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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Of Profits And Perils

"Unless it is the Lord that builds the house, the laborers labor in vain (Psalms 127:1)."

Apparently, there can't just be all happiness and success in life, it must come at a cost somehow. When some earned it and worked for it, others chose to ruin it. Benjie (not his real name) is a former colleague in Jeddah. He  is a father of three and a husband to his attractive wife Jessa. He draws a hefty salary. He gets to travel in Spain to train for the company. She is a typical OFW wife. She's addicted to shopping and loves flaunting around a can-afford status. "Generosity to oneself is no privilege earned, it is a right", she rationalizes. And likewise he does. A nice job and an ability to provide for his family beyond their needs, are reasons strong enough to reward himself too,  of some slice of generosity - albeit in the form of another woman's bosom. Comes Mia in his life. She is a Muslim, a Maranao from Lanao del Sur. She's unmarried and a certified runaway. They fell in love. She got pregnant. When a Maranao association learned of her plight, they threatened to get him. His life and career then started to crumble. If caught, Mia could  be deported right away, for Benjie - lengthy jail time and lashes await him. It didn't take long before he found himself dragging his luggage from a conveyor belt at NAIA. Worse, he discovered his wife having an affair with a college student. The two eventually agreed to separate. But his misery just did not seem to stop when  his 16-year old daughter revealed she was pregnant.  As for his baby boy left in Jeddah, he is already one year old now, and very healthy under the care of a surrogate gay parent.

Two blocks from our company accommodation, Aling Editha keeps herself busy with her thriving homemade tocino and longaniza business. I am one of her 'suki'. She lives with Mang Eddie, her 'husband' here of twelve years. They have no children. Them are a normal couple living happily and 'legally'; thanks to a marriage certificate obtained from the Consulate. He works for a local media group as photojournalist, while she juggles between her full-time job as manicurist and her tocino business . They are a picture of a happy couple but both are not hesitant to admit they have their own respective families in the Philippines. He could automatically qualify to sponsor his wife but opts not to. Instead, he settles  for an annual vacation. Yes, it is extremely painful for their families back home had they known of  the situation.. Yet their cases are not isolated. They are all over the map.  Let's face it. These are real stories of real people.

Despite this alarming trend, there are also feel-good stories of a handful OFWs who keep the dignities of their families protected. Across the Gulf in Abu Dhabi, Elmer works as an aircon technician. (We both worked as warehouse helpers in a garment factory inside FTI Complex some years back, and just recently we found each other on Facebook.) Despite his rather low-paying job, he was able to build a modest home in Indang, Cavite with the help of his wife who started a small carinderia and sari-sari store. From their initial capital of 7,000 pesos, their business has grown dramatically in seven years. Elmer meanwhile waits for his completion of ten years in his company to be with his wife and two kids. I asked him how he is able to put together enough resilience and perseverance in his work. His reply was nothing of the extraordinary. " I draw my inspiration from my wife and kids who in turn draw inspiration from me. And my strength, I draw from God." Ah, I almost forgot he earlier told me he is an active member of the music ministry in a local Christian fellowship in Abu Dhabi.

Indeed a variety of stories each OFW can relate. Mostly inspiring yet some are frustrating. Each story reminds us,  that our love for our loved ones has brought us to wherever we are now and guided us to whatever we have become.  This year's theme advocated by PEBA does not only put the spotlight on the family as the most basic unit of society, therefore  the most important too. We all love our families and nobody would argue about that.  Each of us has our own purpose why we chose to be separated from them. To give our loved ones a better tomorrow easily tops our agenda. To most of us, it is purely economic reason and economic reason alone. To others maybe not, but for the majority including me it is.

For a kid born to a big family of twelve, in a place where barefoot seven-year olds ditch their being kids for a day sweating out under the sun while dodging the wrath of stinging sugarcane leaves, life indeed offered little compassion. Hardly able to get by, with my father alone in his responsibility to feed us all, my mother could only offer little resistance in between sobs, knowing that her children are leaving one after the other. My older brother for Surallah in South Cotabato to work in  a  ricefield, and my sister who next sailed to Iloilo to work as babysitter who eventually took my other sister with her later. And another sister who was barely fifteen, was hired by our neighbor to work as housemaid for a Chinese family in Mandaue.

Other than the scourge of scarcity, ours was a picture of a contented family. Our parents who themselves did not complete primary school, recognized the value of  education - or at least higher than what they had reached. Unable to realize that dream for their children, when we basically struggled to keep our heads above water, we had to be sent out  somewhere, either to work so as to get to school, or to work just to be able to survive. Time and destiny would later conspire that I faced my own. Armed with a few units in college (and some fierce determination), I decided it was my time to slowly weave my own destiny, oblivious of the difficulties that lie ahead, yet mindful of the same that inspired me to press on. My inspiration? - my father who worked tirelessly and saw to it that there was food on the table, and my mother who had to routinely get up before dawn  (albeit stealthily so as not to wake us),  to prepare the village folks' favorite 'bibingka' so that we have notebooks and pencils in school.

