OFW Talks: How to React to Negative Comments

Recently, we Filipinos find ourselves in the middle of another viral hoopla. This time, a video by Cebu-based foreigner Jimmy Sieczka turns the spotlight on 20 things to dislike in the Philippines. His tirade includes "uncomfortable" comfort rooms and gun-toting security guards, among others.

Filipinos were abuzz online. Some were mad at the messenger: "A disgrace! Get out of this country!" Some cheered the video's candidness: "It's about time! Just what I had in mind!"

As overseas Filipinos, we also get to taste similar kinds of criticism at different levels. Here are three steps to help you respond:

#1 Think before you respond.

#2 Acknowledge the sentiment of the person ranting. Keep your cool.

#3 Give the context, not excuses, why some of these things are happening back home. Sometimes it's more difficult to judge if you know where people are coming from.

Bonus tip: You can make our country proud by becoming the change you want to see. (Read related article)
* Video stillshot from Jimmy Sieczka's video, 20 Reasons I Dislike the Philippines

Call for Country Correspondents: Join Us!

Remember the first time you left the country without an exact date of when you'll come home?

If you slept like a baby the night before your flight, not thinking of how it'll be for you, then you're lucky. You had it all figured out.

But if, up until the plane landed in another side of the world, you still felt your heart pounding like crazy because you don't know how it'll be for you in your new environment, then we'd like to hear your story.

The fact remains that, no matter how hopeful the situation may be, most overseas Filipinos don't really know what they're getting into until they get to experience the reality abroad. And some were smart enough to stop, rethink, and then take a better route to personal improvement, financial planning, and relationship rebuilding. Many of us, however, are still endlessly running in circles -- living like there's no tomorrow, finding ourselves without any savings, losing our family and friends along the way, and then starting all over again.

We at Hay Pinas! don't really know the best answer to the thousand of overseas Filipino problems. But maybe you have tasted the bitter pill and have successfully gotten out of dilemmas like debts, dead ends, or depression.

Wouldn't it be great to share it with the world, so that when someone like your old self can read and follow your advice?

Share your overseas experience with us. Email an article, a photo, or even a video commentary at .

We have a special place for country correspondents. Visit team.haypinas.org for more info.

Sons and Daughters: A Letter of Gratitude


I had an interesting conversation with a friend, Jordan, about the challenges of having to provide for family and plan a future for ourselves. I realized that so many OFWs are bread winners for their own families and thought I'd share the letter that I wrote to him.

Dear Jordan,

They say that we belong to the Sandwich generation. We're tasked to take care of our elders and we also want to plan for our future, may that be our own families, higher education, or just items on life's bucket list. I know that desperate wish to have enough so you can do both or all of these. And like you, I've gone through a plethora of drama-- cursed the fates, thought that I lucked out in the lottery of life, felt stuck.

I perceive some resentment towards your parents for finding themselves without retirement savings and being dependent on you. You may blame globalization, the government, or even your parents' faith in industries that they will always prosper. May I gently caution you that finger pointing does not pay the bills. I encourage you to spend a little time to acknowledge the unfairness of it all. But after that, the only time you're going to look back is to understand the mistakes committed and to do your best not to make the same.

You told me that the financial support you provide to your parents prevents you from saving for a future wedding. To be a generous son is a blessing and an honor. But you have to ask yourself: are you giving this willingly or are you doing it out of guilt?

For most of our lives, we've gotten used to running to our parents if we're in trouble. It's disconcerting that this time, they turn to us. It took me a couple of years to wrap my head around the idea that sons and daughters, like us, are asked to shoulder such a huge responsibility by the very people who we've always believed will rescue us from any problem.

We may be sons or daughters, but we're also adults. Discern this decision by yourself and for yourself. If you do decide to support them, allow me to give this advice: give what you can whole-heartedly part with. If you give more than you are willing, then you may secretly resent them if you find yourself with less than enough funds. If you give less, then you may resent yourself when they are less than comfortable. You can revise the budget, cut spending, set up investments, and finally arrive at a figure and hatch a plan. But the most important step is to know with certainty that you're willing.

