Redefining the OFW

October 31, 2010

However Gremlin he is, 
he's our daily de-stresser
“Lupang Hinirang” dominated the Gremlin’s Youtube sessions yesterday. He’s been humming the anthem but couldn’t get the lyrics right. You see, the four-year-old li’l boy attends Kindergarten 2 in a Filipino school here in Dubai. He skipped Kindgergarten 1, hence no preparatory Filipino class and Philippine anthem singing for him before now.

The Gremlin is our son, and he’s our home boss. Quite unknown to him, he drives our actions and decisions.And pushes us to achieve beyond those we first thought we cant.

The Gremlin - the deceiving look 
when he wants some chips

Five years back when my tummy was big with my Gremlin, pregnant Filipinas walking Dubai malls and streets are rare. Filipino kids running around Dubai are rare. But look today. We join thousands of Filipino families surviving the sandpit life. It’s not financially easy though, but it’s our choice.
The view from the world's tallest tower. 
The OFW whose core purpose is his/ her family 
soars above his/her dreams like the buildings here
The drawback is after six years as OFWs, we have yet to put up our physical home back in Baguio, we have yet to say we have hefty monetary investments.  Having our son stay with us costs us at least around AED 7500/ PhP 86,000 a month on top of our normal expenses. His school charges AED 9000 a year, among the cheap ones we could get. Of course he can’t study and play well at home if we remain sharing our room or apartment with others (like most Kabayans here, like how we were six years ago, sharing cramped rooms). That meant bearing AED 3500 additional rent and un-shared utilities. His dad and I leave for work five days a week, spending AED 1500 for somebody to look after him when we’re away. Oh, do you know that seeing our Gremlin devoid of playmates is costly too, driving him around especially on weekends calls at least AED 1500 a month.

Our above budget allows us minimum comfort in line with what we earn as 8am-5pm corporate employees. But do you know that there are fellow Filipinos having around half or less of what we earn yet manage to raise their families here? It’s a case of where there’s a will there’s a way. See our tailor friend. To raise their son here with their low family income, they sub-lease their apartment rooms to save on and earn from rent, and they also receive out-of-work sewing jobs from fellow Filipinos.

I believe OFW-ism is now taking a new definition. It's becoming more of a family act of working and living together abroad, whenever applicable.

I look to the time when the term OFW gets disassociated to disintegration of families. The world is now starting to become local; and soon continental distance is like travelling Baguio- Manila.  For one, there’s the ever evolving communication technology to thank for. Who doesn’t know Facebook and Chikka? Or Yahoo Messenger and Skype?

The majestic Burj Al Arab although standing detached,
keeps a bridge open and connected, so is the OFW

Telecommunication is getting affordable too. Here in the UAE, I'm usually up at 3 a.m. (or 7a.m. Philippine time) on weekends talking with my mom, my dad or my siblings for at least an hour as I take advantage of  Etisalat’s super offpeak plan charging phone calls at AED 0.55 or around PhP 6.30 per minute.  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It used to be that degree holders if not a nurse or engineer, end up as domestic helpers. In this age however, the global job market has opened up for Filipinos. (I currently work as a Financial Analyst while my husband is a Software Programmer.) Even yet, Filipinos are now faring higher in the corporate ladder. More income means affording to live with the family in the host country, and even more.

I’d always gladly look back into my humble beginnings six years ago. In that partition (a small room inside a room) the size of our master’s bathroom now, I slept with three other Ate-s. It was so small, that our three pairs of feet inter-lap every night we hit the two beds set perpendicularly (a double deck and a folding bed passing underneath the double deck). In the other flat, Kuya G also experienced the same. In the kitchen, we cued to prepare our food. In the toilet, we held our toiletries and towels as we take our turns standing by the bathroom door. All of us came on visit visas and looked for work when we landed.

But things are different for everyone of us now. Kuya G, five years after bringing his family over, just uprooted them out of Dubai to Doha yesterday to take on as country head of the Swiss multinational company he works for.  Just recently, his family of six toured Europe
for some three weeks. Kuya G continues to inspire me and others. He always says "You can do it!".

I guess one trick to getting the most of being an OFW is to be among people in a better standing and be inspired by and learn from them. But there is quite greater fulfillment when we look back at those struggling behind us and help them get better.

