Hay Pinas: The Story Behind The Name



My conversations with fellow overseas Filipinos usually end up  with with a longing sigh for the country."Hay Pinas!"

Money Questions for the Smart OFW Couple


BY ANNE QUINTOS

When married couples live apart for a very long time, a lot of things that can go wrong. Take time to answer these questions with your partner. It may not be the most romantic thing to talk about, but we believe it'll bring OFW families closer to a happy endings.

Current situation
  What financial obligations should we prioritize together?
  How do we handle our household expenses (in the Philippines and abroad)?
  How much debt do we have?
  How much savings do we have?
  Do we have enough emergency fund in place?

Communication
  When do we talk about our financial situation and plans?
  How should we divide financial duties?
  How much could we spend without immediately consulting one another?
  How will we keep important records and documents?
  When an extended family member or close friend is in need, what's the maximum amount could we lend out?

Family concern
  What are the financial booboos of some of our friends/family members that we want to avoid?
  How much could we spend on occasional vacations as a balikbayan?
  How do we teach our kids to learn the value of saving?
  How many years do we sacrifice apart to meet our financial goals?
  Are we committed to stick to our financial goals even when we're apart?


Financial vision
  How do we start paying off our debts?
  What are the best channels and arrangements for money remittance?
  What are investment opportunities we would like to explore within a year? In five to ten years?
  Do we need to get a life insurance?
  If planning to go back home, how much should we save before settling back?
  How much should we be saving for retirement?


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Surviving Valentine's Day and Other OFW Lessons


BY ANNE QUINTOS

Valentine's day for married OFWs is not just about romance. It's about making love work in the toughest of times when your other half is thousands of miles away.

But it doesn't mean a happy ending for couples separated by distance is impossible.

Meet my parents, Mon and Gitte.  Like millions of overseas Filipinos struggling to make a relationship work, they were separated during their early years of marriage to save for the future. They don't have an extraordinary story to tell. But their decisions as a couple made them extraordinary.

When you were apart, how did you celebrate special events such as Valentine's Day?

Mon: Being away from my wife for six years didn't allow us to celebrate Valentine's day together. Sending cards and phone calls were our way of celebrating this day.

Gitte: We celebrated it by calling and assuring how much we love each other.

How did you work on your relationship while apart? What made you successful in keeping love alive?

Mon: Regular communication through letters - cost of phone calls was still expensive then - kept the relationship alive and closed the gap brought about by being away from each other.

Gitte: I made it a point to write him a letter everyday to let him know how much I loved him. I knew and understood how difficult it was for him to be away from me and the children. I gave him assurances that everything was under control and updated him on the status of our savings to assure him that his sacrifices are not put to waste.

Before going abroad, did you talk of plans on how to maintain a long distance relationship? 

Mon: Yes, it was part of the plan to keep each other updated on what is happening during that time.

Gitte: Yes we did. We agreed that we would write each other minimum of two times a week and make overseas calls at least once a month. Back then, there was no Internet and overseas calls were very expensive. A letter to Saudi Arabia was Php7.00 each and overseas call call was Php250/3mins but we agreed to make it a part of our budget.

What made you decide to go back home? Was it worth it to leave your loved one for your career abroad?

Mon: Up to a certain point it was worth it to undergo the separation, but such situation should not be open-ended. There should be an agreement when to call it quits and come back home to be together and raise the children.

Gitte: When we had enough savings we decided that he should come back. Yes it was worth all the sacrifices of being away from home only if your goals and dreams were realized.

What's your advice to other couples celebrating this day apart? 

Mon: Going away to work abroad entails a lot of sacrifice that affects the family relationship. It's very important that the negative effects of this decision be minimized. Working abroad and being separated from your spouse and children should not be a permanent set-up. As already said, it should stop at a certain point and should always be discussed by the couple as to when to finally come home. Establishing a career far from the family may not be a wise decision.

Gitte: Since I don't entirely believe that a couple should be apart from each other for a long period of time, my advice is for the couple to agree on the number of years that they should be away from each other.  During those years that they are apart, what are their plans? How much savings would they be able to raise?  Where would the savings go? What investments would they plan to achieve? Plans like these must be concrete and doable. Like a business, a new house, education of the children. Also, the relationship must be nourished at all times. They must be able to communicate daily and assure each other of their love.

***

Postscript: Years after my dad's work in the Middle East, my parents now enjoy the fruits of their labor. Recently, they joined a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (where the main photo was taken). As they get closer to retirement, their investments through the years let them get out of the country not for overseas work but for vacation. My mom told me their ride wasn't easy, but all their decisions led to the most rewarding thing for them: growing old happily together.


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OFW Watch App: All the Help You Need



BY RAYMOND CALBAY

"To hear an OFW's cry for help, even in the dark."

This drives OFW Watch, a software tailored to serve overseas Filipinos. Whether you're an OFW based in the Middle East, Europe or anywhere else in the world, seeking assistance has been made much easier – and mobile.

Helping hand
Myrna Padilla knows exactly what OFWs go through, especially the everyday challenges they face. From spending 20 years overseas as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, she now heads Mindanao-based Mynd Consulting, the software company that developed OFW Watch.

Is your employer underpaying or physically abusing you? Are there health hazards in your workplace? When in distress, you can log on to the OFW Watch web component (www.ofwwatch.com). You can create your profile and flag your location (without publicly revealing your specifics) to alert concerned officials and even OFWs near you.

More than an app
Away from home and loved ones, OFWs often rely on one another. OFW Watch enables this in your cell phone – apart from calls and text messages. If you're using an Android phone, be sure to download the OFW Watch app. Some of the ways it can help OFWs are:

Get the latest news concerning OFWs. Stories from top media outfits such as Yahoo and Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Browse for contact information of Philippine embassies worldwide. See complete addresses, phone numbers, emails, websites, and more. If you’re currently based in the country, also find regional Overseas Workers Welfare Administration branches.

Check a comprehensive listing of recruitment agencies. And verify if its license is valid, suspended, or delisted.

Use handy tools. Quickly convert exchange rates and translate common foreign words.

Read about common Q&A's. Such as warning signs that you’re dealing with an illegal recruiter. Also find the complete Philippine Overseas Employment Agency rules and regulations.

The app is still in Beta version and more development is still underway. Full integration with the website will be nice to see soon. But as it is right now, it already offers very useful information in an easy to use interface.

Download the app and recommend it to OFWs you know. Doing so will support OFW Watch and its call: “You will give us a very special gift. The power to help ourselves, and the power to help each other."

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