There are literally millions of Oversees Filipino Workers today, spanning all over the world in six continents. Every Filipino knows someone who is an OFW. And I mean EVERYONE! That’s a fact!
The Philippine economy is deeply boosted by the remittances of OFW’s. An ironic economic boom where professionals work outside the country in order to save the country. The OFW’s economic significance is so strong that the government itself promotes Filipinos to work overseas. Therefore, it is a common courtesy today to celebrate every OFW as a hero.
For Filipinos who are unfortunate to make a good living here in the Philippines, the success stories of our OFW ‘s are sometimes what drives them to take the same path. But not all are success stories. There are also many hidden or unnoticed sad stories of our kababayans. Some horrific stories have even made it to national headlines.
Here are 16 common sad stories we’ve heard from OFW’s:
1.) Spouse Infidelity
Imagine working for years in a foreign land, doing the most tedious job just so you can earn a living for your family. Away from your family, friends, and every bit of comfort your heart desires. Then one day you get a webcam call from your children begging you to come home because they’ve found out that mama/papa is in a relationship with someone else.
2.) Greedy relatives
We Filipinos love to give. We put out so much hard work just so we can give more to our family. And not just our immediate family, but also our extended relatives like our cousins, second cousins, niece, nephews, uncles, aunts and so on and so on… But sometimes, we would also rather keep what we’ve earned for ourselves. After all, we worked hard for it so it’s ours by right. But when we do keep it for ourselves, the sad part is that our relatives tend to see this gesture as a selfish act. An act of inconsideration or they would even have the audacity to tell you that you’re nagmamalaki na.
Relatives who are demanding to be showered with gifts and financial assistance are the most toxic people for OFW’s.
3.) Dollars ang kita, dollars din ang gastos
You’re finally earning dollars, four times bigger than what you can earn here. But you’re also living in a country that is also four times more expensive than the Philippines in terms of cost of living. So you still need to be matipid. You need to save money so you avoid even the most basic luxury from that country and you try to be madiskarte. One diskarte you’ll end up doing is living in a small apartment designed for a small family, but there will be 10 of you Pinoys living there for the next couple of years. Not really an ideal lifestyle even for us Filipinos, but you’ll be swallowing your pride to achieve your dreams for your family.
4.) Death of a love one
The worst thing that could happen is having a love one die while you’re thousands of miles away. Especially if that person is the reason why you’re working abroad, to give a better life to that love one. It hurts not to be there in their last moment. OFW’s who had experienced this would often dwell in the thoughts of “what if’s”… “what if I didn’t leave? what if I got home sooner?”
5.) Kapwa Pilipino ang maninira sa iyo
Utak talangka is what we call these Filipinos who stab you at the back. If you think you’re safe in another country, guess what, these people are also out there. It hurts more when a fellow OFW would put you in a difficult situation. You kinda have this expectation that Filipinos abroad help and protect each other, but it’s often too late when you find out that that’s not usually the case.
6.) Can’t freely practice religion
Filipinos are of course religious. Many would pray to God to grant them the blessing of being able to find work outside the country, only to find themselves in another country that prohibits them from from praying to the same God they asked help from. There are some countries that forbid the practice of other religions other than what is imposed by the state. Meaning, religious expressions are illegal. Praying in your religion can definitely land you in jail and sometimes the punishment might even be more severe than the punishment for thieves.
Christmas can be a very cold day for many of our OFW’s.
7.) Passport confiscated
One of the most common horrible story we often see in the news is the confiscation of passports of OFW’s by their employer or recruiter. This is of course against international law (See: International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families) .
Many of our OFW’s are poor, they are powerless and voiceless in foreign lands. When your passport is withheld from you, it would be difficult for you to travel back to your country, making you an easy target for different sorts of abuse.
8.) Physically abusive employers
In this day and age, it’s sad to say that there are still people out there who are treating their workers like slaves. Many of our OFW’s who have experience being physically abused are women. We’ve heard and seen many horrible stories from the news about them being beaten, burned, raped, unfed, and even murdered. We would even often see in Facebook videos of abused OFW’s crying for help, but sadly we could only watch their plea through a gadget’s screen and no one would have even known their suffering if it wasn’t shared by someone.
9.) Human Trafficking
Illegal recruiters are still everywhere despite the government’s efforts to crack down on these unregistered agencies or individuals. These recruiters would lure vulnerable people (usually illiterate women) with promises of a decent job abroad, only for them to find out that they will only be passed to another recruiter once they’ve reached their country of destination. Their passports are usually confiscated from them by the illegal recruiter and it would already have been too late for them to find out what “Human trafficking” even means once they realized that they themselves have been trafficked.
