Monday, July 21, 2008

An OFW Daughter’s Perspective

by Rizza Lee
Singapore

She is in her mid 20's, a fashion-plate with designer clothes bought from different corners of the globe. Sweet, witty, and pretty, she is my friend who confides to me not for advice, but to have somebody who can see her in a different perspective.

When she was eight, her parents worked separately in two different European countries. When she was ten, her parents separated and she grew up under the tutelage of her grandmother.

“Who cares? As long as he gives me a good amount of sustento,” was her remark about her father who had re-married and already had his second family abroad.

My friend’s mother came home for a few days once in a couple of years. At age 52, she was still working quite hard out there to spoil my friend with worldly materials.

Spoiled enough, she was! She had four different active cell phones. She used each phone with a different boy friend. This arrangement, according to her, helped avoid confusion of sweet talks and text messages. She also dated several married guys and a few managers in our company.

People either loved her or hated her. She had a ‘bad girl’ reputation which she created herself and heedlessly flaunted. Although most of my female colleagues hated her, I thought of her as a little girl who managed to hide her pains through the attention of an entourage of boy friends who adored her.

One day in the office, she seemed annoyed while talking to her mom on the phone. When she put down the phone, she looked at me and sighed deeply.

“Nakakainis! My mom wants to come home next month--- for good.”

I said, “That would be great!”

But I stopped talking when she continued to say jokingly, “Ayoko nga, noh! I’m not used to having her around. Hay naku, di bale, I will try my best para makisama. She might not give me pasalubong at pera pag inaway ko.”

More than a month had passed and I noticed her coming to work early and working late at night. I was curious how she and her mom were getting along. I asked her about her mom while we were having lunch.

Naku, gusto ba naman tumabi sa akin sa pagtulog! Tapos sa umaga, she makes me a tuna sandwich kasi healthy daw. Di ba n’ya alam na I don’t eat tuna? Eto pa ha, she prepares my clothes for me kahit di nya rin alam kung ano gusto kong isuot. Hay naku! I hope she stops doing those things, kasi she’s treating me like the kid I was when she left me. That’s why I go home late and come to work early para maiwasan ang encounter.”

I responded to her, “But I don’t think you should be giving her that ill-deserved punishment. Sabi nga nila, the more you hate your parents, the more you become like them, or even worse!”

My laconic comment stunned her to silence. Then she asked, “Uy mare, totoo ba ‘yan?”

“Ewan, pero marami na akong kakilala na ganun ang nangyayari. Alam mo mare, when we were kids, LOVE was spelled TIME in our eyes. Now that we’ve grown-up, and our parents have aged, they realize that at this point in our lives, we were right all along. Love is time spent together.”

During that time, I was planning to work abroad myself so I could afford to provide for more than just my children’s basic needs. My own advice was reflected back to me. As her mother had done, I was also about to brave separation from my own children and work abroad in the hope of giving them a good life.

Was it really all worth it? Would they ever understand? Would they ever see beyond the desertion that I had only the best intentions for them?

Aware of my friend’s perspective as a daughter, I made a promise to myself that wherever I go, my family would come with me and we would always be together. It would be a lot riskier but it was a risk I was most prepared to take.

Two months ago, my friend sent me an email. An excerpt of it says: “I have learned to accept and not to fight back what is happening. And I felt better. I’m just starting to do it, mare. And we are both struggling to be comfortable with each other. All these years, my mom was a stranger to me.”

I felt both happy and sad for her. Happy – because she seemed to have become a new person who had finally figured out her life. Sad – because she felt that her mother was a stranger to her.
The words might not have been spoken, but her mother must have surely felt it. What else could be more painful to a mother who had sacrificed the best years of her life working as an OFW in a foreign land?
Copyright © 2008 to Barangay OFW. All rights reserved.

7 comments:

Tony Tokyo Japan said...

Predominantly grabbed previously by Dads/Tatay/Ama to take their chances to work abroad, away from their wife and kids, just to earn a higher earning, is not anymore true. Even moms/nanay/inay took their chances to work abroad and leave their siblings behind either with their husband or kamag-anak....
But to select which of them should really go away to work, Dad or Mom? I always thought it was better for Dad rather than mom, but the efect is both devastating to kids, either Dad or Mom.....

No wonder, kids left behind tend to replace the love and care and attention with other materials things which now Dad or Mom can provide during remittances.... How ironic!

Freddie said...

Time passed. If I have to start again, I will never ever leave my family. Yes, there is no substitute to being together as one family, caring, loving each day and living together. The void that is left behind will never be filled up with any of the material things, no cost can match the lost time being together. I feel hurt whenever I try filling that emptiness. I have my daughter who's about to marry another OFW and I can't wait to advise them to stick together everyday of their married life. FB

Dr. Carmelita C. Ballesteros said...

@tony tokyo japan

Yes, it is ironic that we OFWs leave our families behind because we love them so much that we want to earn more money for them. And yet while we are able to earn more money for them, we are unable to give them time or spend time with them.

Perhaps, we should open our hearts to our families. Perhaps, we should tell them how we yearn to go home and be with them. Are they willing to accept a pay cut? Are they willing to accept us without the big, fat remittance?

Dr. Carmelita C. Ballesteros said...

@ freddie

Congratulations and best wishes to your daughter and future son-in-law. That is the best gift you can give -- to advice them to spend together every single day of their married life.

Perhaps, it isn't too late to go home and make up for lost time. Let us make simple plans for a simple life back home. Let us trust in God's faithfulness. He always provides!

Rizza said...

This is one of the many sad stories I have heard, especially from broken families of which the Mom or the Dad or both are OFWs.

Lucky us who had the option to bring our family with us. Yes, the cost maybe, 2-3 times much more than spending what you're earning in the Phil. But being not together is a sempiternal struggle. We'll never know when will we be satisfied of earning big and settle for something less in the Philippines. 5? 10? or 20 yrs? It is too much time lost.

Would you also bring your family with you should you have this kind of choice? Like I quoted: "It would be a lot riskier but it was a risk I was most prepared to take."

Saving maybe less and slow...but when I am able to share to them the heater in my shower, the comfort of no mosquitoes to bite you, and the absence of noise pollution...it is an unexplained happiness that a family can feel being together, despite the fact that we are an OFW.

Tony Tokyo Japan said...

I returned to my work location this week, after two weeks of vacation leave... But just like day 1, the pain of leaving my family is the same..... Yes, I boarded the plane without anyone of them na naghatid sa airport; to lessen the pain.... My choice....

My only consolation? That I can provide them financially, nothing more, nothing less, with the hope that the every penny I remitted is transmitted and accepted with love.....

Yes, I will take that chance when my employer gives me the option to upgrade to family status; as Rizza said, it is worth the price, kahit mahal ang cost of living abroad.....

My best wishes to Sir Freddie's daughter and son-in-law.... Kapulutan nila nawa ng aral ang ating mga pinagdaanan.

Rizza said...

Best Wishes po to your Daughter sir Fred...=)