Above slides you down 33 meters at 80 kph. 
The OFW with the family in his/ her heart, 
says "I can do it" to later "I did it!" to dares 
not everyone is willing to take.
 Other friends, while they may not inspire, do have their experiences/ struggles/ challenges to share – getting jailed for inability to pay loans and credit cards; getting jailed for drunk driving;  getting bankrupt in the personal business;  getting fined AED 50,000 for subleasing a rented villa; getting duped by illegal recruiters; getting an employment ban; surviving without work and hunting for one after being made redundant during the recession. More than anything, it’s not how they failed, but how they picked their selves up, earned wisdom from the experience, and share their lessons to others so they will avoid going through the same hardships.

These do drive the OFW down, but I've seen that the fastest way back on track is keep the family in focus.

My husband and I do have our own struggles and challenges, and we would start getting over it with a cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee and a Baskin Robbins ice cream =) And when coffee and ice cream cannot seem to solve it, a glance to our Gremlin is already enough to tell us there's more than deciding to give up. And most often, we emerge thanking the wisdom, knowledge and experience earned for conquering the challenge.

The OFW ride has twists and turns but 
when journey-ed as a family, it gives more fun 
and meaning to celebrate for

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There's something good in being an OFW that's why we opt to be. 

The line I heard six years ago applying to every OFW could be a cliche' but it will never become outdated -- "Just always keep in mind what you left the country for, and everything will be fine"

Most OFWs would say "I'm here for my family", which is an unconscious answer that the OFW contributes to a better Philippines when he/ she works for the best interest of his/ her family.

Mabuhay ang OFW!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Oh, I've got to go, my Gremlin is to say his bed time prayer:
“Dear Jesus, please bless and guide my Lolo Pogi, my Lola Cute, my Lola Mommy, my Lolo Daddy, my uncles, my aunties, my cousins, Mama, Papa and me Kalel so that we are always safe and healthy, I love you Jesus, goodnight. Amen.”
And I pray : Dear Jesus, please bless every overseas Filipino worker's family. Amen.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

P.S. - I thank PEBA for accepting me as Nominee # 28 in its blog awards with the theme "Strengthening the OFW Families: Stronger Homes for a Stronger Nation"

If you have liked my entry, I'd be happy if you please vote for it by clicking HERE or clicking the badge below that links to PEBA's site. Gremliness is # 28 under OFW Blog Finalist. 

Maraming salamat po =)

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  1. Hey, it's been a while! It's so cool to know they have Filipino schools in Dubai. Probably because there is a rise of Filipinos migrating and working in there.

    Maganda rin na abot na natin ang isa't isa through sa mga makabagong teknolohiya. I am so thankful na isinilang ako sa henerasyon ko. Well maybe if I was a year or two younger mas okay!

    With Filipinos sa iba't ibang sulok ng mundo, we're looking at globalization here. There will come a time na we're gonna rise and be better known. :)

  2. Hi Halfcrazy, =) can I please call you in another name? =)

    There are two Filipino schools here in Dubai alone, while I'm not really sure of the count in the other six Emirates.

    With so many Filipino kids here, the schools used to get full, pre-enrolment is done every January for classes that start September.

    The first OFWs long ago had introduced to the world the Filipinos as hardworking and passionate workers. Only this time, more and more of us rub elbows in the corporate scene with every race, white or dark, globally.

  3. YES :). I'm so glad you entered. Great post and good luck.

    Happy Halloween.

  4. I can relate to this. I pay about $550 US dollars per month for babysitting. It will increase when I take her to a preschool next year. We pay so much in rent which seem to be so crazy lalo na nung una palang ako dito pero ganon talaga. It's not easy to work abroad kasi the standard of living is high saka walang masyadong relatives or kung meron nagwowork din.

    im glad you met a lot of Filipinos there and your boy is big boy na. He's still cute.

  5. Well-written. It voices out the reality in the UAE. While keeping your son with you is very costly, I think that's the best thing to do. Mahirap kase ang magkakahiwalay.

  6. Haha, of course. That's just my pen name. You can call me Ayra.

    Wow, January ang enrollment tapos September ang start ng klase? Mukhang full talaga. What about the option of enrolling Pinoy kids to UAE schools? But hmm, well, it's better to stick to your kind. We Filipinos always stick together kahit saan.

    Onga, ang cool na we're getting to the top. Someday, a lot of Pinoys would be really owning corporations, handed to them by Arabs who trusted them whole-heartedly.

