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Balikbayan

(These articles were first published in print in issue 11-12 of the Philippine Collegian on 08 September 2011.)

Losses and gains

by John Toledo

For seven years now, Josh Arevalo*, 23, has lived without parents or a guardian in a two-bedroom apartment in Brgy. Krus na Ligas inQuezon City.

Dibuho ni Marianne Rios

Josh’s parents, who left thePhilippinesin 2005, are just two of some 1.4 million documented OFWs who leave the country every year, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency. His father works as supervisor inKuwait’s Ministry of Defense while his mother works as a human resource manager in a housing company.

“Mas maganda ang buhay [saKuwait], lalo na’t gusto nilang kumita ng malaki,” Josh narrates. With their earnings from their jobs abroad, his parents have been able to renovate their house inSubic, and procure appliances and gadgets such as air conditioners, laptops and cell phones.

Every two weeks, Josh receives an allowance of P20,000 from his parents. He uses the money to pay rent, electric and water bills, and school needs such as a broadband connection. Living alone, he often eats out and spends time with his friends from Chemical Engineering (ChE). He has also busied himself with plenty of activities, such as badminton and ballroom dancing.

Yet this freedom and financial security comes at a price. “Nawalan ako ng guidance. Nawala [din] disiplina ko sa sarili,” he admits. In UP, he failed several ChE subjects repeatedly, until he was eventually removed from the college. He stopped studying for two years. He is now a non-major student, and still isn’t sure what course he plans to take, or whether he’ll even graduate.

The absence of parental figures can severely impact a child’s academic performance, capacity for emotional attachments, and self-esteem, according to 2008 OFW study by Melanie Reyes, professor at the Miriam College Women and Gender Institute.

Josh himself concedes that the steady monetary support which allows him material comfort is simply not a replacement for a stable family life. “Nagagalit ako sa fact na wala [’yung parents ko] nung kelangan ko sila. ‘Yung pag birthday, ako lang magisa…. [pera] lang ang kaya nilang ibigay,” he says. To compensate, he frequently communicates with his parents through text messages or social networking sites like Facebook.

“Mas gusto ko sanang andito sila… [pero] nasanay na din ako,” he says. Migration has been a constant fact of life in his family. Faced with the demands of raising and educating four children, his parents were obliged to work abroad for higher wages. All of his three sisters are now service workers in Bahrain.

Josh is the only child still studying; his parents have told him that they’re just waiting for him to graduate before settling down for retirement in thePhilippines. “Narerealize ko na [nagtatrabaho lang] sila para sakin,” he says.

Josh’s case — the acceptance of a broken family for financial stability as a reasonable trade-off — encapsulates the social cost for the nation of the exodus of millions of Filipino workers abroad. “Binabago na ng migration ang structure ng pamilya,” said Garry Martinez,

Dibuho ni Marianne Rios

 Migrante International Chair.Martinezhimself was once an OFW, and he notes that after seven years of separation, he has found it difficult as a single father to reach out to his 16-year old daughter. 

The sudden and prolonged separations caused by accepting overseas jobs often sever the bonds between the parent and child, notes UP clinical psychology instructor Christopher Carandang. He adds that in some cases, the damage is irreparable, and families are never the same.

“The [OFW] family can be likened to a hanging mobile. Take out one piece and it is no longer the same. It has to find a new equilibrium,” says family therapy scholar Dr. Ma.Lourdes Carandang.

In the meantime, Josh continues to live with his parents’ absence. His solitude is broken only when he flies toKuwaitto join his family this Christmas season. Come January, he will once again return to thePhilippines, armed with all the comforts money can buy — but alone.

 *not his real name

Mga tala ng pakikipagsapalaran

ni Kevin Mark R. Gomez

Sa ating kaisipan, kakambal na ng pagiging isang Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) ang pakikipagsapalaran. Bawat paghakbang patungong ibayong dagat, sumusugal ang mga OFW sa kapalarang walang katiyakan — at mas masaklap, wala ring atrasan.

Pinatotohanan ito ng kwento ni Feb*, 27, na tubong Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Sinasalamin ng kanyang kaso ang karaniwang karanasan ng mga OFW—biktima ng illegal recruitment, human trafficking, pisikal at sekswal na pang-aabuso, at kahirapan.

Taong 2010 nang sabay silang naakit ng kanyang kapatid na magtrabaho sa Jordan bilang janitress sa mall. Kumpara sa mga dating naging trabaho ni Feb tulad ng gawaing secretarial sa pamahalaan, kung saan kumikita siya ng P6,000-P7,000 kada buwan at madalas pang naantala, mas malaki ang $400 (mahigit P16,000) kada buwang sahod sa Jordan.

Gaya ng nakararami, umasa si Feb na pangingibang bansa ang mag-aahon ng kanyang pamilya mula sa kahirapan. Panganay siya sa apat na magkakapatid, samantalang isang OFW sa United Arab Emirates ang kanyang ama. Hindi sapat ang kita ng amang operator ng traktor upang tustusan ang mga pangangailangan ng kanilang pamilya, kabilang ang pagpapagamot sa inang may sakit at pag-aaral ng mga pamangkin.

