Many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) apply to take their annual leaves in December. In the Philippines, this is the season of parties, family reunions and other Christmas festivities.
Foreigners who have observed our kababayan overseas know that in every gathering of Filipinos, feasting and singing are always included. So it will be in thousands of OFW homes this December.
When the overseas labor phenomenon began, the annual homecoming was a big event, not only for the OFW’s immediate family but for the entire clan and neighborhood. Our OFWs had to return with big boxes of pasalubong for everyone.
Even distant relatives would come to visit, expecting a token gift—a t-shirt, handkerchief, remaining dollars or anything from abroad. “Just for remembrance!” they would say.
Now over four decades since the Saudi labor market opened, a returning OFW is no longer such a novel event. But also, the financial crisis and political uncertainties abroad are sparking worries about job security.
Our previously generous kabayan may decide not to show up in the old neighborhood. Instead of announcing to the whole barangay that he or she will be home on vacation, our OFW may just quietly arrange to meet the family in a resort in another province or a rented place in Metro Manila. This way, our OFW is spared from spending too much on pasalubong and cash dole-outs.
I suspect the days of the generous OFW who feeds the whole barangay during homecomings are already gone. The huge dollar donations he or she gives for every feast and basketball liga in the community is also winding down.
Many OFWs, truth to tell, have to take out loans abroad to afford the types of homecomings many were used to before.
Our kabayan are smarter now. Instead of being boastful during home breaks, they lie low, shying away from many acquaintances and neighbors.
Time changes our OFWs as well. Maybe after all these years toiling overseas they are taking stock of how much they have really gained and saved for retirement. Today, many hide when they return to the Philippines for a vacation—“Iwas gastos, iwas kunsumisyon pa nga!”
Susan Andes, aka Susan K. is on board at Radyo Inquirer 990 dzIQ AM, Monday to Friday 12:30-2:00 p.m. with audio/video live streaming: www.dziq.am. PTV 4, every Friday, 8:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. & GMA News TV International. Hotlines: 5357209/8819423/0920-968-4700. E-mail: [email protected][email protected] BANTAY OCW Foundation Operations Center: 631 Shaw Blvd., Mandaluyong City