And if you do walk away, I know that you have decided to do so after careful consideration and acknowledging the probable consequences. Trust that I will be the last person to judge and I will continue to support you, whatever your decision will be.

If you've decided, have an open and honest conversation with your family. No promises of a teary, feel-good round of hugs (but you might be surprised, too). But, I think you owe it to them to set their expectations and to let them know where you're coming from. If you cannot give them all of the material things that they ask, then at least give them the honesty and faithfulness of a loving son. If you feel like setting conditions or asking other siblings to help, I encourage you to do so. This is a family affair, after all. I hope and pray that your family's long years of togetherness have fostered a love that can weather this challenging times.

Lastly, I admire your resolve to iron out these problems before going into a serious, life-long commitment such as marriage. Though she seems to be bothered by your seemingly lack of plans, the fact that you are taking steps to have a financially-stable future belies her suspicions. What seems to be sacrifices now can result to a better family life in the future. She may need to be assured that you're also doing this for your future together (that's always a nice thing to hear) and share with her your plans and how you're progressing.

I empathize with your situation. I've long envied peers whose only barrier to taking chances is their willingness to jump head on. No monthly bills to worry about, no need to leave the country to earn more, some can even afford to quit their jobs and spend some time searching for or pursuing their passions. Rightfully or not, I had also envisioned the same things for myself a lifetime ago (It feels that way, but really, it has just been a decade). I comfort myself with the thought that we have our own crosses to bear and this is mine. In the process, I learned to live with so much less materially, but have learned to treasure those that you can have with or without money: the loyalty and understanding of friends, the thrill of experiencing and learning something new, the familiarity and comfort of family who have known me all my life.

Last Christmas, I treated my family to a simple holiday that's usually out-of-range of our budget (I saved for it the whole year). My parents never really asked for it, but I know it's something that they've always wanted. We were happy just spending time with each other, exchanging stories, laughing together. My Mom and Dad quietly approached me and thanked me for this gift. To hear so much gratitude in their voice--two of the kindest, loving, most honest and generous people I know--filled my heart with humility and joy. At that moment, I understand how a burden has turned into a blessing, and how that blessing has brought me so much honor. I hold on to this feeling, and I carry on.

I pray that in time, you will be at peace with the decision that you will make.

Take care,


Keep Heart & March On, Young Filipino Graduate


March. A verb that means "to advance in step in an organized body; to go forward." A noun: the month between February and April - which in the Philippines marks the end of an academic year.

With graduations happening left and right this time of the year, it's also when proud parents spam email inboxes with valedictory speeches and commencement addresses. My dad was a regular spammer of such. To this day, my old email account still contains speeches of Mikaela Fudolig, Tony Meloto, and Manny Pangilinan (oh yes, the controversial one). However, there are two commencement addresses that stood out, dated 2005, on the year I marched for graduation:
"Be a Hero! Be A Filipino!" by Eduardo G. Fajardo

Consider yourselves lucky, very lucky... Your parents have the means to get you to the best school where you can get the best education along with the best minds and talents in the country. But, even now, you must be aware that, soon enough, you will have to take care of others around you. Because you have been gifted with so much, you will be responsible for a lot more.
Let me now show you who you are responsible for.  I am told that, in 2004, there were 7.7 million Filipinos working abroad, roughly 9.3% of our total population. If you add the undocumented ones, the percentage figure can easily rise to 10% of our total population. One out of every ten Filipinos is working outside the country! If each such Overseas Filipino Worker ("OFW") has even only two dependents, that means nearly one out of every three Filipinos today depends on OFW remittances for their livelihood. For you to get a better appreciation of this diaspora, 2,378 Filipinos left every single day of 2003 to work abroad.

This exodus is the single biggest mass movement of workers in our century. It has and will continue to have major economic, social, political, and moral ramifications on the future character of our country and our people.