Subalit malayo sa inaasahan ang sinapit ni Feb at ng kanyang kapatid. Sa unang pagdating pa lang sa kanilang agency sa Jordan noong Hulyo 2010, sila’y pinapila kasama ang ibang mga rekrut upang pagpilian ng mga banyagang amo. “Para lang kaming pagkaing binibili sa tindahan,” ani Feb.

Nang nakuha siya, nalaman niya kinalaunang hindi janitress kundi housemaid ang trabaho niya, sa sahod na $200 (mahigit P8,000) kada buwan. Kalahati lang ito ng ipinangako, at halos katulad na rin ng natatanggap niya sa Pilipinas.

Sa loob ng tatlong buwan, samu’t saring anyo ng pang-aabuso at hindi-makataong pagtrato tulad ng panglalason, pambabastos at tangkang panghahalay ang naranasan niya sa malupit na amo.

Dibuho ni Marianne Rios

Nitong Abril 2011, tinatayang nasa 12 milyon ang mga OFW tulad ni Feb, ayon sa Migrante International, isang grupong nagsusulong ng karapatan ng mga OFW. Maraming kaso tulad kay Feb kung saan lumalabag ang mga employer sa pinagkasunduang sahod at binabawasan ito hanggang halos wala nang maipadala ang OFW sa pamilya. May mga pagkakataon ring umaabot ng ilang buwan o taon ang pagkakaantala ng sahod.

Subalit walang puwang ang mga ganitong naratibo sa pagtingin ng pamahalaan sa mga OFW. Pawang mga maasahang taga-sagip ng sumasadsad na ekonomiya ang mga “bagong bayani.” Maraming naaakit na maging OFW bunsod ng malaking kakulangan ng trabaho at mababang pasahod sa Pilipinas —parehong usaping hindi maayos na natutugunan ng pamahalaan.

Kapalit ng mga remittance na ipinadadala sa kani-kanilang pamilya sa Pilipinas, araw-araw humaharap at nagtitiis ang mga OFW sa mararahas na kundisyon sa paggawa. Kung tutuusin, karaniwang mas masahol ang kalagayan nila sa ibang bansa kung saan tahasan silang inaalipin.

Nang nagkaroon ng pagkakataon si Feb, agad niyang tinakasan ang amo at humingi ng tulong sa mga opisyal ng pamahalaan doon. Sa isang linggong naghintay si Feb, pansamantala siyang nakituloy sa isang kaibigang may among mabuti ang pagturing sa mga Pilipino. Nakuha si Feb ng pamahalaan matapos niyang iurong ang mga isinampang kaso laban sa amo at mahabang negosasyon. Isa siya sa mga pinauwing OFW ng gobyerno noong Oktubre 2010. Dalawang buwan makalipas, sumunod umuwi ang kanyang kapatid bitbit ang halos kaparehong karanasan.

Bagaman halos isang taon na mula nang ligtas makauwi si  Feb, sariwa pa sa kanyang alaala ang masahol na karanasan sa poder ng banyagang amo at kung paano niya namalas ang malaking kakulangan ng pamahalaan. Higit pa, bumalik si Feb sa Pilipinas na walang kahit anong ipon o naipundar.

Sa huli, larawan si Feb ng mga OFW na walang napala sa pangingibang bansa kundi pang-aabuso at pinsalang hindi kailanman man matutumbasan ng anumang perang kinita. At katulad ni Feb, kailangan ring maunawaan ng mga OFW at ibang naaapi na mga tunay na kalagayan—at hindi kapalaran—ang nagdala sa kanila sa sitwasyong kinabibilangan.

*Hindi tunay na pangalan

Daily Sacrifice

by Axl Ross Tumanut

Every day, 4,500 Filipinos leave the country to work abroad.

Edmar Aquino was one of them, a Filipino call center agent who worked in Thailand. On his trip back home in October 2009, he took a detour and went to Iran to pick up a package for his friend. This friend gave him strict instructions “not to look” into its contents. The bag contained five kilograms of heroin—enough to convict a foreigner in Iran with a life sentence.

Edmar was caught with the bag by Thai authorities on October 2009. He was imprisoned, and provided with an Iranian lawyer because the Philippine embassy could not give him legal assistance. For doing one friend a favor, Edmar received a 15-year sentence.

Dibuho ni Marianne RIos

Edmar’s family sought help from Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) but was disappointed. Malacañang has not replied to their letter , while the DFA refuses to appeal to the Iraninan government to reopen Edmar’s case. The DFA even informed the family that he must first serve three to five years in prison before the sentence can be appealed, says Edmar’s aunt Lorna Movida. “Puro paasa na lang, laging sinasabing mag-antay,” adds Lorna.

