often as possible. Once an OFW, most likely they remain OFWs all their lives, as the local job market won't take them. Due to the urge to save more money to send home, home country visits are very limited and far in between, saving the plane fare costs. Thus it is fairly expected that a lot of things may change in those many years that they are in a faraway land earning keep for the family (and extended family) back home.

But that's the price you pay. You just can't make up for the lost time that you were away for example, in your children's formative years. Parenting is hard enough even with the husband and wife joining forces, and each does have unique gender roles in parenting. Children grow fast in your absence, you may not recognize them, they may not recognize you when you come back after a long while. You miss them and you miss your spouse a lot too, but hopefully, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Otherwise the joke may be on you.

Lets pray for the OFWs and their families.

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