On graduation season, OFWs reflect on their sacrifices
As she is set to watch her youngest son march on his graduation day later this month, OFW Perla Quintana could not help but look back into years and years of sacrifices just to make that day happen.
"Tatlo silang napag-aral ko," Perla, who has been working overseas for close to two decades now, first in Singapore then in Hong Kong, told GMA News Online. "'Yung lungkot, 'yung homesickness... it [was] all worth it."
Perla is just of the millions of Filipino parents who had to brave employment abroad just to provide for their children's education. For them, seeing their children graduate — either in elementary, high school or in college — is, in Perla's words, "mission accomplished."
Precious Errica's mother is a bus supervisor in the UAE
"Mahirap i-explain 'yung feeling," she said. "Basta, proud ka, hindi lang sa anak mo kundi sa sarili mo."
For Carol Barinque De Leon, who became an OFW to help her husband raise their two daughters, it was all worth the tears she shed during the first few weeks of being away from her family when she was a first-time OFW in 2007.
"Sobrang hirap mawalay sa pamilya. As in nung first time ko dito, halos araw-araw akong umiiyak kasi bawal sa Madam ko ang mag-internet araw-araw. Isang beses lang sa isang linggo," said Carol, a bus supervisor in the UAE.
Aside from missing her family, Carol said she also misses being a mom to Precious Errica and Princess Decca, her two daughters.
Jhonsen Pingue's mother is a part-time cleaner and nanny in Russia
"Hindi naman ako nagsisisi na naging OFW muli [pero] nami-miss ko talaga sila, lalo na yung mga okasyon na di ko man lang naa-attendan, iyong pagpapalaki at pag-aaruga sa kanila na sa halip na ako [ay] iba ang gumagawa."
Her sacrifice had been worth it now that Precious Ericca is graduating from the elementary level at the R. Concepcion Montessori School.
While many OFWs would've wanted to come home to attend their children's graduation ceremony, only few could do so.
Renalyn Pingue, 37, part-time cleaner and nanny in Russia, has a son graduating from college this year, but unfortunately, she could not be there to join him in the graduation march.
"Hindi ako makakauwi sa graduation niya kasi kulang ang budget ko. Every day naman akong may communication sa mga anak ko tulad ng video call sa Messenger or MNSN sa cellphone nila," said Renalyn whose son, Jhonsen Pingue, will be graduating from Ramon Magsaysay Technological University in Zambales.
Kaela Aranas' mother is an administration specialist in the UAE
The case is different with Michelle Beluso Aranas, 48, administration specialist in the UAE: she would be able to attend the graduation of her daughter, Kaela Raenelle, at the Far Eastern University.
"Ang hirap ng feeling na malayo sa anak. Especially pag nagkakasakit na siya or nade-depress or naho-homesick. I had to do everything remotely. Kaya gamit na gamit sa amin ang internet for Messenger at ang overseas calls just to make sure na we don't lose contact and we can monitor her whereabouts," Michelle said.
Seeing their children graduate also convinced the OFWs that they did the right thing in seeking employment abroad.
"It is worth working abroad otherwise we would not be able to send her to a good school," Michelle said.
"Ang pagiging OFW ay napakahirap lalo kung malayo ka sa mga mahal sa buhay. As a single mom, naitaguyod ko yung dalawang anak ko sa pagsasakripisyo ko dito sa Russia. Hirap, pagot, at tiyaga," Renalyn, for her part, said.
Emotional support system
For those who want to follow the footsteps of Renalyn, Michelle, Perla and Carol, Dr. Rosemarie G. Edillon, deputy director-general of the National Development Office for Policy and Planning at the National Economic and Development Authority, has an advice: be sure there is an "emotional support system" in the family that they'll be leaving behind.
"If there is an emotional support system here in the country that can provide the required adult attention—having grandparents to look after the kids, for instance—then it (working abroad) should be OK," she said via email.
"At least, you get to provide the financial support to your kids and still know that there are people or systems that can provide the emotional support," Dr. Edillon added.
She further said that the best option for a parent planning to work abroad still is "to keep the family together."
"Sadly, this option is not available to every Filipino," she said. —KBK, GMA News