It happens year after year after year.
An OFW comes home for a much-needed vacation. The jubilation starts at the Arrival Area of the airport. A jeepney-load of relatives and friends come to meet him. After the hugs and “ welcome home” greetings, they go to the nearest mall. They go to a restaurant, and ask the waiters to prepare a long table. A hearty meal ensues. The bill comes, around five thousand , and the OFW settles it. It’s okay up to this point.
Then, after the meal — the group is poised to go shopping. The OFW brings out his wallet again, and starts giving out cash. Five hundred here, a thousand there. Or two, three. And everyone is happy. The next day, he starts giving out the “ pasalubong” or gifts. Soap, perfume, corned beef, cigarettes, chocolates, bags , shoes, shirts. The total cost of his pasalubong? Probably not lower than P15,000. The shopping spree continues. The wife needs new clothes. The kids are making “ parinig” about the latest phones and fashion items. Go! Sky is the limit.
The OFW is then notified that his barkadas and kumpares have organized a “reunion”, a drinking spree actually. He has to go. Magtatampo kasi. They dine and drink. Tagay dito, tagay doon. The OFW pays, of course. He’s lucky if his kumpares share one lechon manok as pulutan. And then, more giveaways—his watch, his shoes. The next days and weeks are full of frolic. Baguio, Boracay, Vigan. Outing here and there. It’s making up for lost time. Paminsan-minsan lang naman.
Then, “ requests” start coming. It’s someone’s wedding, christening or birthday. They ask the OFW to chip in. Then, a niece or nephew is short of budget for tuition fee, and their parents are borrowing money from the OFW. And yes, someone is giving birth. They need assistance too. The OFW has to help, or else, “ madamot” siya.
And these extra expenses are incurred on top of the real necessities like medical check up and medicine for aging parents , house repairs and school expenses.
The trip to the ATM is endless. The bank account is bleeding. He then resorts to his credit card. The OFW starts to lose his mind.
To make the tragic story short, after a month of vacation, the OFW goes back abroad tired, stressed and broke.“ Zero balance” in his bank account. May utang pa. He promises himself “ Next year, magse-save na talaga ako.” But it does not happen. It never happens.
A year of savings gone in a month.
It is a vicious cycle. Every year. For twenty years or more.
This has to stop.
OFWs and their families should be able to look beyond short-term comfort. Those in the Philippines should take the initiative to spend less in order to save more and invest more. Most OFWs feel guilty for being away for so long, and they make the mistake of buying material things to cover up their absence. Their families should assure them that it’s okay to have simpler and cheaper family activities and purchases.
As for the OFW, stop wasting your money because of “pakikisama” or “pasikat”. Stop buying pasalubong for everyone. Stop giving treats. Learn to say NO. Let them criticize you. Let them feel bad about you. Cut the ties that bind you to toxic and materialistic people. You don’t need them.
This vicious cycle condemns the OFW to decades of life abroad. Eventually, he retires with nothing. After all those years, zero balance.
Don’t let it happen to you.