The OFW story: Why Do Millions of Filipinos Go Abroad?

Recently, I went to Singapore to do a 2-day training and workshop for our teammates who are mostly OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers). Some of them have been in Singapore for more than 10 years, some around 8 years, while others have only been there for 1 year.

It was a blast sharing stories with them. More than a decade ago, I was also an OFW living and working in Malaysia. It reminded me why I decided to pursue my career outside my home country, the Philippines.

You see, a year prior to my decision to go abroad, I was in the U.S. for a 6-month stint from my former company. It was a great time for me, especially that it was first time outside the country, in a far away land. Our company took care of everything, the house, the car, the allowances, etc.

The thing is, it was my first time to experience a life like that. It is almost like you were living in a dream land, just like what you see in the movies. Every night, me and my friends would go out swimming and enjoying ourselves in a jacuzzi. Once a month, we would go out of town to unwind and visit new places like the Grand Canyon, or L.A.’s Disneyland or Universal Studios.

The work was surprisingly easier compared to when I was in the Philippines. I felt like a child going out in the playground. It felt like going outside after being grounded for so long. It felt like the new place was a playground.

You see, most of my workmates work really early. At around 7am most of them are already in the office. They take lunch on their desk and leave early at 3pm. When I asked, they simply said it’s because they are fetching their kids from school. Some are going to their kid’s baseball game or something like that. I was amazed.

The experience gave me a picture of what life could be like in a land full of opportunities like the U.S. When I came back to the Philippines, the drastic contrast to the work enviroment suddenly made me feel so overwhelmed, and severely undercompensated. What 6 months prior was just “tiis tiis” lang muna, made little sense anymore.

They say when your mind is expanded to a new idea, it will no longer be able to go back to its original form. Add to that, I learned that my batchmates who were working in Malaysia were earning 3x as much income as me. So when my bond with my company ended, I resigned and pursued a career abroad. I only had one goal then, to save up enough money so me and my gf (now my wife) could get married. After a year, my dream came true.

We spent another year and a half abroad. This was in the middle of recession of 2008. Many of our officemates were fired. It was scary to say the least. Everyday you are worrying whether you will be next.

It made me realize that there is no such thing as job security. Even if you are the most loyal employee with the greatest skill, even if your boss likes you and trust you do a great job, when recession strikes, no one is immune. The whole company can suddenly collapse and you find yourself without a job.

Fortunately, the company was able to whether the storm without letting us go. But the minute an opportunity to come back to the Philippines for good was made available for us, we grabbed it and never looked back.

There are a lot of sacrifices being an OFW but I cannot deny there are also a lot of benefits as well.

When I was in Singapore, I was able to meet up with a reader of this blog. Her name is Daisy. She’s been working in Singapore for 8 years. Back home, her family of 3 kids and husband live in the province of Negros. Once a year she is able to come back home for 15 days to be with her family.

She shared to me her struggles as an OFW, of the challenge of raising her kids while being away from home. Also her advocacies in helping our fellow OFWs in their plight overseas. Some of them I realized could not even make a simple phone call to their loved ones because they are not permitted to do so. A lot of times, their friends do some “patak patak” to help one of them who is in need. It reminded me of the term “bayanihan.”

She hosts a radio show online for 2 hours once a week, and thousands of OFWs are blessed from her show. The thing is, she’s doing it not for the money, but she just feels great whenever she is able to help out our fellow OFWs.

Our conversation was cut short because I had to leave for the airport or I will miss my flight going back to the Philippines. I was inspired by her story and I pray she will bless more OFWs in her advocacy.

It made me reflect why do Filipinos go abroad. It reminded me of my reasons more than a decade ago to do the same. Here’s a video that captured my thoughts on this topic. By the way if you are not yet subscribed to my Youtube channel, please subscribe so you get to watch our future episodes. Watch and enjoy!

P.S. Are you an OFW working abroad? Comment what country and what made you decide to go abroad in the comments below. If you are reading this email, you can also hit the reply button and share with me your OFW story.

P.P.S. Watch out for our upcoming episodes on How to Save Faster as an OFW as well as What Kinds of Businesses an OFW Can Start While Working Abroad. Subscribe to my Youtube Channel and click the notification button to get updated regularly. Cheers!