    I'm gonna be an OFW myself in a few months! In the States. It's a part of an OJT thing. I hope I can stay there for a year! :)

  7. About your comment in my blog, I think I'm fast becoming a regular sa mga ilang boutique. Haha! Whenever I spend money, the country gets some too, right. Haha!

    You're right, I guess it's not bad at all when you put it this way!

  8. hi there Happy Halloween! What you have written here is the true face of the Filipino OFW in the UAE. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful article.

  9. @Kayni - thanks, and you've got a great one too =)

    @RC's Mom (Mom and Daughter Style) - I used to hear this case from relatives who are in the US like you (problema who to take care of our kid/s while we work), but now, it actually is another definition of raising one's kid abroad. Comfort zone talaga pa rin ang sariling bansa natin.

    @ Witsandnuts - thank you. Yes, I can only voice out what we really experience here.

  10. @Ayra - now that's better for me to address you =)
    I've been ringing even non-Filipino schools earlier, they however turned out to be the more accommodating, and had given us the thought that Kalel can skip Kindergarten 1.

    There are various curriculum-s here, and the most flexible to the child is the best option, eg, where he is transfer school later, just in case.

    Financial capacity is also an option. Indian-managed schools are among the cheap ones. An arabic school, is definitely the last option. There are British/ American schools but they usually cost 4X what we pay now (approx AED 40k or PhP 420k a year). Oh well, we are still working on that, hehe, malay natin (wishful, hihi). I mean big companies usually gives around AED 30k annual allowance per child if the employee grade level meets the criteria.

    Here in Dubai, the generous salary payers are usually the multinational companies who opened operations here. So you actually see a mix of people.

    Oh wow, glad to know you'll soon be on OJT in the US. There's so much to see outside and learn from. May you enjoy the experience and happily share/ use it after. =)

  11. @ Yellow Bells - Happy halloween too =)
    Having read through other OFW blogs, there seems to be some distinct experiences for each place.

    Thank you for being able to relate, after all we are co-existing in this country currently =)

    I am now heading to PEBA site to vote for your entry and Kayni's entry =)

  12. oh hi there. i find ur story compelling. what a cute little man you have there in dubai. i have few friends who brought their family there, only ended up coming back a year after. God bless to u and ur family.
    btw. it says in ur profile u are an igorot, my SIL, too,she hails fr mt.province, she speaks kankanaey?
    we frequented baguio when there's no rain, my eldest attends a college univ there.

  13. @ g4strainer_exx007 - Thank you =)

    @ Imriz - thanks a lot =)

    Were your friends just been here recently? If it was, I'm guessing it's because recession had impact on them? It could be challenging. Early this year, my husband was out of work for six months, we were so grateful we were able to still stick on.

    Yes we are Igorots, and our son is 1/4 Mt Province; 1/4 Ifugao, 1/2 Benguet =)
    Some might ask why I have to emphasize? I'm sorry for taking this space to tell about it =) I just thought it for the sake of those who have been reading the erroneous history books, to show this is how Igorots live and look like...

    I hope your daughter is enjoying Baguio. I studied in SLU. Is she enrolled there?

    God bless you and your family too =)

  14. I am touched and honored to be mentioned in your blog, and feel blessed that I am able to inspire people, Pinoys, that they have more than it takes to be the best in an otherwise competitive multi-cultural corporate world.

    Yes, life takes you through interesting journeys, and for as long as your sights are clear, you do get there.

    Catch up with you guys @ Christmas? We'll be there for the week.

  15. @ Kuya G -- =) I never thought po you would come to read my blog post (owing it to PEBA's facebook pix that I tagged) before I even ask you, but of course, I've still to overcome my reluctance to let you read it =)

    Back then in Abdul Aziz and later, while the others frowned at me saying, naghahanap ako ng mas mataas, you were always there telling me I have to raise my self confidence.

    It's by seeing you achieve things that opened our eyes that we could indeed achieve more. And then amidst all those, we still see humility in you and your family.

    You were my first influence to realize that I have the option to look up to people who sees and moves to the brighter side, rather than people who just whine and doesn't believe that there's something better out there.

    (Haba ng litanya ko kuya, hehe, but I'm sincere)

    Definitely po, be catching with you next month. Meantime, we'll save for our tickets to Doha, Fly Dubai para mura =) We're not worried of hotel costs na, haha =)

  16. Great post. Thanks for sharing your story. Ver well written. Gustong gusto ko yung pagkakagamit ng photos sa post na 'to.

