More than 5 million Filipino women are spread throughout the world, working hard to create a better future for families they left behind
This is a significant weekend for most of us, as we will be getting ready to celebrate with our mothers and/or our children. After all, Mother’s Day is one of the few holidays of the year which doesn’t discriminate. You may or may not be a mother, but you certainly have one to remember, pray for, honor and thank for your life.
However, as joyful and lovely as this holiday may be, it is also a bittersweet reminder to a growing number of families forced to live apart due to the economic realities being faced by our countrymen.
Over the last few decades, millions of Filipinos have decided to take the chance to find a better future for themselves or their families and make the move abroad. All over the world, from Asia to the Middle East, Europe, Africa and North America, you will find Filipinos, working as a vital part of their host country’s economy.
Based on data of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), women comprise 53 percent of Filipino workers abroad. With the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency and the PSA processing about two million contracts for the year 2015, and another two million contracts for the year 2016, it is safe to say that we are past the 10 million estimate of a documentary shot in 2011.
More than 5 million Filipino women are spread throughout the world, working hard to create a better future for families they left behind.
Whether they are daughters, being missed by their mothers, or mothers themselves caring for someone else’s children while their own children are left behind, it is a bitter fact that we as a nation have to face.
Fittingly hailed as the Bagong Bayani, or New Heroes, our overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have been remitting over $20 billion annually, an amount predicted to hit over $28 billion this year, comprising roughly 10 percent of our gross domestic product. This they do in the face of loneliness, distance from their loved ones and the hardships of living in a different culture. Sometimes, even to the point of death.
One can’t help but worry, however, about the effects of the sacrifices they are enduring on their children and on our nation’s own fabric of society. Because while we talk of the sacrifices of OFWs abroad, we overlook the sacrifices that their loved ones endure, as well, most especially their children—an entire generation growing up without one or both of their parents.
More and more children face numerous issues that need a responsible adult’s guidance. From bullying and sexual pressure to drug use and suicidal thoughts— the problems that confront families today are enough to overwhelm any parent who is present at home. How much more a parent who is miles away, worrying over the phone or screen? The influence of a mother on her children and, subsequently, on society is undeniable but with current trends, the impact of having an absent mother on growing children is just as significant, in their lives and in our society.
Years of government neglect have led to this situation. One would expect that we could use some of the billions of dollars entering our nation to create better opportunities and keep our citizens in the country, and slowly lessen the number of people leaving every year. Yet, quite the opposite is happening. Year after year, more and more people are packing their bags and leaving, instead of coming home for good, breaking up families and bringing social degradation.
Rather than simply praising our OFWs and their sacrifices, we need to start demanding reform that will provide long-term and sustainable growth, in order to solve our systemic poverty. But the government can’t do this alone, and the private sector needs to start finding ways to help mothers (and fathers!) stay home, while still being able to provide adequately for their families.
While the contribution of our OFWs is truly significant in helping our domestic economy, it comes at a price: a breakdown in relationships and many other social ills. This is a price which both children and mothers are paying today, and society will continue to pay in the years to come, if we don’t do something about it now. Hopefully, one day, all Filipinos will be able to celebrate Mother’s Day together, in the same country.