A Tribute to my Friend Joanne and to the Overseas Filipino Workers Abroad

I am dedicating this article to a friend named Joanne and to all the overseas Filipino workers for which their earnings fuel the country’s economy and keep it afloat specially in this times of economic crises.

Yesterday, I received an email from an old acquaintance named Joanne. I met her at Manila International Airport in one of my trips abroad. I was working at the state university then. She said she is back in Manila (capital of the Philippines) for two months just to marry her boyfriend and then after honeymoon, she will be back again abroad to renew her contract as nurse in Saudi Arabia. I emailed her back saying I am out of the country already and wished her the best. I went to a bookstore and bought a card, sending it two days later with a picture of me and my baby.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ace_randrup/500277708/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ace_randrup/500277708/in/photostream/

As I was sitting in my car, about to go home, I suddenly remember her smiling and that young face, full of hope and dreams for her family. She had just graduated and passed the board exam for nursing at that time when I met her. We were seated beside each other, waiting for the time to check in as she told me her story. She said, she came to Manila to study when she was seventeen. She wanted to become a teacher, but like every other people in the Philippines, she opted to become a nurse instead. She proudly told me that she graduated with honors and passed the board exam, then she had work in a local public hospital so that she can gain experience in preparation to work abroad, just like her two cousins and their aunt who work as a domestic helper in Italy.

She is bound to go to work in Saudi Arabia for two years straight and she cant go home she said. She show me the picture of her family, two sisters and a brother all present at that time in the departure area but they cant go inside the checking in section anymore. Then I noticed, she is holding a keychain tightly. She must have noticed me looking at the beautiful keychain, and she showed me the embossed picture of her and the boyfriend locked in an embrace. She looked at it and then looked at me, and suddenly there was a deafening silence, except for the noise of the people walking at the terminal. She bowed her head and when I looked at her, I saw the tears rolling in her eyes, and she hold me tight. She said, I will miss him and my family too, but then she wiped her tears and smiled at me. I smiled back at her beautiful face-- full of hope and sadness. Yes, she is beautiful and innocent.

But that was three years ago, she used to email me, but stopped for a year and I was also busy, haven’t communicated since 2007, and now came the email.

I just wonder how many millions more like Joanne who are pulled out of their niche and then suddenly thrown anywhere bearing with them the responsibility which is attached to them.

Joanne is one of the millions of Filipinos working abroad and sending money back home to help the family. In our culture, usually, parents send their children to school to study and they are expected to help their parents thereafter. They help in terms of financing their younger brothers and sisters in going to college. Because of high unemployment rate, employers would hire people with high qualifications even for a low earning jobs, that’s why you need to get a much higher education in order to get a low paying job at the most.

Economic and political situation in the Philippines in the 1970s, forced people to seek employment abroad. The first set of deployments were concentrated in the Middle East and up to now, it is still the major recipients of thousands of overseas workers. The workers are mostly concentrated on service sectors and construction industry. In the 80s conditions worsens in the country once more driving people to seek employment abroad. However in the 90s the need for health care professionals are at surge so seeing the opportunity, people flock to go to school and study health care related courses. Whereas before most overseas are contracted to the middle east, now they start to populate different parts of the world. Name it, Filipinos are there in every countries, working either in service or health care related jobs.

 

As of the latest data in September 2009, there are almost 2.2 million overseas Filipino workers. And the amount remitted by these OFWs amounts to almost 65 billion pesos. The earnings of the overseas contract workers are a big help to the Philippine economy, if not for it, the country would be at worst condition than it is now. The government soft and encouraging policies towards workers abroad helps to the increase in the statistics of overseas Filipino workers. At times, they cannot do anything except to be at peace with the receiving countries specially when some of the workers have problems. How many times do we read about overseas women workers being raped, abused, killed abroad and the government cannot do anything except to have the policy of silence and accommodation. Everyone must have heard the case of Flor Contemplacion (1995) a domestic helper who was executed in Singapore for a murder, and how about Delia Maga (1991), who was executed by her employer because of the neglect to their child she is taking care of? How about the family left behind, while those workers take care of other children, their household who are left behind faced social problems such as changing social structures in the family. While the main caregiver is working abroad, their children are faced with abandonment and confusion among family members that leads to the breaking away of families. Children of those who work abroad have more issues/problems. The social problems brought about by the phenomenon of the increase in the overseas workers cannot be disregarded anymore.