No matter what the circumstances in life, it is our love for them that keeps us going. They are our strength and inspiration. They are the reason why we persist to exist even at times when we almost refused to. We put their interest before our own. To the point that we are reluctant to tell our sad tales  in a foreign land because we don't want them to worry about us.  Of being routinely tossed aside from the till point where I was serving, to clean the bathroom because our Arabian colleagues are deemed unworthy touching the dreadful. Of believing that being the breadwinner, it is a natural thing to subsist on a diet of eggs and noodles to make do of a salary too scanty for the whole family . However, all the feelings of cynicism and self pity of having to forget yourself, and anger for being discriminated against, just go away with the thoughts of them.  But nothing beats the pain of losing a father without having tasted the fruits of my sacrifices and not seeing him lowered to his final abode.

"She knew the uncertainties that await her in Kuwait. She gambled but kept the faith. To feed her son and send him to school topped her list. And there is her mother who is sick. But in an instant all her dreams perished, now her family mourns of her death. As the collective OFW diaspora swiftly reacted in rage, the pain inflicted on the family of Asria Samad can never be healed. What she only knew then - she loved her family, and the pains of not being able to feed them superseded that of the perils that she will have faced. Indeed she did pay with her life - dearly - and lost it." 

Invincible fortitude, unassailable spirit and fierce determination, serve as our arsenal that equips us in our battle with uncertainties in a foreign land. Them that keeps us staying afloat through stormy seas. Them that enabled our immune system to strengthen us when we needed comfort and care.  Yes, they are our loved ones.  It is the thoughts of them that cool us down under the oppressive desert sun by the Gulf. And the thoughts of them blubbering  neath our epidermis that keep us warm in a freezing Alaskan shore. And the thoughts of them that keep us sane  in a chaotic Tel Aviv nursing home. How I wish we had the fortitude and resilience of Elmer and the spirit and determination of Asria. Regrettably, others like Benjie and Jessa who did not stand by their vows to each other, chose to crush the dignity of their family. As for Mang Eddie and Aling Editha, their love affair shows no sign of waning, albeit flourishing in this part of the world yet uncertain in another.

Strangely enough, some of us articulated our mission time and time again, that no matter what the circumstances in life, we are willing to make sacrifices for our loved ones, and yet we make it on our own terms. The mission of realizing those dreams that keeps our reluctant feet going is no longer paramount, but has suddenly been blurred by the slightest tickle of temptation that beckons us. Who are we fooling? Can we count those precious innocent lives who have been at the receiving end of broken families? How many OFW's daughters got pregnant at 16? And misguided young sons into drug addiction and criminality? Are they not daily fixtures in our primetime appetite? We certainly hate them to happen to us. And so why subscribe to the eternal mantra of the deceitful that "I am only human", therefore I am into this habit? We all know that there is no magic formula as to how one remains faithful to his or her spouse. It is a daily battle that could be won in one's own term, no secret formula, it is a given one, stand our ground and keep the faith is all what we need.

Fellow OFWs, unmarried and not,  we all know of our purpose and mission in a foreign land. Some of us may have opted to permanently settle in a country that gave us the fulfillment of our dreams, yet most of us are homebound to our loved ones to share the fruits of our sacrifices. A modest house, a hefty bank account or the flashiest gadgets - all of these will go to naught  sans a family that firmly stands. For no amount of temporal things will ever surpass the joy of seeing your family  complete under one roof. As the PEBA president announces (in his message),  that failed marriages among OFWs are on the rise, it is high time that you stand resolutely to safeguard the dignity of your family. To those blessed with spouses, communication of all sorts are in abundance. Use them to your advantage. Encourage and comfort each other, for tendencies of infidelity abound wielding its  clout and power, its threat  knows no age,  dispensation it has none.  And let us remember, that the success of a person is not gauged by what he has achieved in life, but by the amount of respect he has earned.

Most importantly, let's not forget our Maker - our only source of life and strength. Seek  His guidance and protection -  He who made us and loved us. When we make Him  the central figure of our household, all our cares and worries get subdued.  For unless it is the Lord that builds the house, the laborers labor in vain (Psalms 127:1). Because we only exist by His grace for  apart from Him we can do nothing.  Isn't our God bigger than any of our problems?

Lastly, I would like to applaud the PEBA people for their advocacies on  strengthening OFW families, in light of the rising incidences of failed marriages and misguided children caused by separation from loved ones. I would also like to thank them for encouraging new bloggers like me to share our thoughts and stories, or perhaps lessons worth sharing that will serve as inspiration to others. This year's theme they put  forth is timely and carries a sense of urgency, that opens up the reality behind the sacrifices of an OFW family and the price they have to pay in their pursuit of a better life. As for those who have lost their lives like Asria and many others who have suffered a similar fate, the lives of their loved ones left behind will never be the same again.  Aren't we blessed that we stay whole?  To God be the glory!

