The OFW Paradox

Third installment of Tapat New’s Independence Day series!

To others, when they hear that a member of one family is working abroad, they tend to think immediately of the dollars and the balikbayan boxes they send. However, beyond their struggle to provide for their family, there are horror, terrible sadness, and tragic conclusions to most stories involving OFWs.

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  • A son saw his father having sexual intercourse inside their house with another woman, leaving no respect for his OFW wife working 6,000 miles away from home.
  • A 19-year old girl went abroad to support her siblings’ education, leaving her medical school dreams behind.
  • A woman bore with verbal and physical abuses by her employer, fearing she wouldn’t be able to find another job if she leaves.
  • An underemployed/under-compensated skilled engineer, an artist, and a licensed nurse had no choice but work for a foreign master.

Broken families. Broken dreams. Broken people. We can go on, for who knows how long, hearing a thousand unique and poignant stories of OFWs and their families; make no mistake – working abroad is not always bad for oneself or family. But more often, it’s not always done by choice but by necessity. Many Filipinos brave unfamiliar lands and unfamiliar people to give the best to their families and to be the best that they can be.

The estimated minimum wage in 2015 is 481.00. With such amount, one household should have at least three minimum wage earners to meet the minimum family living wage of P1,088 per day. Aside from a meager minimum wage, there also seems to be insufficient education and work opportunities for the labor market. People are either unemployed or underemployed in our own land. As such, one family member opts to sacrifice his/her time with family to search for greener pastures abroad.

OFW remittances may have a good impact on the economy, but if we see these people as mere numbers and not for their dreams, skills, and talents, we might see ourselves living in the biggest paradox, a broken nation– growing by sending away its people.

This independence day, it is an honor to celebrate the modern-day heroes we call OFWs. The fight continues – until we are still depending on the economy and the risky opportunity offered outside our homes to survive, we are not truly free.(Mariz Patanao)

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