Once again, there will be heaps of praise for Overseas Filipino Workers as saviors, as contributors to the economy that is reeling anew. But, in the same breath, some people will pontificate on the broken homes they leave in their wake. Ano ba talaga koya, how do we look at the Filipino diaspora?
The truth is a lot of marriages are shattered because of the OFW phenomenon. Two of my drivers who used to work in the Middle East came home one Christmas to wives who squandered their earnings. Even with the omnipresent social media, the absence of one partner or parent figure puts a heavy strain on the relationship or the integrity of a home. The stories have been fodder for movie and television dramas.
The Philippines is one of 3 or 4 countries in the world dependent on dollar remittances from salaries and wages. It has a slightly growing band of middle class because of the earnings overseas. Farm incomes are richly supplemented by these. Mediterranean type of homes, even if they defy the requisites of a tropical design, are rising on the countryside. Real estate developers find OFWs an attractive market, if not victims.
I recalled and insightful story shared by New York-based Lilia Calderon-Clemente, a finance wizard when she visited a big industrialist in France. She was received in his palatial home and, while seated, she noticed a precocious little boy who was running around the house.
His dad, the host, told him gently to go to bed. Of course, the kid was showboating to new faces and didn’t take the instructions too kindly. She heard the boy’s protest, as he headed for his bedroom. Bwisit naman! He knew Tagalog. It turned out that his nanny was Filipina and he had picked up a lot of Filipino words.
Filipinos continue to spread around the world as teachers, nurses, caregivers, and comparatively high-end domestic helpers. Their tasks are to manage homes, care for ailing bodies, nurture young minds, and look after young children.
When you look hard at the spread, there is an army of Filipinos, perhaps 1 or 2 million looking after the souls of would-be leaders and tycoons.
It won’t be hard to imagine a generation of foreigners who will have certain affectionate affinity with Filipinos and the Philippines. They will be imbued with certain values and worldview of their tutors or caregivers.
There are countries, like Italy, that are all praises for Filipinos filling the Catholic churches, saving them from neglect and disuse. And when the Pinoys troop to the cathedrals, they tow along their wards. They could teach them about God, aswangs, and Jose Rizal. Not just bwisit but also mano po and tao po.
As one Filipina told my wife in Italy: “Hindi nyo po kami ikakahiya dito sa Italy.” She was referring to their pride and dignity and giving the Philippines a good name.
Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople could design a rigid pre-departure briefing program that would harness all these agents of goodwill and spread the word about goodness of the Filipinos in thoughts, words, and deeds.
Our OFWs and their teachings could be like sleepers, embedded deep into the fabric of various societies. So that when a global crunch time precipitates, say an oil crisis or a territorial dispute, we could tug this interlacing sub-terra or subconscious network to look kindly into our cases as a downtrodden but a proud hardworking race – when given the chance.