When I come home for my annual vacation, I am often welcomed by my family with open arms (and open palms), relatives and friends asking for pasalubong, neighbors waiting for a treat, and even street bums demanding for pang-toma. I also get swarmed with messages from people borrowing money, asking for donations, or offering all kinds of products.
Most returning OFWs face the same dilemmas and, just like them, I wish that the Filipinos I come home to will get to realize certain things.
1. We don’t own the proverbial goose that lays the golden eggs.
The money that we managed to acquire—and to save, if we’re lucky—is earned through sheer hard work, perseverance and sound budget management. We work double or even triple jobs and grab every chance we have to do overtime work. We don’t squander time and money; every minute and every centavo count for us. We may be receiving higher salaries compared to yours but the cost of living abroad is normally higher, too. We may be earning in dollars (or other high-yielding currency), but we are also spending in dollars.
2. We don’t always hit the jackpot.
Only a handful of us get lucky with our employment agency, our employer, our contract, our working condition, and our host country. Most Middle East territories, for instance, have the infamous reputation among OFWs of maltreating and abusing us, but we still keep on coming back to them because of the attractive employment package, the wide array of job opportunities, and the relatively lower cost of living that they offer. The risk of being sexually violated, ill-treated, wrongfully imprisoned or, worse, ending up in a wooden box is something that, sadly, we have to take with the job.
3. We are not tourists on a holiday.
Remember that we go to another country to earn money, and not for a vacation. The pictures we post on Facebook are meticulously chosen to show our families that we also know how to find time to take a break from the grueling hours of work. Those are intended to allay their worries about us. What we do not show are our cramped quarters, the chills and our chattering teeth due to intense cold or our skin rashes due to extreme heat, asthma attacks during a sandstorm, or the discriminatory remarks regularly thrown our way.
4. We are not magicians.
The balikbayan box that we send you does not get filled with a simple wave of a wand. It takes weeks, even months, of countless trips to various retail stores that sell your desired items at a discount. Those signature shoes, bags, fragrances, makeup products, and electronic gadgets that you’ve been incessantly bugging me about? They are all in that balikbayan box that I painstakingly paid for with my sweat, blood and tears.
5. We are not zombies.
Like all humans, we, too, have emotions. We get hurt when you can’t even be bothered to call us; we worry when we learned that you’re now in the habit of staying out with your friends until the wee hours; we feel guilty when we can’t be there to celebrate all your milestones with you; we get angry when we were told that you’ve been bullied in school; and we grieve when we were informed that you get pregnant a few months before your high school graduation. Sometimes, I miss you so much that I want to leave everything here and just jump to the next flight home.
6. We are not robots.
We, too, get exhausted after a long day of backbreaking work. We, too, get sick from prolonged exposure to extreme heat or cold. Our bodies succumb, too, after being neglected for years. But knowing that you, our families back home, are depending on us, we must overcome those frailties.
7. We are actors.
Life abroad without our families could be extremely lonely. It could be taxing. It could even be depressing. However, we must constantly put on a brave face for our families and friends who worry about us.
8. We are pleasers.
We encounter struggles and setbacks on a daily basis, but we need to put those on the back burner because we are busy thinking of ways to make you happy and your lives there comfortable.
9. We forget all about our woes and troubles when we receive good news from you, when we hear you say I love you, or when you let us know that we are being appreciated.
We also expect that our government will do everything to protect us and our rights while we are in a foreign land, especially since there are around 10-12 million of us spread around the world cumulatively serving as a key contributor to our country’s economy.
10. We look forward to staying home with you for good.
So, hopefully, you’ll finish your studies soon. We also hope to build our dream house and to put up a small business. All these dreams will come true if you continue to manage our finances well.
At our end, we will make sure to use only a reliable and convenient way to send money to you through user-friendly, rapid-response and low-cost channel.
Good thing Moneygram and GCash have made every transaction easier and smoother for us. Funds can now easily be sent via MoneyGram online or at any one of MoneyGram’s thousands of locations in 200 countries and territories around the world. With this strengthen collaboration, we can be sure that the money I worked hard for you and our future is always safe and secure.
Being an OFW is all about sacrifice. Our life here away from you is already tough and difficult as it is. It becomes miserable, however, when we are unnecessarily encumbered by expectations that are excessive, unrealistic and unreasonable – something that is preventable if you only have an idea of what we have to go through to provide you with the kind of life that you now enjoy.
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About MoneyGram International, Inc.
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