The government is obviously deaf about the abuse, mental anguish and helplessness that most of the workers experienced while working abroad. For if they are not deaf, how could they have soft international policies pertaining to this. They are always on a submissive stance when it comes to dealing with other countries and all they could think at the moment is the next presidential election which is due in May 2010.

Sometimes I am thinking, for me to move away from these thoughts and just concentrate on my life now. Maybe part of me is yearning to find a solution, that’s why I am writing this piece as a tribute to Joanne my friend, and to the millions of Filipinos working abroad, and to myself also, for not forgetting the roots where I came from.

 

 

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Comments 38 comments

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

As I've said before, if the Filipinos left the Gulf, the infrastructure would simply collapse. The policy, in the Gulf, is always to pay as little as possible for any service. This means that there is no standard rate for a job. The rate offered depends on the home economy of the source country.

Sometimes, fluctuating exchange rates make it almost impossible for ex-pat workers to send any money home at all.

Sometimes, companies withhold wages for the first few months. There are many instances of this happening.

Going home or finding another employer is not always an option, because the employer is also the sponsor and has the power of retention or to refuse to issue exit visas.

People in domestic service are particularly vulnerable. Hospitals etc are at least under scrutiny and have to respect the labour laws, but some private households treat domestic servants like slaves, or worse. Most overseas workers do not suffer greatly, but some certainly do become victims.


emievil profile image

emievil 6 years ago from Philippines

Hey prettydarkhorse, this is a great tribute. I hope Joanne sees this. It's really a sad state for our country and countrymen who have no choice but to go abroad just to ensure a good life for themselves and their families. And yes, our government do turn deaf ears on their plight. I do hope this will change in the future. Until then, we will continue to see our people, professionals and non-professionals, seek greener pastures in other countries, enduring the hardships and the homesickness just to make their dreams come true.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

hi paraglider, thanks so much for reading this article, I finally wrote this one, couldn't put more data because I cant find reliable one also, and for your continous belief in every Filipino.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

hi emievil: thanks for reading this, I sent an email link to her already but I think she is still in the Phillipines,she only read her emails when shes abroad she said.Like you, I wish there would be more policies and laws with teeth protecting OFWs abroad. The government should see to it that their welfare is being addressed as they are a big help to the economy.


myownworld profile image

myownworld 6 years ago from uk

a wonderful and moving hub! as u know, my heart is always with refugees and immigrants, and so i can truly feel joanne's pain, and that of millions like her forced away from their counties.... they're all real heroes in my eyes! thank you for sharing this with us.. x


GeneralHowitzer profile image

GeneralHowitzer 6 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

Good for you, you have a whole bunch of great friends... recently I found a great friend too... he is a hubber and his name is ronytparagas...

Im bookmarking this hub and read some other day hehehe, I have doesnt have much time for now though...


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

thanks general for taking the time to read this soon...I see you have a new avatar also, keep on writing about Filipinos also.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

to myownworld, I attempted to write this, having you in mind also, and yuor style of writing, (cant beat it thogh). I knwo you have a heart for immigrants as evident in your articles..thanks for reading this..


febriedethan profile image

febriedethan 6 years ago from Indonesia

Hi, thank you for sharing this. You see, not just Filipino, many Indonesian worker are face the similar problems abroad, specially who worked in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, and Singapore.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

hi febriedethan, thanks for dropping by, yes mostly asian workers aboroad are expereincing this predicament!