    Nakakarelate ako sa story mo kasi as an OFW na dala ang pamilya dito sa UAE, mahirap din talaga pero mas ok na yun kasi magkakasama. Lucky pa rin ang mga Pinoys sa Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi kasi may Philippine School. Dito sa Al Ain wala.

    Ang cute ng gremlin mo, no wonder na palagi kayong inspired magwork.

    Mahirap na masarap maging OFW but at the end of the day, naiisip ko na lang kahit mahirap basta kasama ang pamilya ok lang.

  17. @ Misalyn - maraming salamat =) Very flattered naman ako na you like the photo-s, I mean an appreciation from a pro. I was glad too I had them in time for this entry from our recent Wild Wadi trip.

    Hopefully kahit hindi Filipino school sila jan sa Dubai, you still have a good option.

    Thank you for saying my Gremlin's cute, hehe, deceiving ba dahil pinili ko yung magandang pix.

    Basta kasama ang pamilya - yes agree, after all, we work for them.

  18. nice entry goodluck po!

  19. Hi Bevs,

    This is very nice and truly inspiring. You should write more. :)


  20. hello, thanks for visiting my blog. it's a good decision to have your family with you. kahit naghihirap basta magkasama, you get to experience the same things and to share the same feelings...mabuhay!!

  21. helo bevs im so proud of you!..uray anya rigat basta kadwam familym...ayna it's worth all the effort ..keep up d gud work..hope to see you next year...

  22. Congratulations! Well done for grabbing 2nd top award!

  23. Congratulations for bagging the 2nd place! Go UAE!

  24. congrats for winning the 2010 PEBA!

  25. Congratulations for winning the second place. Good to see fellow OFW who made the choice of having their family with them. It maybe costly but the reward is more than anything in the world: to see your child grow right before your eyes, to see them laugh and cry, and to comfort them with your hugs and kisses.

  26. CONGRATULATIONS! for winning the 2010 PEBA.

    I really don’t know how I got there but I’d like to say a big thank you to all of you that voted – it wasn’t so much about the title or the trophy, but the amazing community here that took the time to vote for me.

  27. @ Reymos
    @ Yellow Bells
    @ Life Moto
    @ Noel
    @ Ghillcorner

    -- thank you so much all for the greetings. We are all winners for believing, supporting and working on and for the same goal. Congratulations too...

    May we all have a happy Christmas and blessed new year ahead =)

  28. Hi Bev, congratulations! I’m so impressed about your outstanding blog! But most of all, I’m so proud of you for your very strong determination and self confidence! It inspired me again to refer back to the saying “in the race towards excellence, there’s no finish line and no age limit”.

    I really like your blog! It reminds me of my own experience. From having the lowest salary, having the most unwanted boss, the bed space sleeping area, walking & bus commuting & the rough times of married life. But because of having an inspiration like your “cute khalel”, I crossed the bridge of fearing to be banned. With only 10 months work with my 1st employer, I was able to transfer to a better employer though not the best. And finally my inspiration is also now a grade 1 pupil in one Filipino school in Dubai. Today, the two of us are firmly holding hands, facing and crossing the hectic life in Dubai.

    Now, you inspired me again that there are more opportunities out there! It’s because Filipinos are globally competitive. Thanks for your inspirational and motivating blog! More power to you writing interest! God bless your family!

  29. Hi there! I found you have a good site to read. Hope we can back links or add followers. Thank's

  30. Buti ngayun pwede na kasama ang familiy. pero noon(1980s), iniwan kami ng mother namin para mag nurse sya sa saudi...ito daw ay pra sa magandang bukas....pero ngayun nasayang lahat ang na ipon nya(mahabang kwento) retire na sya ngayun...
    ...nakapag tapos naman ako ngayun pero hindi dahil sa pera nya...programmer ako dito sa pinas....
    any way, may apela ako sa inyong masisipag na OFW...

    Mga kababayan, pwede kayong mag invest at kumita sa real estate...para sa pagbalik nyo, makukuha nyo pa rin ang masaganang buhay kahit nandito kayo sa pinas. pwede nyo paupahan. kahit di kayo magaling sa negosyo, madali lang...

    check nyo lang ang link na ito(kahit saglit lang):

    pag-aralan nyo po!!!!

    Mabuhay ang OFW!!!!

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