Personal Essay

We leave because of love

That iconic  confrontation scene from the movie “Anak” ( Child)  captures it all.  The rebellious, resentful  daughter Karla ( played by Claudine Barreto ) says that she never asked  for the things that her OFW mother,Josie, ( played by Vilma Santos ) has given her. It was the mother who insisted on giving those things.  Josie’s tearful reply was “ Dahil mahal ko kayo.” ( Because I love you. ) And that, kabayan,  sums up the reason why we leave. Because of love.

By some cruel twist of fate, we were born in a Third World country where  decades of government incompetence and  corruption, and corporate greed have condemned millions of Filipinos to a life of poverty. For many of us, the only way out is literally to go out.

We leave the Philippines because we want a better life  for the people we love, even if it means spending years away from them. We want to spare them the hardships that we went through: the scrimping, the scraping of the pot, the promissory notes at the school cashier, the overdue  bills, the humiliation of borrowing money again and again.

We want to give them the things  we never had. We want them to see places  we never saw. We want them to reach dreams that were unreachable   for us.

How about the pain that the separation will cause? We believe, and we know, that  emotional suffering is more bearable  than an empty pocket. Children can survive without a mother, but they can not survive without food, medical care, electricity and potable water. They can  survive without a father, but they can not survive in a rotten house  when a typhoon is  battering  the country.  And the future will be hard  for people who did not finish  their education. Economic survival is more important than  physical togetherness. We believe, or hope, that  emotional wounds will heal someday.

Love is the reason we leave.

Love  is also  the reason  overseas work  is bearable.

It is this love that gives a domestic worker the  strength  to do backbreaking 16-hour household chores. It is this love that gives an engineer  a breath of fresh air in gigantic oil rigs.   It is this love that gives a seaman the fortitude to sail across  unfathomable oceans and seas. It is this love that gives a caregiver the stomach  to wipe the shitty ass of  an old, grumpy man.

 It is a love that endures loneliness, hardships, insults and harassment.

 It is a love that lets go. It is a love that leaves. It is a love that returns. Always.

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