14 July 2004

The Dilemma of the Overseas Filipino Worker

Dean Jorge Bocobo of Philippine Commentary captures the dilemma of the OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker):
The Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reports that about 2500 Filipinos leave the country every day for jobs abroad. Many like hostage Angelo de la Cruz actually seek out the most dangerous jobs, such as truck driver in Fallujah for a Saudi oil company, precisely because these are the highest paying jobs and therefore also the ones that will require the shortest stints away from their families. In fact, last Saturday when the government "banned" Filipino workers for leaving for jobs in Iraq, some 100 of them stranded at the airport expressed a willingness to still continue with their plans to work there, saying they had already done everything necessary to go, sometimes even selling the family's last remaining possessions to do so....

Here then, exposed for all to see, is the viscera of Filipino despair and heroism packed neatly into a kind of pact with the Devil: The Overseas Filipino Worker goes willingly even to perilous places like Iraq, with its daily toll of death, because they figure like this: If I stay in the Philippines, my family and I will probably starve to death or be forced into lives of crime and prostitution. If I go to work in a place like Iraq, we shall all have a chance at salvation and happiness in which there can only be two outcomes: If I live, then we shall all be saved and happy. If I die, only I shall die, but my family will surely be saved by the insurance policy granted by POEA. Either way, my family will be saved by my sojourn abroad. I therefore go willingly, please do not stop me at the airport.

That is the essential heroism of the modern OFW.

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