7 Unexpected Things To Help Jumpstart Your Life Abroad


Once you've arrived, unpacking boxes and suitcases you've brought from the Philippines to your new life abroad is your first rite of passage. Although you're set to conquer big dreams, it's the small things that can sometimes help you push through.

Here are the ordinary items that you've never thought can make a difference to OFW life:

#1: Alarm clock

Bride for Rent
Nobody's there to wake you up. And while you can set an alarm on phone, good luck not being tempted to snooze it on a cold weather, a lonely day, or a jet lag. A sturdier, louder old-fashioned clock is still more dependable.

#2: SIM card and call cards

House Husband
On your first few months, you'll establish one important rule for yourself: be reachable at all times. You'll need two SIM cards: one for local calls and one special SIM card that lets you connect with family and friends in the Philippines at discounted rates.

Always be on the lookout for cheaper call rates. Call cards, even in this age of Skype, Line, and Viber, can still be useful in times of emergencies or pangs of homesickness.

#3: Pen and paper

Bayaning Third World
You'll have lots of time alone in your room when you're living on your own. When you don't have anyone to talk to, listen and get in touch with your emotions. Writing, sketching, or just doodling can surface your innermost thoughts (plus there's no danger of sounding like a schizo).

#4: Soy sauce and vinegar

American Adobo

Distance makes the heart grow fonder. While you're salivating for the real flavors of home, find a Filipino store and buy suka't toyo. Make Adobo - do-it-yourself goodness!

#5 Picture frames

Way Back Home
Be reminded of your loved ones. Call it sentimental, but these can give you some emotional boost when you need it. Tired? Look at their smiles. Lonely? Imagine them being with you through your journey.

#6 Pillows

Starting over Again

Now, now... Need someone to cry on? Lean on? Your pillow will be there during your battle against homesickness. You can even give them names...we won't judge!

#7 Abroad Me: 22 Success Strategies for Young Overseas Filipinos

The pocket-sized book will help you get the most out of your overseas journey! From your vision as an individual to your mission as a global Filipino, Abroad Me is a refreshing companion that you can take with you. Order it online, or find it in local bookstores.

As they say, it's the small things that count.

“Abroad Me”: Redefining the OFW Experience for Young Professionals

While many believed that the “Filipino Dream” means migrating to another country, Anne Quintos decided that she would use her talents as part of the local workforce. She made this resolve seeing that a good number of her friends ventured for jobs abroad right after college.

But life presented an unexpected twist.

After resigning from a job, an opportunity to work for a Taiwan-based multinational corporation was offered to her. Having to deal with fewer opportunities in Manila, she decided to take the bait. Her dad had been a former OFW himself, so she thought that the best advice was always just an online chat away.

But as soon as she started her job in Taiwan, she found out that life abroad is more challenging than making it all about earning and spending money. She even thinks that there’s a need to drop the “Worker” from the OFW equation.

On Writing “Abroad Me”

Five years later, Quintos recollects life lessons as a young overseas Filipino professional in “Abroad Me: 22 Success Strategies for Young Overseas Filipinos.” Published by PageJump, the 140-page book zooms in on the personal and career concerns of young Filipino professionals who are making their mark outside the country.

Designed for the social-media savvy generation, Abroad Me’s 22 chapters read like blogs and contain simple yet engaging workbook-style reflections. For each chapter, there are even recommended hash tags to use in social media to connect with other readers.

“I wrote the book because I strongly believe that, even when we chose to live and work in a different country, the new breed of overseas Filipinos shouldn’t stop making things better for the Philippines,” says author Quintos, who is also the founder of HayPinas.org. “This responsibility goes beyond the billion dollar remittances we send back home.”

New breed of OFWs

Unlike previous generations of OFWs, today's new breed of overseas Filipinos land in more white-collar jobs with titles like software engineers, advertising executives, or health and wellness professionals. But even though they’re tech savvy and with 24/7 access to the Internet and social media, many still struggle to find information about their specific concerns.

Abroad Me offers a refreshing take on overseas life. It challenges readers to be clear on their motivations for going abroad. The book explains that being uprooted from the comforts of home to live in a foreign country is both an adventure and a very serious undertaking.

And yet even before prospective OFWs can leave, securing paperwork as a direct hire from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) is already quite a struggle. The process is certainly not for the faint of heart, and so the first part of Abroad Me dishes out advice in preparing to depart to another country.

Staying on or returning home?

Latest statistics show that for every five OFWs, only two have savings. Considering that OFWs collectively send around $25 billion in annual remittances, it means that a huge amount of money goes to waste. Abroad Me gently reminds against the many consumerist temptations confronting overseas Filipinos. It offers some tips in budgeting, investing, and securing the financial future of overseas Filipinos. Whether they finally decide to stay on or plan to return home, Abroad Me also outlines the things to consider in taking the next step in an OFW’s life.

Regina Arquiza, a broadcaster formerly based in South Korea who received the Migrant Media award from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, describes the book as “an eye-opener.” She believes that the book "gives overseas Filipinos a holistic perspective of what they need to know, what battles they need to face, what kind of reality awaits them, and what to anticipate from unexpected circumstances."

