Coming home | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Coming home
Coming home

I was excited to come home.

These were my first thoughts when I boarded the plane on my return flight to Manila. The thrill of traveling abroad after the height of the pandemic had worn off. My feet had blisters. My arms were sore. Dark circles formed under my eyes due to lack of sleep. Travel fatigue was creeping in. For the first time, I did not want to be in a foreign land. I just wanted to fly back home and sleep on my own bed.

A Filipino female passenger was waiting for me as I walked toward my assigned seat. “Hello!” she said, flashing a wide smile. After a week of communicating with foreigners, I felt at ease to be seated with her.

“Sayang! I forgot to put the lotion in my checked-in baggage,” she said. She recounted how the security officers at the boarding gate collected bottles of lotion from her hand luggage. “I was supposed to give them to my sister,” she added.

My seatmate is a mother of two from Cavite. She is an overseas Filipino worker (OFW). She has been working in Singapore as a domestic helper for 10 years. Her female employer is Singaporean, whose husband is Malaysian. The grandmother also shares space with them.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are approximately two million OFWs deployed to different countries. More than half of the OFWs are women, and a significant number of them work as caregivers or domestic helpers.

In Servants of Globalization, Rhacel Salazar Parreñas’ study on female OFWs, she found out that her respondents felt estranged in their migrant community.


Recalling how some foreign employers treat the Filipino migrant workers, I asked my seatmate about her employer. “Oh, she is kind to me,” she said. “She and her husband are considerate.”

I also asked if she receives a fair compensation. She smiled. “The grandmother even gave me S$700 (about P29,000) as baon for my Philippine trip,” she said.

Her primary house duties are cooking and cleaning. She boils vegetables and steams fish. Her Malaysian employer is not a fan of herbs and spices. “They do not like Filipino food because they find it too salty,” she said with a chuckle.

Her accommodation and food are provided by her employer. The grandmother even gives her a hefty bonus every Christmas. She considers herself lucky because domestic helpers usually pay more than S$800 (P33,000) for rent and food every month.

We briefly talked about politics. “Did you watch it on YouTube? I can’t believe they are a corrupt family!” she exclaimed. We talked about Singapore’s impressive train and bus systems. She gave me tips on where to buy chocolates. “Chocolates in Lucky Plaza are cheaper than the ones in Mustafa,” she remarked.

The good life

The late afternoon sun emanated yellow and orange hues as we stared out the window. She tapped my arm. “When you were in Singapore, did you notice the sun was still up at 7 p.m.?” she asked. She explained that the designated time zone involves trading affairs. The time zone has to be synchronized with Singapore’s major business partners, including China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Taiwan. “That’s what my employer told me,” she said.

With Christmas around the corner, I asked if she would spend the next two months in the Philippines. She shook her head. Her relatives expected to receive boxes of chocolates, perfumes, clothes and other souvenirs. “They think that OFWs are living the good life,” she said.

The last time she returned to the Philippines was in 2018. There were vacation plans in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic happened. “I miss home-cooked Filipino food, my friends and my kids. Especially my kids,” she said.

As the plane slowly descended in the capital, the radiant lights from the buildings ignited the city highways. Bodies of water emerged in the view. She looked at the window, and said, “The Philippines is so beautiful.”

She pulled out her mobile phone to show me a photo of her two children. Her 24-year-old daughter was beautiful and bright-eyed, while her 10-year-old son had a cheeky smile.

“I’m excited to see them,” she beamed with pride.

I saw her for the last time in the immigration area. Her face lit up, and she waved when she recognized me.

Clearly, she was also excited to come home. But for her, home is not sleeping in the comfort of her own bed. For her, home is where she belongs. After being away for years, she could finally return home to the arms of her children. —CONTRIBUTED

The author is an assistant professor of the Business Intelligence and Analytics Program of the School of Management and Information Technology in De La Salle- College of Saint Benilde.