The Trade Off
The OFW phenomenon has undeniably reaped economic benefits for Filipino families and for the whole country. In 2017, OFW remittances reached an all-time high of $31.29 billion. That’s a lot of money. But at what cost?
The first and the biggest casualty is personal relationships. When OFWs and their loved ones spend decades far apart from each other, relationships tend to suffer. Stories of marital infidelities abound. Either the OFW or the husband or wife left behind succumb to the temptation of having a lover as loneliness seeps in. Marriages have been broken because of the distance. Even if the couple have managed to stay faithful to each other, the long period of separation usually makes them drift away and turns them to strangers. Their union is reduced to an economic one. And the OFW’s role, in many cases, is simply that of a “ financier”.
Parent-children relationship also suffer. Prolonged parental absence in simple things like playing, doing homework or having a meal has cumulative negative effects. They miss unexpected teachable moments when a parent can give a life lesson, and the child would most likely be receptive to it. OFWs also miss milestones like birthdays, graduations and weddings. The absentee parent tends to develop lasting guilt while the children may feel resentful. In the end, when OFWs come home for good, they realize that their children are now grown men and women who are too busy to spend time with them.
Ten, 20, 25 years apart. That is a huge loss. That is a long period of hard work, stress and loneliness. That is a lot of missed moments with your loved ones. That is a big piece in the puzzle of life— and that piece is missing, and can never be found again because it involves time. There will always be a part of you that is unknown to your family. For example, your friends and colleagues abroad, your boss, your routine, your bedroom. There is no one else in your family who have memories of these things. On the other hand, your family will also have a lot of memories that are unknown to you. Like the time your son spent the whole night doing a science project, or the time your mother had an argument with a neighbor over a petty gossip. Simple things, you may say. But these simple things make up a huge part of our lives.
But what is probably most tragic is when someone dies. Sometimes, the OFW comes home dead after long years abroad. Sometimes, it’s someone in the Philippines. A child, a mother, a spouse. OFWs and their families sacrificed so many years dreaming of a time to be reunited —only to come to that. The surviving members spend the rest of their lives in guilt and regret.
And what about the effect on the person’s dignity? To be blunt about it, many of us are just modern slaves. So many low-level workers are subjected to physical and sexual abuse, humiliation, bullying and constant fear. These things have lasting impact on the person’s well-being.
So, once you decide to become an OFW, you have to be ready for the trade off. It’s your choice and so you have to accept the consequences of your decision. No amount of money will compensate for the long absence. What you can do is to manage your finances efficiently so that you can go home sooner and do the things that are really priceless.