If this article inspired you, please leave your comment and VOTE ! I'm nominee # 11 ¡SOY NEGRENSE! Thank you very much.


The Pope said...

"Invincible fortitude, unassailable spirit and fierce determination, serve as our arsenal that equips us in our battle with uncertainties in a foreign land. Them that keeps us staying afloat through stormy seas. Them that enabled our immune system to strengthen us when we most needed them. Yes, they are our loved ones."

Very powerful words, eloquently written that will definitely inspire every OFW families, the diaspora communities and the world.

BTW, am I reading a new PEBA entry? Let me find the words ;)

Noel said...

Wow! Mukhang entry na ito - may banner ng PEBA eh hehe! Grabe, I have to silence my son while reading this one.

Yung mga story ng mga taong yan ay parang normal na lang dito sa Jeddah, sa ibang bansa kaya?

Pero ang kawawa in the end ay yung mga bata. Dahil sa kakitiran ng isip ng mga yun ay sila ang naghirap. Gusto ko sanang i-comment ang mga nakilala ko rin pero halos sa dami ay pwede na akong gumawa ng bagong post - part 1 and 2 pa.

Great entry, very inspiring.

NFB said...

@ Pope, thank you for inspiring me to write. I would have not thought of writing an entry had you not encouraged me to join. I hope this piece of story can contribute a lesson and inspiration to every OFW who dreams of nothing else but the best for his/her family.

@ Noel, I don't want you to be the lone entry from Jeddah hehe. Yours is truly inspiring and every OFW family should emulate. Good luck!

Pepe Cabrera said...

Naghihintay pa ako ng mga nominado para sa PEBA, but I guess my waiting is over. You got my vote!

Carmen A. said...

I applaud you for your great love for your family and faith in God. Your testimony is so moving, real, and should be an inspiration to many O.F.W.s out there.

Mr. Thoughtskoto said...

Thank you for joining PEBA, Nelson. Thank you for all your support. I love this part here:

"I draw my inspiration from my wife and kids who in turn draw inspiration from me. And my strength, I draw from God."

Do we not all draw strength from HIM? If we don't I don't know how we can be able to survive.

Unnamed Psalmist said...

I admire this passage: "Unless it is the Lord that builds the house, the laborers labor in vain (Psalms 127:1)."

God Bless brother! You've got 1 vote from me :)

Anonymous said...

i really amazed when time i saw this article its really awesome... nice article deserving for nominee's award... kip it up dude... 2 thumbs up... great! ^_^

Gerald Jay-R said...

For almost a year, im following this blog dami kong natutunan for every blogstory he made. Its really an inspiration specially for OFW's like me..

Anonymous said...

Your entry gave me chills which I am still having them right now. This is how a great message can be put into words. ^_^ I love the way that you right and it has a great message.

I love writing in English as well because I struggle with Tagalog. I just hope things like these reach the common man, those that don't get to go online.

I know so many stories as well but I can't write them on my blog because the people who I will write about would know regardless of pseudonyms and such.

Sometimes I become akin to a cynic. Why would anyone marry someone and choose to cheat? I have been a Mia once (minus the pregnant part) and that man wanted me to be an Aling Editha. I am still single and I think I will be for a very long time. When I get over my fear of flying maybe I will be an OFW as well. But I am hopeful that when that time comes, I would be able to be as strong as so many others before me.

I need to learn to not be lazy, after all it would be embarrassing to misrepresent the true Filipino spirit.

Pepe Cabrera said...

Dami mo na agad votes katitingin ko lang. Good luck!

NFB said...

@ Carmen A., thank you for visiting my blog and for the kind words. It even inspires me more.

@ Unnamed Psalmist, thank you so much for visiting. you're right, that passage is the secret to a succesful family, no shortcuts and/or magic formula.

@ Anonymous, I know who you are hmmm; youre one of my classmates haha :-) thank you for your support.

@ Gerry cuz, thanks for diligently following my blog even at times when you dont see anything new coz im soo tamad. thanks for campaigning hard. di ba goal natin wag lng ten votes, now we've passed that, we can rest now :-)

@ Pinaywriter, u know that im ur ultimate fan. thanks for the support and the generosity of spirit (nakks), mentoring duties remeber?

@ Pepe, ure the culprit behind all this. do i need to thank u for coercing me into blogging when i only need is tfc the whole day?

@ Mr. thoughskoto, thank you Sir for encouraging us bloggers to participate. You are everyone's idol in the blogosphere. Kudos to you!

Anonymous said...

^_^ Reading of blog entries complete!

