The Philippines is an economically strong country, with professionals getting plenty of career opportunities locally and internationally. It boasts one of the most dynamic economies in Asia, with an annual growth of 6.4% from 2010 to 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic might have made a severe impact, but the Philippines is starting to recover. Unfortunately, the situation is not the same for every Filipino. Those numbers might be good, but it rarely shines a light on how the poor have been doing in life.
The Philippines has an increasing poverty rate, and the pandemic didn’t help. Many people lost their jobs and their loved ones, but the cost of living only got higher and higher to the point of unsustainable proportions. As a result, Filipinos had to resort to desperate measures, and there’s been a traditional routine even before the pandemic began.
Many Filipinos have worked as overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), earning in areas with much higher pay. However, it isn’t a success story, especially when it involves leaving families behind. OFWs often face that environment, and it can be a grueling situation. There will be sacrifices, blood, sweat, and tears. However, they must endure that situation to provide for their families. Here are some of the things OFWs have to do to accomplish that.
Putting Up With Unfair Work Conditions
For all the praise that OFWs bring to the Philippines, it feels uncomfortable knowing that most of them encounter challenging situations. While there are those people who go through the proper channels, some Filipinos might find themselves accepting jobs from employers that take advantage of their desperate situations. There are plenty of nightmare events happening from the back of every success story. Unsafe work conditions, unfair pay, and abusive treatment from employers are only some of those situations. Unfortunately, Filipinos endure those because they have no other choice.
While it is not exactly a dream scenario, OFWs remain patient. Those work conditions are obstacles they had to overcome. If it means earning more for their families, OFWs will take on the challenge. They bring a lot of profit to the Philippines with remittances. Of course, they shouldn’t have to endure those unfair work conditions. However, they know their decisions are for the good of their families.
Living in the Minimal
OFWs receive the label heroes because they are for their respective families. However, their family members rarely see their situations abroad. It’s just not about unsafe work conditions. It’s also their living experience and what they endure with it. OFWs often live in discomfort, usually stuck in a dormitory-type unit shared with fellow Filipinos. Unless they arrived at their area of work with their respective families, they might not afford to invest in a comfortable living space. Twelve percent of OFWs encounter challenges with housing and lodging. While it might be far from the long list of obstacles they have to face, it remains a concerning amount. OFWs are in a foreign land, which means that the people they can communicate with might be limited. Their eating habits could also be problematic, often resorting to fast food and instant meals to dedicate more time to work. If they cannot provide more into what they eat, it shouldn’t be surprising that OFWs are also sacrificing their living situation. However, it all ties to their salary and how they use it. They might not want to spare themselves a significant portion due to how reliant their families are on that income, even if they earn enough to provide for themselves. Whether it is putting their kids to school or just ensuring there is food on the table, OFWs will make the sacrifice. That mindset is what makes OFWs the modern-day heroes.
It can be challenging to imagine how much OFWs had to sacrifice to keep their lives. However, it is all they endure to meet their respective family’s needs. Unfortunately, those elements play a grim and isolating road. It can get lonely, especially when they do not go with family members or friends. Depression and homesickness become parts of daily life for OFWs. It is the most significant challenge they face, even more than unfair work conditions and uncomfortable living situations. They will require all the support they can from their families, even when far away.
Support can be as simple as staying in contact. However, it might mean something more physical. An OFW can send a balikbayan box to the Philippines, and their loved ones would be full of gifts. The family also has to reciprocate, sharing events or even preparing meals for celebration whenever OFWs return home. Support will be necessary throughout an OFW’s journey, and it should be both.
The OFW story is a complicated story full of unique individuals and their quest to keep their respective families alive. These trials only paint a small picture of it.