Hey, you! 🇵🇭
The airport is one of the saddest and most emotional place for a Filipino.
"But why?" asked my French friend when I talked to her about it. "L'aeroport, c'est les vacances!" The airport means vacation time.
Yes, but no.
Every year, thousands of Filipinos decide to leave their homeland in the search for greener grass elsewhere, or in a lot of cases, just grass.
According to a Filipino government office website, the number of Overseas Filipino Workers or OFW's in 2021 was estimated to be 1.83 million. They go to countries like the United States of America, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Australia, just to name a few.
Currently, almost all Filipino households have at least 1 member working abroad.
But what makes Filipinos want to massively leave their country and move thousands of kilometers away? Well, simply put, to uplift their financial situation and provide a better future for their family.
Years of mismanagement of the country and a rapidly growing birth rate have led to major unemployment in the Philippines. The economy simply cannot keep up and jobs cannot be created. The pay is also another issue. Whether one wants to admit it or not, the price of a decent life in the Philippines is high. There is a price to pay for everything and I'm talking about the basic essentials - rent, electricity, water, food, school, and medical care for example.
A nurse in the Philippines earns more or less 35,000 pesos or 600$ per month. On average, a nurse in the USA earns more or less 7,000$ per month and in France, a nurse will earn less than in the States, but basic essentials like good medical care and school are free. It's hard to not be tempted by this, especially because Filipino workers are admired and very much appreciated abroad.
As they say, money does not buy happiness. I honestly have always hated that expression. Yes, money does not buy happiness but when you wake up in the morning and you don't know whether or not you'll be able to eat that day or feed your children - trust me it does.
Lucky are those Filipinos that can bring along with them their family. But this isn't the case for domestic workers working in Hong Kong or in the Middle East or seamen around the world for example. They, unfortunately, have to leave their spouse and children behind. This is how a whole generation of Filipinos end up being raised by their grandparents or a "single parent".
When I moved to France, I had to leave my husband and my daughter behind for a year. It was the saddest and hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. But I still consider myself lucky because it was "only" a one-year sacrifice. But a sacrifice it still was. I missed out on a whole year in my daughter's life in exchange for years of a brighter future. It's not as simple as it sounds though. I will never forget the nights of crying myself to sleep because I was missing them so much. But as I'm typing this today, it is my now 14 year old daughter's first day at her first internship. She has wanted to be a journalist for as long as I can remember and she's currently interning at our city's local newspaper, which is an opportunity I don't think she would have gotten back home in the Philippines.
So I guess when it's all said and done, it boils down to the price you want to pay.
The airport is one of the saddest and most emotional place for a Filipino because it's not used for going on vacation. For a lot of OFW's, it is used once a year to go back home to see family. It's a strange feeling. We often complain about how quick time flies in general, but at that particular moment, it just can't go fast enough. And because all good things must come to an end, a few weeks later, one is back to the airport and this time wishing for time to stop because it's time to go back to work.
Back to work - where it doesn't make sense that a Filipino nanny would leave her own 3-year old child for grandma to raise in the Philippines while she goes to Hong Kong to take care of her boss' child.
Remember the movie "Anak" with Vilma Santos and Claudine Barretto? Heartbreaking 💔
Life is unfair. Always has been and always will.
Growing up, I used to think that the airport was like a hospital. A place of contradiction. A story of tragedy and triumph. Life's happy arrivals and sad departures.
As you might probably know, a few months ago the Husband's aunt came to visit us from the United States. After a few days in Paris, we went to Lourdes, then back to Paris for her to catch her plane back home. There's always a very bittersweet sentiment saying goodbye at the airport. The heart suddenly feels heavy and your legs too. You almost have to drag your feet across the airport. It's bittersweet because you're so happy to have seen them after such a long time and spent time together. And that time spent together is usually filled with so much fun activities and outings, it's a nice break from your daily routine. Saying goodbye at an airport is not your usual goodbye. It's a goodbye filled with uncertainty. When will you see the person again? Only God knows.
Two years ago, my Husband went back home for Christmas and he had no idea that saying goodbye to his dad at the airport as he left would the last one. The next time we go back to the Philippines will be to bury his dad’s ashes.
So as Christmas is soon approaching, I want to dedicate this episode and blog post to all OFW’s, wherever you are in the world. I know many OFW's will not be able to go home this year, but I also know that that hasn't stopped them from sending a Balikbayan box full of goodies for their loved ones.
Working abroad is not for the faint of heart. Filipinos are known to be resilient but this takes a higher form of resilience. Enduring months of loneliness and homesickness in order to continue to provide to your family and secure their future is a selfless act. On top of that, you even boost our country's economy.
Don’t give up. You are an inspiration.
You are our heroes. 🙏🙏
🎙️Link for Season 1, Episode 13
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