^_^ Dapat mag-ko-comment pa ako dun sa Isabela entry kaso...wag na magagalit lang ang tatay ko (half-Ilocano un and they lived in Isabela for most of this life) ^_^ And I have seen the good and bad things that happened there. The worst part was that the marketplace where my grandfather had a "pwesto" was removed then promised to be reconstructed but some squatter vedords took over our spot. My father is heartbroken and he blames the local government unit. T_T

Anyway, good luck! You have our votes. ^_^

bing said...

this kwentos are not already extrardinary to other peoople yet ang kawawa tlaga ay ang mga asawa at mga anak nila na naiwan at nagtitiis sa pilipinas. i have known lot of people with like this situation and some are pretending ang feels like they are the "original wife" at nakakainis iyon dahil pareho lang nilang niloloko ang pamilya nila......nice blog po bka sakaling magising ang mga taksil na yan.....

bing said...

" goodluck po" and always believe in this sayings "The possitive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible"'ve got another vote for me po....

NFB said...

@ Pinaywriter, thank you for diligently reading and commenting on almost all of my previous posts. I wrote them when i felt prompted dahil masarap sumigaw at masarap talaga banatan ang mga taong lumapastangan sa bansa natin.

@ Bing, thank you for supporting my cause :-) since the day you read my blog. Alam ko yung mga tinutukoy mo ay napakarami dito nyan sa atin sa Saudi at ang iba mas malala pa. Kayo mismo ang makapagpatotoo na marami ang nasisirang familia dahil na din sa kagagawan ng mga kapwa natin OFW.

Pinoy Ako said...

Napaka ganda ng pagkakasulat at inspiring! Sana wala ng Filipino na mapilitang umalis sa Philippines para mag trabaho uapang maging buo ang kada familia sa atin. God bless po!

Carnation said...

written from the heart ... really lots of sad stories, also lots of victories, hope families can still be together ....

NFB said...

@ Pinoy Ako, thank you for visiting. Indeed migration will never become a thing of the past as long as our country offers no economic opportunities for the impoverished. Hope the trend ends even in our fantasies.

@ Carnation, thank you for a meaningful visit. We all have the same aspirations that no Filipino families will ever be separated by forced migration, but just the same most of us are left with no option.

Desert Aquaforce said...

Nelson, this is another beautifully written post about the OFW and his family... told with great insight and intelligence and immensely believable!

One of the reasons why I read your posts even how busy I am is the lyrical quality of your writing. It has depth and style and readers often see their own lives in your writing. It's a genre in itself.

Wish you all the best my dear friend!

NFB said...

@ Desert Aquaforce, Wow... to read a comment like this from the PEBA president himself is an icing to the cake! Thank u Sir NJ for being such an inspiration to us bloggers, for your encouragement and kind words as always. Your time spent on reading my blog posts is already a source of inspiration. God bless Sir NJ!

KINGhardinero said...

Congratulations Nel!

Nortehanon said...

Maayo nga adlaw Nelson,
Just doing rounds among the entries to PEBA 2010. Saludo ako sa mga OFW na gaya mo.

Good luck.

NFB said...

@ Nortehanon, madamo guid nga salamat sa imo pagbisita sa akon nga blog. Ang inyo nga mga positibo nga komento amo ang akon "source of inspiration" to continue blogging. God bless Sir!

All Green said...

NFB, I really like your style of writting, you can be a great journalist someday. Really. Good luck, and I hope you win PEBA 2010. You deserve it!

NFB said...

@ All Green, thank you for such a kind word. I don't know if I deserve such a compliment. Thank you so much.

Ging U. said...

Son we are proud of your entry. You write with the deepest conviction and its message so unrelenting. Whether you get to the top ten or not panalo ka pa rin dahil sa iyong walang halong pag-aalinlangan na ipahayag ang totoong mga nangyayari sa buhay ng mga OFW. God bless you.

BON said...

i was here! ^^
Good luck!!


NFB said...

@ Ate Ging U, thank you so much. Your comment means the world to me. What a surprise you visited my blog. Thank u and God bless!

NFB said...

@ Bon, thank you for taking time reading my entry. It's an honor having you here and leaving your fingerprints in my humble sanctuary. Thank you :-)

Life Moto said...

congrats for winning the 2010 PEBA!

NFB said...

Thanks Mr. Life Moto! Merry Christmas and God bless!

Pepe Cabrera said...

Congratulations for winning in PEBA 2010. But I think you deserve more than 5th place. Keep on writing para mas dumami pa ang readers mo!

ghillcorner said...

CONGRATULATIONS! for winning the 2010 PEBA.

I really don’t know how I got there but I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you that voted – it wasn’t so much about the title or the trophy, but the amazing community here that took the time to vote for me.

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NoFeeOFW said...

I like your comments n story.
happy new year
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