OFW: personal ATM machines

i’ve seen this far too often.

according to a survey conducted by Nielsen Media Research Phils, and as reported by Inquirer, families of Overseas Filipino Workers tend to “sit back and wait for the remittances”. i will not repeat the conclusions and summary the survey came up, click on the link and find it out for yourself.

my father left the country to work as a seaman in the Middle East 14 years ago for the same reasons one out of ten Filipinos chose to leave the country for work: to raise funds to keep the family afloat. he will turn 50 this year and has no plans retiring inspite of my and jesse’s insistence that he should just go home and use his gratuity to start a business. like most OFWs, father has no savings at all. there were creditors to pay from the dry good business we owned that turned sour. there was the aftermath of the fire that burned our house and everything in it to junk. and then there was “us”, two high school students, two elementary kids, and two toddlers who have to attend university sooner or later. when father found a post overseas, mother stayed home, looked after us, and sweated day in and day out to make all means met with the remittance father sends every month.

of course, that is not the case these days anymore. i cannot imagine how my parents did it but they have done it: send me through the university, get me into review school, and the rest is history. and last year, jesse finally earned her much-awaited college degree. the family is in far better position now than it ever was. now, if only we can make father come home.

i know a number of OFWs with this kind of success story, too. and i applaud them as i gloat over mine.

other families aren’t so fortunate. a presence of a family member abroad has changed the attitude of the ones left behind. remittance period is salvation day every month. i remember so well when i was in high school how the 26th of the month looked like a gathering of gabriela silang members. for every delay in the reflection of the remittances (it was coursed via the agency then), mother and the wives of the other seamen would cause an uproar everytime. the entire family relied on remittances alone for all their expenses- day to day ones to tuition fees to new appliances to loan payments- that if it does not come as expected, all hell broke loose. there was no other source of income, as it is.

more unfortunate are the OFWs whose children do not seem to see how fucking hard it is to earn the $$$ they are sending back home. failing grades, shifting from one course to the other, lacking an absolute control on allowance spending (and so on) are just one of the many possibilities that are happening.

and if that isn’t worse enough, you have relatives and distant relatives who seems to make it apparent that they, too, are your responsibility. they do not only use your house as a treasure chest, they are also expecting you to send your nieces and nephews and second cousins and second-degree granddaughter to school.

in a not so distant past, father and i were chilling at my apartment waiting for the kettle to boil. he got around talking (he always have his stories of OFW life) how they fish during their free time for extra money to send home. others weren’t so fortunate, he continued, especially the women. some have to sell their flesh because the salary from their normal work is not enough to counter the demands of their families here.

i remember shuddering at the thought. how many of the families left behind by an OFW actually realized it is not all milk and honey out there? i’ve seen and known family members who spend their days spending the remittances they received and spend their days waiting for the next one when it runs out. when i was younger, i was awed by their good fortune, perhaps, envied them.

now, i am appalled. where are all these bad habits coming from? or more importantly, do we ever recognized them as bad at all?

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