Abroad Me is available in National Bookstore, PowerBooks, and Fully Booked branches in the Philippines. For OFWs anywhere else in the world, the book may also be ordered on Amazon.com. For a preview and for bonus content, go to www.abroadme.com.ph.

Remittance as Harvest: Why Most OFWs Don't Save Money


Only two in five overseas Filipino workers are able to save money, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. This worrying trend continues despite OFWs collectively sending annual remittances to the current tune of $25 billion. Salary abroad is supposed to be much higher, that's why some 10 million Filipinos decided to work in other countries. So why is it that OFWs still can't save and grow money? There may be several unfortunate personal reasons to cite, but the most common one can be summarized by an age-old saying...

"Ubos-ubos biyaya, bukas nakatunganga"

Through this dictum, elder folks warn about spending all your blessings at once. It harks bark to the idea of "harvest" where money is abundant for a period of time. People engage in merriment, feast on the best food, and splurge on wants. Then after a week or two of abundance, it's drought time again - at least financially. The season of poverty extends until the next harvest, and then the cycle of short-lived abundance repeats.

This tired mentality hounds many OFWs even as they land on different parts of the world. As soon as receiving their paychecks, they send a good amount back home to their families. Trouble is, the family treats this as a monthly allowance - a lifestyle upgrade - and not as an investment potential. Similarly, whatever is left from the OFW's salary is spent on gadgets, clothes, and branded goods - stuff of dreams.

And then the reality hits hard: soon enough, their work contracts will expire. Instead of planning to resettle and put up businesses, the only viable plan for many is to apply again for the next overseas job. The usual hurdle of placement fees is sought from high-interest loans. This cycle repeats until the OFW reaches the maximum contract renewal or hits the age ceiling for the industry.

When they finally find themselves home in their barrio with not much options, their families even sometimes resent them for causing their source of cash to dry up.

This is the majority's story. Do you want to be another tragic statistic? If not, then...

Save before you spend

Here's the suggested formula from financial experts: "Income - Savings = Money for Expenses."

The idea is to first secure a portion as your savings before allotting your salary to the usual bills and obligations. From time immemorial, smart farmers practiced this as well to brace for pests, typhoons, and dry spells. Set up a separate bank account for your savings if you want to. For a start, some banks in the Philippines let you open and maintain an account even if you're staying out of the country.

To help you decide how much savings you need, you should be clear about your financial goals. Is it saving up for business capital when you return home in 3 years time? Or putting aside seed money for buying a house and lot? Maybe it's paying off your outstanding debts first? Be specific on a figure, and then work your way to it through savings and investments.

With these goals in mind, watch what you spend on. Instead of Air Jordans, iPhones, and Gucci purses, turn your sights to mutual funds, insurances, and stocks (some are accessible online). Educate yourself with investment instruments available to you as an OFW. Saving up is like planting a seed: growth is really slow, but steady. Investing is planting as much and with more variety so you have more to harvest later on, and at different times.

Need help navigating your financial prospects? Post us your question and we'll help connect you with more information!

A glimpse of OFW parenting


Part of why we sent our 9-month old daughter back home was because our landlord requested us to move to another apartment this December. We imagined that moving will be a challenge for our baby. That's why we made a decision and booked her ticket from Taiwan to Manila.

This morning, we were informed that we don't have to move till April next year. This news made me want to scream and say "I want a refund!" Refund the time we were away from my baby!

But then again, us being separated for six weeks is a learning experience. Because of it, I've begun to see the pain and struggles of many OFW parents.

Even with FaceTime and Skype in this modern age, I felt such awful stab in my heart when my baby reached out to me and yet it's just to a tablet screen. At one point, I had this crazy idea that it's possible kids see their OFW parents as little people living in computers and mobile devices. Or that they have square heads without bodies.

All questions of OFWs also ran in my mind in weeks, days, and hours away from my daughter. Are we bad parents? Is this the best for her? Will she take it against us when she's older? How long will it be until she gets used to it and forgets the time we've spent together?

Yes, there were moments when my husband and I felt relieved that we got some break from child-rearing. In fact, right after we have decided that sending her home until Christmas is the best option, we have planned short trips so we can enjoy each other once again after having a baby. As a couple.

Now that she's away, our dates and trips together just end up with us looking at our phone screen and browsing through 1001 photos and videos of her, then wanting to come home just to call her.

The plight of OFW parents became so clear to me that I can't even imagine their pain of not seeing their sons and daughters for years.

All in the hope of giving them a better future. Good education. A decent place to live. Food on the table.

This, no matter how devoid of physical warmth from cuddles and kisses, is still parenting. Most importantly, it is still love.

To OFW parents, remain strong. Focus on what you need to do now so you won't get back to your children a little too late. Though we may not be able to refund the time lost, our kids will hopefully reap its benefits in the future. Someday, maybe they won't need to become OFW parents themselves.