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The Anatomy of Overseas Filipino Workers

Updated on July 16, 2011

The prime dollar reserve contributors in the Philippine economy are the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). Dubbed as "New Heroes" of the country, OFWs face the challenges of working outside the country.

The land-based workers can be domestic helpers, caregivers, nurses, engineers, office clerks, factory workers, IT specialists, hotel front-liners, bar-restaurant service crew, utility or maintenance crew and the like. The rest are ocean-based workers, like seafarers that comprise 23 per cent (the largest slice) in the seafaring world.

OFWs undergo screening through their qualifications, mostly college and the rest high school or vocational graduates. Aside from passport, they need to get other requirements, like training certificates, assessment test, visa, medical exam among others.

The paper-mill strategies in the country make it difficult to all OFWs to process their contract easily.

What more the realities of life abroad are not the wholesome expectations they wish to experience.

This hub is dedicated to these unsung heroes that are painstakingly helping the country to have economic stability.

A Filipino seaman at the anchorage in Venezuela, 2008 (Photo by Travel Man)
A Filipino seaman at the anchorage in Venezuela, 2008 (Photo by Travel Man)

OFW Challenges Abroad

You know nothing about the country you'll be working for. You don't have an actual experience about its people. For a first-timer, the dilemma of coping up with the rigors of life abroad can be hard to swallow.

This hubber observed that:

  1. Filipina domestic helpers are gravely abuse in the Middle East countries. The philippine government cannot issue blacklisting of these oil-reach countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other reported countries that violated or even killed some Filipinas working there.
  2. Filipino seafarers, although occupying the title as being the most number of seamen on board commercial vessels, the rate of payments on basic wages and overtime are way down low the worldwide standard in shipping compensation.
  3. Most Filipino workers are overworked, both males and females. They silently endure harsh treatment in order to save and send money for their families back home.
  4. Sad news of death and involvement of illegal drugs are what the headlines are spilling out when it comes to news overseas. The foreign affairs department occasionally turn into deaf ears about such grave issues.

Maltreatment to almost all overseas workers are hidden from the scrutiny of the public. It always happened at the workplace or even after work.

Admit it, the slavery in the world is still going on. See how rich countries treat most of their foreign workers, including OFWs.

Most of the foreign workers' tales are kept in secret but the humiliation will always reflect on their attitude once they go home.

Overseas Filipino workers brave job hazards for survival c/o AlJazeeraEnglish

The Philippines is the largest organised labour-exporting country in the world, according to statistics from the US-based Brookings Institution.

An estimated eight million Filipinos live and work overseas, but for many workers trying to earn a living the job is proving dangerous and even fatal.

Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas reports. (Oct 16, 2010)

Grievances are not channeled to the proper government personnel by the OFWs who experienced abuses while working in other countries.

Some of the consul representatives are accused of conniving with foreign-counterpart to commit sexual harassment with Filipina domestic helpers, to mention a concrete example.

The death of many OFWs are the sickening truth on how some of our countrymen trusted other people so much, risking their lives in return for the sake of their families.

From the Photo archives of Travel Man on  Facebook
From the Photo archives of Travel Man on Facebook


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    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @Peter Dickinson: Yes, Sir Pete. That's the realities of life. Some professionals do it because they're not only thinking about themselves but their families to support with.

      You've mentioned the taxi driver; most of them are professional, too. Take for instance the famous taxi driver in Singapore who happens to be stock analyst. He's all over the media last year.

      Ironies of life, tsk, tsk. And we're still living.

      Thanks again, Sir Pete.

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 

      7 years ago from South East Asia

      A Pathan Taxi driver I had on the same trip was a qualified chemical engineer. I have met Go Go dancers with university degrees. We all have to do whatever to get by in life today. Often the 'servant' is better qualified than the 'master' and nearly always has a better heart. It is a strange old world we live in.

    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @Peter Dickinson: And to think, they're professionals back here in the Philippines, only to work as domestic helpers or even moonlight as prostitutes in other countries.

      The contract for land-based jobs usually starts from 2 to 4 years and they must endure homesickness and the culture shock they'll encounter out of the country.

      If only the system of our government provides jobs and opportunities for the populace, we will not risk our lives working overseas.

      A first-rate comment including your journal. I appreciate it that much. Thanks, Sir Pete.

    • Peter Dickinson profile image

      Peter Dickinson 

      7 years ago from South East Asia

      Thank you for that. My heart goes out to abused Filipino workers wherever they are. I just back from a business trip to Dubai. I thought I would share a portion of my journal entry with you:

      "Now the flight would have been fine except for the fact that my seat would not recline because it was directly in front of an emergency exit and would have blocked access. So the Filpina girl next to me slept with her head on my shoulder. This left me in a sort of bolt upright position and every time I nodded off the 'nod' woke me. Must have been all of a hundred times.

      The New Delhi airport was a big surprise. Far from the dirty pest ridden place I had read of, it was modern, spacious, very clean and well organised except...

      Except transit passengers for Dubai and Doha were directed to a cordoned off area of seats next to a food stall and drinks fridge.

      "Wait here". That was it. Nine hours to wait. No chance of a nap here either. There were various odd people but I was in a group of 20 or so Filipina and one Filipino. Initially shy but they soon lost it. Last night they had spent eight hours in Bangkok airport in similar

      conditions. They had practically no money and certainly no 'local' cash. Though they ate on the plane what little food they had consisted in the main of various items like jam, butter and milk they had brought off the last flight.

      "Our lunch" they declared and offered me a share of all they had. I kindly declined.

      Once they had eaten I went and spent 600 rupees on various Indian pastries and drinks and gave it to my Filipina friends to share out. They were very grateful.

      They took photographs of each other with me. "Me and my darling!" they said. All offered to marry me if I would have them. I would have married the lot if I could have done.

      I went for a wander to stretch my legs and noticed for the first time that my flight, in six and a half hours time had appeared on the board. I asked the girl on the Jet Airline desk when I would be allowed through. Now.. she said, and before I knew it I was in a completely different world with every comfort and amenity.

      The problem was I was no longer with my friends and so unable to say goodbye. I managed to find a way round so that I could overlook them. They all saw me and waved.

      My Filipina friends appeared. They had been allowed through too. Their flight is just ten minutes the other side of mine. There were more photographs taken. This time they all took my email address as well with the aim of catching up with me on Facebook. A friendship forged

      in minutes. I have many like that. Practically all in Asia.

      I waved goodbye to my Filipina friends as I headed out to the plane. "Bye Papa", "I email you Papa" they cried out smiling and waving. I had fallen in love with every one of them. The surreal atmosphere had been fueled by tiredness and so fuddled my brain. Here was I headed

      into the unknown, but then, so were they. Few of them had left the Philippines before. They did not know where they would be working or when they would come back. Two years? Three? Four? All they knew was they were going to earn a little money to feed their families. One, who had been away before told me "From now all I think will be work. I may not see my friends again, or laugh, or smile. I work." Both Gloria and Monika have told me this too. They can put themselves into this frame of mind whether working as a house maid or a prostitute . It is

      such a hard life for many.

    • travel_man1971 profile imageAUTHOR

      Ireno Alcala 

      7 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      @A.A. Zavala: It's not what I mean. The term anatomy can be used as term in dissecting information about the plight of OFWs abroad. It's like, The Anatomy of a Disaster.

      Thanks for your hub-visit and comment as well.

    • A.A. Zavala profile image

      Augustine A Zavala 

      7 years ago from Texas

      I thought you were going to write about the physical differences between Phillipino overseas workers vesus other overseas workers. Still a good hub, and voted up.


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