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 cannot survive without food, medical care, electricity and potable water. They can survive without a father, but they cannot 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.