OFW dads bear emotional scars, too


ABRAHAM Tejada (inset) and his family

Abraham Tejada was a graphic artist at Solar Films when he decided to leave the country to work in Saudi Arabia in 1994.

“With the money I was earning, I realized I could never send my four children to college,” he recalls. At that time, his eldest child, Jennifer was 11 and the youngest, Aveejay, was 2.

After 20 years working as a graphic designer in Saudi Arabia, Abraham, now 60, looks forward to coming home for good next year.

He will come home to a home built by his years of overseas work. Yet, his best accomplishment, he says, is the success of his children—Jennifer, 29, a nurse in Singapore and already married; Abraham Jr., 27, an Information Technology graduate; Kristine, 24, is already in her 4th year Medicine proper while Aveejay, 21, will finish a course in Dentistry next year.

“I’ve been celebrating Father’s Day and other special days away from home for 19 years and 9 months,” says Abraham.

Like millions of other oversease Filipino worker-fathers, Abraham has braved homesickness and other emotional difficulties in strange and distant lands to secure a better future for his family. Fathers are expected to do this. But they also bear their own emotional difficulties, loneliness and fears.

Most painful moment

“Explaining the situation to kids can be tough, but they have to understand the necessity of my leaving home to secure their future,” Tejada adds.

The first few months were very difficult, he says. After a year or two, he managed to fight off loneliness by keeping busy. Meeting fellow Filipinos can also be helpful to ease homesickness.

“I was very lonely during my first three months, he says, adding that it took about three years to actually shake off the  pangs of homesickness. He pursued painting on the side and got involved in sports, too.

He says he still feels the homesick aches, usually for a week after he returns from his annual vacations.

ARIEL Alacaba and his family

But the most painful experience of being away that still brings  tears to his eyes was when his second son, Abraham Jr., wrote him about how his brother, Aveejay, only 2 years old then, had sat under the sampaloc tree, crying and waiting for him to come home.

“That letter tore my heart. The message was embedded in my mind and left an indelible scar that up to this day, I feel tears welling in my eyes whenever it comes to my mind.”

Thanks to Skype and FB

Up to the late ’90s, communication was still difficult. Sending and answering letters could take a month.

Now, technology makes us closer to home, shares Abraham, thus, easing the homesickness.

Eventually, he was able to bring Aveejay and some of the other children along with his wife to Saudi Arabia to spend summer vacations. But he knows that these and his own annual homecomings could not really compensate for time lost while the children were growing up.


Unsung hero: mom

Facebook, eChat and Skype videocalls did allow him to monitor his children’s activities while they were growing up.

Yet, he also knows that he owes much to his wife, Ma. Salome, for the acceptance and understanding he has gotten from his children.

“I always tell the kids to be honest with me. But most of the time, they tell their problems to their mom,” he says.

It was knowing that his wife was home taking care of the kids that gave Abraham the emotional security to go on.

Ariel’s inspiration

Another overseas dad is Ariel Alacaba, a Math teacher in Nassau, Bahamas.  He left the Philippines 10 years ago when his kids were very young—Bryle Jem was 12 years old and Pzyra was 5.

“Working away from home “could give them a quality life they would never experience if I stayed,” he explains.

Ariel fought off homesickness, too. “My principle was: Homesickness should not be my cup of tea or else I am not working away from home. It’s hard to work abroad. There are times, when I am sick but I still need to get up, go to work, do all the house chores, find a part-time job to earn extra money for the family…

“Just focus on the future of your children, always inspire yourself with whatever you have, whatever dreams for your family back home. Trust God that everything will be alright with His blessings and guidance,” Ariel says.

Trust God, and your wife

“I have to endure eight more years. “By that time, with the grace of God,” adds Ariel, “my daughter would have already graduated from college.”

Asked if he hoped to bring his kids to the Bahamas, he says he does not consider it because it would be more expensive, and he still plans to retire in the Philippines.

“We see to it that we communicate through new technologies every day especially my daughter, she is so sweet and caring,” Ariel says.

Like Abraham, he admits constant communication is not enough to keep up with the kids. It comes from “trusting God and my wife, Marissa,” who he believes is doing a great job raising their two teenage kids.

His fervent hope is that his relationship with them does not change because of the distance.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • batangpaslit

    I read you, Abe.
    Well done! You are a successful father, albeit you were physically away from your family for you sacrificed to give your children education.


    First nag OFW ang Tatay, pina aral ang anak at ng lumaki na ay nag OFW din, kasama na ng Tatay. Nagpa aral din ng anak at ng lumaki na ay nag OFW rin. Ngayon ay tatlo na silang magka sama sa abroad. Ang original na Tatay na Lolo na, ang anak at ang apo. What a Fakdaf life, what a Fakdaf country is PH. Ang mga tsekwa at mestisong politikos ang nagpa pasarap sa Pilipinas, nagpapa sasa sa remitance ng OFW’s. Hopeless nation ruled by monkeys.

    • Paliwaweng

      what suggestive solutions you can contribute then Arikutik? Criticism/s of the present order is not bad nor prohibited, but pure criticisms are not helpful, rather does more harm than good.

      The scenario that you imagined of an OFW child together with his father or lolo altogether of course is not a desirable one.

      But it would be better to have them working overseas than being jobless in the Philippines and become an additional burden for the government.

      Remember China did the same pattern.

      She sent her people overseas, her doctors, scientists and other professionals, then return back to their country when the time if rife, thereby contributing their learned knowledge and expertise learned abroad to what is China today.

      Pragmatism is indeed better than morbid thoughts.

      • ARIKUTIK

        What I am talking about IS > Where is the dollar remittance sent in by OFW’s since 40 years ago. If it was gold then PH is drowned under the sea by now through its sheer weight.
        Filipinos are robbed, PH wealth is siphoned off to far away land.

      • klepto

        The problem here is that the people whom you pay to run and manage the country using your tax money is not doing the job they are paid to do. Whereas, OFWs are not only risking their lives but also sacrificing their family to do their jobs.

        The other thing I want to ask: What is the govt doing with the money paid by OFWs to POEA/OWWA/PAGIBIG/PHILHEALTH/OEC?

        Is it right to demand sex from female OFWs before they are to be repatriated home?

  • Eddie AAA Calderon

    I like this story even though the long distance sparation has brought emotional scars and loneliness to the OFWs. But the success stories are not only limited to Dads but also for Moms and other unmarried OFWs who have to labour very hard to achieve success and provide sustenance to their love ones back home.

    I know that we have several success stories and OFWs have to withstand the agony of being away and also being abused in order that they could provide for their families and in so doing they also contribute to the economic uplift of our country.

  • Diepor

    And the short time you stay at home is riuned by irritating relatives always asking to borrow money. Why they even call it borrow when they have no intention of giving it back. Get up in the morning and make your own money, dont sit there like baby birds with open mouths waiting to be fed.

  • Mux

    Congratulations to these dads! Yes, they did a huge sacrifice to help their families. I hope your children appreciate it and pay it forward when it comes to raise their own children.

  • kentjohn

    hirap talaga tapos ung family s pilipnas hndi mg savings ang mga ofw amngb kawawa pg mtanda n ok lng nkapagtaps ang mga anak,myroon din mga anak n wlang kwenta..kwwawa ang ofw

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks




latest videos