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Your true colors can be seen in this hub, prettydarkhorse. I think that all of us just simply drift away in time from one another without really meaning to. Just as emievil stated, I really hope that Joanne gets the opportunity to see this and will be pleased when she does. You did a wonderful job in explaining the occupational issues of the Philippines. Thank you very much for sharing this one.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

thanks dohn for reading this one..


masmasika 6 years ago

hi, prettydarkhorse. I am one of those Filipinos who always write about what Filipinos do. I hope time then will com when Filipinos will open their minds and finally realize that working for your own country is still the best thing to do when things aren't going well int he country. thanks for sharing this hub.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

hi there,thanks for dropping by, and I am always happy to know that there are Filipinos writing about us, and am happy to know you here, thanks for reading this!


maudine_05 profile image

maudine_05 6 years ago from United States

First "Thank you"

Nice HUBS...I wanna share an article written by a Korean as he shares his view about the Filipinos and the Philippines..I'll email it to you.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

thanks ms maudine I will really wait for that article, thanks for dropping by! mabuhay ka!


maudine_05 profile image

maudine_05 6 years ago from United States

pretty friend, I can't send it via email I'm sorry, I forgot it was a video posted on my facebook acct,anyways, here it is I just copy and pasted it, hope I got it it right.. http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/video/video.php?v=1228749408640&ref=share

Its a nice video,a dn I'd like to request a hub from you based on that video..abuso ako nu!?

Take care!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

hi, cant get through it my friend, its ok, try it again!


maudine_05 profile image

maudine_05 6 years ago from United States

Pretty friend, ayaw tlga eh..can I just add you in my FB acct so you can just view it from there? Im also maudine there..Don't worry Im not a scammer


poetlorraine 6 years ago

hi enjoyed that hub


maudine_05 profile image

maudine_05 6 years ago from United States

Sorry, I don't wanna give you a hard time..its in you tube..I'll try to check again and hope it'll work..SORRY PO!!!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

hi poetlorraine, thanks for dropping by, I am happy you enjoy th ehub!


needful things profile image

needful things 6 years ago from Poland

Iba talaga ang Pinoy. I am proud to be one!!! Mabuhay!!!


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

hi, Yes, iba talaga ang PINOY, panalo palagi, very talented pa! (translated, Filipinos are really different, winner,talented people!)

Thanks for dropping by


GeneralHowitzer profile image

GeneralHowitzer 6 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

Already read it, basta Pinoy astig... Great hub here pretty keep them coming...


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

oh GH< good day to you, thanks for dropping by again, oh you chaned your avatar, hmmmm is that your baby, I want to adapt him, lol


digitalexplorer profile image

digitalexplorer 6 years ago from United Kingdom

Thank you for sharing Joanne's story. Indeed, we Filipinos are really family-oriented citizens that we sacrifice and work hard for the sake of our family members. Im also away from home to study/work abroad and gain more knowledge and skills to have a successful career in the future. Well, I take advantage to live/work abroad for a while to save money, and then hopefully go back to Pinas to set-up a travel business.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

hi digital go man, you explore your dreams and go back to your roots, thats what I am supposed to do, you take acre and dont forget your legacy, am proud of people like you, Maita


digitalexplorer profile image

digitalexplorer 6 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi Maita, I can not imagine the world when all the Filipinos abroad (especially OFWs) will decide to pack their things and go back to Philippines! Who will take care of the sick in the nursing homes and hospitals (around the world), who will serve food in various food chains (Mcdo, KFC, Subway, etc.), and who will take care of the kids when their parents go to work (Hongkong, Singapore), and finally who will assist the captains in cruises/tankers to have safe journeys on sea? These are only the few things that Filipinos have impacts to the people welfare around the world! All the best. Rey


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 6 years ago from US Author

yes absoultely REY, Filipinos : Caring for the world -- isnt it? and we are proud of it, nurses as well! you are definitely correct who will take care of the world except us and for whateverr dollars we earn, it is worth it, isnt it -- FILIPINOS Rock!! and anywhere we go, we should emulate the heart of filipino, go to paraglider hub here at HP and searched his hub about filipino http://hubpages.com/hub/Filipinos, Salamat, maita


