In Father's Words: Spiritual Reflection for OFWs


While away from home, many overseas Filipinos turn to the Catholic Church not only for their spiritual needs but also to seek support, friendship, and knowledge sharing. Many also use online religious channels for when they can't physically attend the Sunday mass. But for everyday reflection, a book such as Father Allan Fenix's "A Few Minutes with Father: Meditation on Our Daily Life as Catholic Christians" is a handy treasure-trove of Catholic-inspired insights.

For many years, Father Allan served the OFW community when he was based in Taiwan's Taoyuan county as a parish priest. He witnessed the many tribulations and challenges faced by Filipinos who depart from their families to try their luck abroad. "There were a number of homilies I delivered in Taoyuan in that book," Father Allan noted. For a sampler of his work, the homily "Migrants" is a concise account of what overseas Filipino workers constantly struggle with: displacement, money issues, and work contracts.

Nominated to the 2013 Cardinal Sin Catholic Book Awards, Father Allan's book is published by St. Paul's Publishing. You can order a copy online. Proceeds of the book are donated to the Clergy Health Fund.

Expectation Versus Reality: 5 Eye-Openers on Working and Living Abroad


BY ANNE QUINTOS

"Finally...it's happening," you whisper to yourself while looking at your newly minted work visa. "My big break is about to begin."

Sure, you know that there will be lonely days ahead once you go abroad but you're determined to stick through it more than ever. It's an opportunity of a lifetime, and there's no way you'll let it slip. You paint a picture of yourself a few years down the road, maybe with a condo, a new car, and a portfolio of investments. The thought just makes you smile.

But what's real and what's just an anticipated outcome that's only in your head?

Expectation #1: You'll have more freedom when you're away from home.

It's a new life, so to speak. In a new country, you'll have your time to explore a new world, meet new friends, and start a new you.

Reality:

While it's true that living abroad can make you start fresh, many overseas Filipinos go overboard. Because of too much "freedom", they splurge their salary, enter illicit relationships, or become addicted to different types of vices just to conquer homesickness. They bring themselves new chains and handcuffs instead.

Think about:

Resist the temptation to do everything you want just because you can. Remember that even if your overseas experience may just be temporary, it can create permanent damage in your life because of lack of self-control.

Expectation #2: People back home will automatically understand your hard work abroad.

Philippine society labels OFWs as "modern heroes" as they sacrifice to leave the familiar comforts of home to work hard in a foreign land where they can earn more. Many mistakenly think that anywhere else is a greener pasture than the Philippines. This leads to the idea that OFWs are ready saviors should there be problems, money or otherwise.

Reality:

Most of the times, the conflict begins when OFWs don't communicate their hardships abroad. Even if it pains them, they continue to support every need and whim of the family (including the extended ones) back home. They expect that their families are already aware of the difficult situation of living abroad and trust that families will value the hard-earned money they get.

Perhaps it's due to convenience that's why families left behind tend to forget the struggles of their OFW kin, equating their working abroad to a life of abundance. They continue to ask for more financial help and free passes while the poor OFW continue to work harder for money and suffer in silence.

Think about:

Be open about the hardships you experience abroad. Although you may think that you are sparing them of the worry, not expressing your situation may lead to the lack of value on the money you're sending back home. It's important that your family is as prepared as you are.

Expectation #3: You'll become richer than you could ever imagine.

Since an OFW's purchasing power gets a sudden boost, buying jewelries, cars, gadgets, and other material belongings is not just a dream any longer. This idea fills you with desire to buy things when you're already a successful OFW.

Reality:

Fate, as we all know, don't always turn out the same for everyone. While others look like they hit the jackpot, many are endlessly repeating the OFW cycle: loan money for the placement fee or their starter fund, work hard abroad, return home after contract ends, then repeat. Some even bury themselves deep into debts because too much unnecessary purchases and the lack of long-term investments.

Think about:

Even though things may start well for you, always prepare yourself and your family for the rainy days ahead. Work out your long-term plans, save and invest your money, and live in simplicity. Stay on track of your money goals to achieve a life of financial independence and affluence.

Expectation #4: All your relationships will have happy endings.

Despite too many sad OFW stories of couples bidding goodbyes for good or parents and children becoming estranged, you know in your heart that your story will be different. Your love for your family, spouse, or kids is just so amazing that nothing will ever change it.

Reality:

Relationships separated by distance won't flourish unless you work doubly hard to make it work. Sure, technology such as Facebook or Skype are there for chatting, and long distance calls are cheaper than before for when getting online can't wait. But unless both parties agree to communicate regularly, time zones and schedule conflicts could contribute to growing alienation.

Think about:

If there are people waiting for you back home, set a deadline as to when you will return for good. It's also helpful if you could book flights and attend family milestones, if budget permits it. The first few months of separation may be unbearable, but hang in there and you'll learn to adjust.

Expectation #5: Life is better abroad.

Whether you're abroad or in the Philippines, life is only as good when you strive to make it better. Expectations can very well happen too if you plan and make it be.

In your experience as an OFW, what expectation turned out different and how did you work around it?