For some time now, OFWs have been carrying us on their shoulders. To begin with, our economy is totally dependent on OFW jobs to keep unemployment down and to maintain economic growth at a steady pace. The earnings of OFWs  are probably the only thing keeping our economy afloat at this time. $ 8.55 Billion of annual remittances  go a long way towards supporting families back home and shoring up the government's dollar reserves to help service maturities from our $ 56 billion of foreign loans... 
... Like all else, there is a price to pay for all these. The Filipino family system is at risk. Almost one-third of our population is growing up without at least one parent:  the absence of a mother or a father against the backdrop of available cash has strained our traditional family structure and values: we see broken marriages, second families, prostitution, out-of-school youth, drug addiction, among others,  on the rise in the OFW sector.

It is no bed of roses either for the OFWs abroad: the women are the most vulnerable to human trafficking while the men take on some of the most dangerous jobs. If they escape these, many OFWs are forced to accept entry-level jobs because the quality of public school education back home has so deteriorated that they lack the professional skills to compete at higher job levels.  Thus, every time a bomb goes off  in Israel or a truck driver is kidnapped in Iraq or a maid is beaten up in Singapore , we hold our collective breath as a nation, fearing that yet another Filipino has been abused or, worse,  that another Filipino is going home in a casket.

And still Filipinos continue to brave dangers and endure loneliness away from their families for a simple reason: we have collectively failed them.  We have failed to create enough decent jobs to save them from a life of grinding poverty back home. We have failed to create a fair and just society, respectful of the rights of every man, woman and child and protective of our environment.

Every generation has a defining challenge. My generation was asked to reclaim democracy from a cruel dictatorship and to restore justice.  We did get democracy back but we have utterly failed so far to make it responsive to the needs of the people. The challenge for your generation today is to create enough decent jobs for a fast-growing population and to promote a better quality of life for all in a fair and just society. The personal challenge for you, of course, is to stay home, forego the "American Dream" of material comforts and cast your lot with our people.  Your response to these challenges will define you and your generation; it will be the story of your life. (Read full speech)
"Stay Foolish. Stay Hungry." by Steve Jobs  
... So you have to trust that the dots (in your life) will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life...
... Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. (Watch video)  

Let me tell you how these two speeches connected seven years later, with me hunched in front of my computer this side of Taiwan...

After my college graduation, I had the strongest conviction to "stay home, forego...material comforts and cast the lot with our people," as Fajardo challenged my generation. There was even a time when I felt so bad hearing news from friends who decided to look for greener pastures that I had to write something about it. Four years later, because of sudden turn of events, I found myself packing my stuff, settling in Taiwan, remitting money to different Philippine savings accounts, and dialing call card PIN numbers for cheaper international call rates. It's as if I lost a toss-coin challenge and suddenly took a bite at life's irony.

However, as Jobs said, "So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future." That's when irony became life's way of showing me different perspectives of a situation. Being an OFW now taught me a lot of things that I could never learn if I just stayed back home. I started to see, listen, and feel the real pains brought by the lack of opportunities for millions who had no other choice to but to find work abroad.

And so to the new graduates, including by dear sisters Patricia and Enchie, the personal challenge after graduation is to keep your idealism alive. Even when you find yourselves dreading traffic jams, cubicle claustrophobia, and paycheck tax cuts. Your ideas and opinions will definitely change but never let that young voice drown inside you, even when the real world tells you you're wrong and foolish.

Don't become apathetic about the Philippines -- even at times of crazy political dramas that a no-return exit strategy seems like the soundest idea. Circumstances may push you to leave home but don't ever succumb to the "Ganun talaga eh / Whatever" mentality. There are a lot of things we can do, more than just posting on our Facebook walls the brands we like or food we've tasted. Always have the heart to come back home but don't wait until retirement age to inspire change to the nation. Not when your knees are starting to get wobbly and could no longer take another march forward.

Keep heart, dear graduates, and march on!