National Heroes’ Day 2021: A Tribute to OFWs

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If there is a remarkable thing about being a Filipino, it would be the immensity of love for our family. Among all the things that need to be prioritized, family always takes the top spot. Every sacrifice is a sacrifice made for our families. Even if it sometimes means leaving the country.

In a country where occupations with lucrative compensation are inadequate, some Filipinos tend to look for greener pastures abroad. All of these are just to ensure a better and more comfortable life for their families. 

By figures, there are around 10.2 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in more than 200 destination countries and territories based on Commission on Filipinos Overseas data

The 2019 Survey on Overseas Filipinos results last June 4, 2020, showed that 2.2 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were deployed from April to September 2019. Deployment, however, significantly dropped from 2.2 million to 549,000 in 2020 due to the pandemic but is now slowly recovering. Around 600,000 OFWs were also displaced due to Covid-19 since May 2020.

The efforts and sacrifices of these OFWs did help not only their families but also our economy. By that alone, it is rightful to claim that OFWs are our modern-day heroes. But there are more reasons why OFWs deserve this title.

OFWs provide strong remittance inflows.

Migrant workers from the Philippines are regarded as Bagong Bayani or heroes of modern times for their economic contributions through remittances. Even amid the pandemic, OFWs managed to send more funds to their families back home as a counterbalance for the lost income caused by mass layoffs in the country. 

Remittances from January to April 2021 hit $11 billion, which is 5.1% higher than the remittances recorded in the first four months of 2020. This was at $10.49 billion and slightly higher than the remittances posted in the same period in 2019, at $10.8 billion. The month of May 2021 with $2.65 billion remittances also marked the fastest growth rate for personal remittances since the 18.4% increase posted in November 2016.

These numbers are from OFW remittances sent to their families here in the Philippines to finance many things beyond basic necessities. Some of these are funneled into additional financial resources and, ultimately, the creation and sustainable livelihoods for the whole country. It is also worth noting that this is just on top of remittances’ many positive economic effects.

OFWs endures separation away from family. 

Photo by Bambi Corro on Unsplash

It is no news that OFWs suffer loneliness and homesickness while being away from their families. They are usually the ones who miss holidays, family events, and special occasions. Physically seeing their kids grow up is also a significant life event that they do not experience.  More often than not, they cope with being distant from their family in their own ways. Through the power of social media and digital technology, the good thing is that they can now easily communicate with their family. Whether it is before, during, or after their work shift. Facebook, Viber, Skype, Telegram, and WhatsApp are the closest they can get to their families abroad.

OFWs work hard to sustain their family’s needs and dreams.

Working abroad is an open door where earning a bigger salary is within sight. But a significant portion of OFWs’ wages directly goes to their family’s basic needs. It is impossible to deny that part of it is also intended to build and fulfill dreams for themselves and their loved ones. This is why some would tend to take any part-time work available to maximize their time and generate additional earnings aside from their full-time job. For them, extra income equates to more savings. 

Based on the data from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on the household spending using the remittances sent by OFWs during the third quarter of 2020, top priorities are food, education, medical expenses, debt payments, investment, and purchase of house and lot. With all these priorities, it is not surprising to know that nothing can stop every OFW from hustling, even if they have to sacrifice their own time to rest.

OFWs can actually explore investment opportunities in Camella, the country’s largest homebuilder, as they strive to achieve their house and lot dream.

OFWs face bigger sacrifices.

Contrary to what others might think about international migration, working as an OFW is far from perfect. Apart from being separated from your family for a long time, seeking a better future also involves more significant risks and challenges. These include but are not limited to cultural differences and communication gaps. 

Choosing to work in another country means having to deal with locals and communicating with them. Such a requirement definitely demands effort and hard work, which, at some point, triggers exhaustion. This is true, especially when you have to juggle both working on the tasks at hand and building a good relationship with superiors or colleagues.

While most OFWs are fortunate to find joy and fulfillment abroad, there are few cases where migrants are subjected to poor working conditions. To some extent, others would even experience unjust, racist treatments. 

OFWs’ quality of work brings pride to the nation.

Photo by Irwan iwe on Unsplash

Filipinos have been known for their hospitality, hard work, and impeccable love for human life. Going overseas is risky, but Filipinos managed to show that they know how to work competitively while blending with other cultures. Their empathy is not exclusive to their countrymen as they want everybody to feel loved, respected, and valued. 

It is also equally inherent for Filipinos to be very caring, which immensely reflects how they work abroad. They do not consider their job simply as a contractual obligation. Instead, it is a genuine act of love and kindness towards others. All these traits are being recognized worldwide.

In December 2020, an industry association in Taiwan awarded four overseas Filipino workers as model employees who have shown outstanding industriousness and commendable performance in their respective work. Punctuality, obedience, and communication skills were some of the basis in selecting outstanding workers. If heroes are described as selfless, brave, genuine, and willing to risk their own lives to help another, then it is without a doubt that OFWs fall under this definition. As we celebrate National Heroes Day, may we never forget to remember the labor and sacrifice of every OFW. They are our modern heroes who work hard to build our economy and raise the quality of life of their families.

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