A lot of our families and friends back in the Philippines have this common idea that once you’ve gone abroad, you’re already considered rich and have made it “big”. But just because we’re working as OFWs in another country, it doesn’t mean that we’re already successful. Sure, we’ve set foot in a land other than our own, but this is still a start. Not all OFWs end up being rich and we still have to prove our worth by working harder in a global environment.
We may share pictures of our ‘travel’ to famous places abroad, but has it ever occurred to you that that photo with the famous building in the world or a famous landmark only took a second of our time from our one-day off a week? Or that we go back to a bed-space in a 3-bedroom apartment sharing rooms with 21 other people?
What Other People Think about OFWs and How Wrong They Are
Maybe it’s also our fault that we only show our happy side whenever we talk to our families and friends back home, and it has been implanted in the sights of many Filipinos that we’re living the rich life. However, to our families and friends, please understand that our struggle is real and that we face plenty of challenges in our day-to-day lives.
Here are some common misconceptions about Overseas Filipino Workers from our families and friends back in the Philippines.
1. OFWs Live Better Lives Than Their Local Counterparts
If how high a wage a person earns is a basis of a good life, then OFWs may undeniably be living better lives than their counterparts who chose to serve in their native land for lower salary.
In reality, however, the digits in an OFWs paycheck do not necessarily make their lives any better apart from having something for themselves and their families to spend with or something to allot in the bank for future considerations.
While some who found success abroad may live seemingly joyful or satisfactory lives, others pay their wages with blood, sweat, heart aches, and tears due to the, sometimes, poor quality living they had to endure.
This brings to the next topic.
2. OFWs Live in Big Houses Overseas
It is true that developed countries from the west and all developed countries in general offer better living quality than what we’re having in our own country. However, such quality living may come at a price—a rather hefty price even if putting it in Filipino standards.
But that is only speaking in terms of getting good luck in another land. Others may not enjoy the same privilege due to their different dispositions such as having to stay in cramped spaces just to cut from expenses to have something to send back at home.
3. It’s OK to Keep Asking Money from OFWs
Although there is truth to the belief that jobs from abroad pay better than doing the same occupation locally, this does not imply that OFWs in general should be treated as a cash cow to run for when needing money. We are not ATM Machines!
Like lactating cows which eventually dries up of its milk, our workers from abroad only have finite reserves of cash at any given point in time which are mostly prioritized for the family’s expenses and savings.
4. OFWs are Debt-free
While the issue of debt may be subjective from person to person, having a stable career abroad may not guarantee an OFW a debt-free living if he does not know how to allocate and spend his money wisely.
Likewise, it would hardly be a surprise to come across some stories of veteran OFWs having some fruitful careers in another country, only to retire without any savings or, worst, are buried in debt.
5. OFWs are Generally Happy
How happy an OFW is in a foreign country is subjective to many factors which thus brings joy to a person. But regardless of all the successes and the bounty of hard work, there is one critical piece that is always missing which leaves a hole to any overseas worker’s heart—the longing for his family.
Even the jolliest of person, when separated by his family, can not help himself but feel bad when left for himself in a strange land which no other can possibly cover for.
It takes an OFW to understand the plight of individuals who put up the courage to go beyond borders and face uncertainties abroad. Yet, behind all the jolly pictures with fancy clothing and the big balikbayan boxes that each OFW is sending back home are a story of longing, loneliness, and a whole lot of sacrifices that they only refuse to show in order to, unwittingly, live up to the illusion of grandeur for their families.