It’s difficult to have these victims rescued because there whereabouts are usually unknown.
This is the craziest thing that can happen to you when travelling abroad, especially when you’re travelling abroad for work. Many aspiring OFW’s have been rejected at the airport by immigration officers. Mostly for good reasons, but sometimes, for the unlucky ones, they don’t make it because of the “judgement” of the officer in charge. Even when you already have all of your papers ready, they’ll still interrogate you with the most impractical questions. They say these are questions strategically designed to tell if you’re telling the truth or not. Yeah, sure, whatever.
These rejected OFW’s have already said their “goodbye”, “I love you”, and “pakabait ka ha” to their children only to find out that something is wrong and the immigration officer rejects them coming from aboard the plane. They would have to face the embarrassment of going back home to their families like a lost soul. Imagine how heartbreaking that is.
11.) No one to share happiness with
A lone adventurer once said “happiness is only real when shared”. This is his realization when he ventured into the wilderness alone, with nothing but an adventurous heart. You can’t truly be happy when you’ve got no one to share it with.
Sure, our kababayans would be in a better country, eating better food, and breathing better air. But how they wish you were there with them to experience it too. Haven’t you noticed how much excited these people are when they’re about to go home?
12.) Non-diplomatic policies of the Philippine Government
Following the murder of a Filipino maid in Kuwait, whose body was found stuffed in a freezer, Duterte bans Filipino workers in Kuwait. Many experts say that this is an emotion based policy that can do more damage than good to the Filipino people. For non- OFW’s, this is a matter of national pride and they support the president’s tirade against the people of Kuwait. These actions of course have damaged the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and Kuwait, but more than that, it has also damaged the economic ties of both countries. Thousands of Filipinos and Kuwaitis rely on each other for work and business. On the Philippine side, the ban only meant more Filipinos out of work. Which means no money for these infected families for housing, basic needs, payment of loans, and even schooling for their children.
Imagine being one of the thousands of OFW in Kuwait with a decent job and employer being caught up in this mess. The government’s ban effectively made the lives of thousands ineffective with one signature. Thankfully, the ban was lifted by the president himself after the Philippines come to terms with Kuwait with better migrant worker regulations.
13.) No Salary
Yup, many migrant Filipino workers have been contracted for years to work abroad only to find out that their not going to get paid, not even a single cent. Month after month, they get paid nothing. Worse of all is their passports were probably confiscated as well by their employers. These OFW’s face discrimination not only from their employers but also from their families who have negative thoughts as to why they’re not sending money back home.
Most of the time they can only go back home with the help of the Philippine Consulate.
14.) No Savings
Savings is perhaps the most underestimated necessity in a Filipino household.
Filipinos definitely love to live in the moment too much that they forget to think about the future. To be able to have a substantial amount of savings, a person needs to be disciplined with his finances. What people fail to realize is that discipline is freedom. Without discipline, you can end up being trapped by the same old problems you’ve been having for years. In the case of OFW’s, it’s poverty.
15.) Balikbayan box thieves
The most popular way for OFW’s to cheer up their family and friends on their return is to surprise them with pasalubong. These repatriate boxes are packed with goodies our kababayans worked hard for. Each Balikbayan box literally represent an OFW’s hard work and a taste of a better life to come for their families. But there have been many cases where these boxes have been torn open and the items inside are stolen.
The Bureau of Customs is a government agency that has drawn numerous grounds of negative allegations including bribery, corruption, smuggling, and desecration of Balikbayan boxes. There are many cases of allegations against customs officials from the sender or recipients of these packages that their boxes have been maliciously opened or looted. They would retrieve these packages from BOC with tampered packaging and missing items. The BOC’s defense for opening these boxes without the owners consent is that part of their policy is to have a regular “random physical inspection” to detect smuggling activities. Whether this method is effective or not, it has definitely irked the OFW community. Gladly, there have been efforts from current and recent administrations to put a curve on this policy and to make sure that the rights of the citizens are not being violated.
BOC is not the only one who has gotten a bad reputation with the handling of Balikbayan boxes. There are also stories from balikbayans that their chosen certified couriers have also been mishandling packages resulting to theft or loss.
Cheerfulness is a common Filipino trait. That’s why it’s hard to point out who is depressed.
OFW’s who have experienced years of isolation from love ones and years of being subjugated to too much work may opt in to certain forms of activities to hide their pain when they get back home to the Philippines. The younger generation of OFW’s, especially the ones who do not yet have the responsibility of bringing up a family, tend to dive into more extreme acts of escapism such as gambling, alcoholism, and womanizing. These acts can be seen by family and friends as just acts of leisure but they do not see the destructiveness of these vices and most importantly the root cause of wanting to be involved into them by a depressed person.