_cheryl_ profile image

_cheryl_ 6 years ago from California

What an excellent and passionately written tribute! Thank you for bringing this subject to light. It's a great read for anyone who thinks that life is hard for them here in the U.S. complaining about working long hours, or turning down jobs that don't "suit" them, etc. Maybe I'm biased (filipina myself =)) but I've come across so many passionate and well driven nurses and medical workers while I was working, many of them filipino. A lot of people don't realize what's at stake for many of these overseas workers, and your article explains it precisely. I worked with a Dr. once who explained to me that a company he worked for specifically hired nurses graduating from the Philippines due to their work ethic, respectfulness, and reliability. It's heartbreaking to see families broken and pulled apart, yet it's done all out of necessity. My thoughts go out to each and every overseas worker giving 110% of all they can to be able to provide a better life for their families. My Aunt did exactly that in order for my Mom and rest of her family to eventually be able to reside here in the states. Great, great tribute Maita! =)


LeanMan profile image

LeanMan 6 years ago from At the Gemba

I am in Saudi Arabia where your friend has gone to work, many people do not realise the sacrifices that the Filipina OFW makes when they come here....

I know many Filipinas that are qualified teachers and the like that are working here as maids for families here and sending everything that they earn back home to support their families. The abuse that many have to go through is frightening, so many are not paid for months, they are paid less than they were contracted to be paid, they get no time off at all, they are not allowed out ever in case they run away, they suffer sexual, physical and verbal abuse... Life here for a Filipina is not very good for many, but they make the sacrifice for the good of their families..

Even the professional workers here, Nurses, Engineers and so on suffer the same problems, being bussed to work, then returned to accommodation and locked in..

Many of you reading this may think that I am exaggerating the scale of the problem, but I do not know one Filipina here who has not been abused in some way or another by an employer or some one in an official post!!!

I hope that the money being sent home eventually creates enough employment and businesses for the filipinos to stay home and work there with their families..


daberill 5 years ago

Good post! It's always great to see strong "damayan" and undying hope within Filipinos, however, vision without action is just a dream.

I've met a lot of OFWs and during conversations about the state of our nation and the plight of professionals to other countries, poverty, economy, etc... most often than not, I always get a blank face when I ask them, "Well, what have you done to change that?"

I strongly believe that the Philippines can still become better and recover the glory it once held, BUT, each and every Filipino has to do their part.

Many, especially the teens, are full of spirit and willingness to "try" and change the country. It's crucial that we quit trying and just do it! Very simple things we can do right now...

1. Don't throw garbage anywhere but only on designated bins.

2. Mind your "kapwa tao". If someone is behind you when entering Jolibee, for example, please hold the door?! If you're driving, give way to pedestrians! There's a reason why we have pedestrian lanes.

3. Keep in line when waiting for your turn to board a jeepney; don't insert, don't let your friends insert, don't harrass others, don't force your way in!

4. Be on time! There is no such thing as "Filipino time" damn it!

5. Backbiting is not a mistake, it is a sin. If someone has wronged you or you think is doing something wrong then speak up to him and not cowardly behind his back.

...and the list goes on. It's not hard, it just needs to be done. We can't keep on waiting for that hero to come and save us, we are our own heroes.

Apologies for slightly being off-topic but I am an OFW myself and I know exactly the feelings. I didn't leave the country solely on economic grounds but also because of a far-from-ideal social and political climate.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 5 years ago from US Author

daberill, you are so right and I wish Filipinos will keep this in their heart to change. I agree with all the things you said, simple things, but they are important. It is not too late isn't it? Thank you for commenting. Mabuhay ang Filipino!


daberill 5 years ago

It's definitely not too late even though some would say that the country is only spiraling downwards. The mere fact that we're talking about it here demonstrates that the battle is far from over.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 5 years ago from US Author

its a long way to go. people from different places admire Filipinos for their courtesy and resiliency though. Lots fo good attributes but some destructive behaviors. TY..


Chin chin profile image

Chin chin 4 years ago from Philippines

Hi prettydarkhorse. I saw this hub of yours when I was writing a short hub about us as OFWs about to go home. It's nice of you to give this tribute hub to Joanne and OFWs. Indeed OFWs help our country's economy. But not all OFWs do well abroad, many are abused. I hope that the government would do their job to avoid this.


prettydarkhorse profile image

prettydarkhorse 4 years ago from US Author

Chin chin, thanks for visiting this page! Take care! OFWS are heroes!

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