The recent case of three drug mules—Sally Ordinario Villanueva, Ramon Credo and Elizabeth Batain— further corrodes confidence in the government’s OFW-related policies. To save the three, the government’s only measure was to send Vice President Jejomar Binay to China to negotiate for the lives of the three OFWs—a response that proved inadequate as they were all executed last March 30.

The Philippine government’s track record certainly poses doubts on its efforts in saving OFWs from imprisonment or the death row. In 1995, the death of an OFW in Singapore sparked public outrage. Three months after the death of Flor Contemplacion, former President Fidel Ramos signed the Migrant Workers Act, which aimed to penalize illegal recruitment, provide free legal assistance to OFWs, repatriate workers and halt deployment into countries that do not recognize migrants’ rights.

With this law, many thought Flor would be the last Filipino executed abroad — a belief which was later proven wrong.  There are even occasions when the remains of OFWs are delivered to the wrong families, indicating government neglect that inconveniences even the dead OFWs.

The DFA estimates that there are at least 7,000 jailed OFWs worldwide. According to reports from Migrante, an alliance consisting of OFWs and their families, 122 Filipinos are currently on death row.

The Philippine governmentis unwilling to aggravate foreign governments and tarnish its diplomatic relations by pushing for the rights of OFWs in their host countries. The government fears that irritated countries could send OFWs home and the government is not ready to receive them, Martinez says. Moreover, this could lead to losses in OFW remittances, which amounted to $18.76 billion last year.

Clearly, the government cannot protect the people who keep the economy afloat. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) —meant as a welfare institution for OFWs and a source of mutual funds — only recognizes and gives benefits to workers with active contracts. Many of the OFWs, however, are without contracts and undocumented. Abroad, these people remain unprotected and deprived of just working benefits.

Every day, 4,500 Filipinos leave the country to seek greener pastures. Some of these workers are abused by their foreign employers, imprisoned for crimes they did not commit, and some return as cold corpses to their families.  Every day then, the government fails in its duty to protect the welfare of its migrant workers.

Kalakip na kabayaran

ni Jeremy Pancho

Sa unang tingin kay Dave, iisiping umaasenso siya sa buhay. Apple ang tatak ng gamit niyang laptop sa pagkumpleto ng mga dokumentong kailangan niya sa trabaho.

Kabisado na niya ang kaniyang isusulat sa application papers dahil, kung sakali, ito na ang ikatlong beses ni Dave na pumunta sa Taiwan bilang isang Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). Una siyang nagtrabaho sa Taiwan noong Mayo 2005.

Bunsod ng kawalan ng maayos na trabaho sa Davao, nakita niyang solusyon ang pangingibang bansa upang makatulong sa pagpapagamot ng amang may cancer sa baga. OFW din sa Taiwan ang dalawa sa kanyang 13 kapatid. Machine operators sila sa Taiwan na tumulong kay Dave upang bahagyang mapadali ang pagtanggap sa kanya sa trabaho. Gayunpaman, malalaki pa rin ang binayaran ni Dave bago makaalis ng bansa.

Dibuho ni Marianne Rios

Umabot ng mahigit P15,000 ang ginastos ni Dave sa paglalakad ng papeles, kabilang na ang ‘mandatory membership fee’ ng Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) na P1,300, mga processing fees ng Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), at mandatory insurance. “Kinailangan ko pang mangutang para lang matustusan ang mga gastusin,” aniya.

“Sa pamamagitan ng mga koleksyon at samu’t saring mga bayarin, ginagawang gatasan at negosyo ng mga ahensya ng gobyerno ang mga OFW, habang sistematikong pinipribatisa at ginagawang komersyalisado ang serbisyo at proteksyon para sa mga OFW,” ayon sa Migrante International, pandaigdigang organisasyon ng mga OFW.

Katulad ng kanyang mga kapatid, nagtrabaho si Dave bilang machine operator kung saan umaabot sa New Taiwan Dollars (NT$) 17,000 (P25,000) kada buwan ang kanyang sahod. May dagdag na NT$ 109 (P160) ang unang dalawang oras na overtime at NT$ 135 (P200) para sa susunod pang dalawang oras kaya naman madalas siyang nag- oovertime para sa dagdag kita.

Apat na beses na mas mataas ang arawang sahod sa Taiwan ni Dave na higit P1,000 (792 NT$) kaysa sa tinatayang minimum wage sa Davao na P286. Subalit kaakibat ng mas mataas na sahod ang hirap ng buhay sa Taiwan.

Sa kumpanyang pinapasukan ni Dave, isang araw lamang sa isang linggo ang day-off. Libre man ang tirahan ng mga manggagawa, hindi naman ito kumportable. Pinagkakasya ang anim katao sa maliit na kwarto na iisa lang ang electric fan at walang saksakan ng kuryente. Naiistorbo ang mga kasamang natutulog tuwing may lalabas ng kwarto, dagdag ni Dave.

Sa kabila ng ganitong kalagayan, bumalik si Dave sa Taiwan noong Hulyo 2008. Muli siyang nagtrabaho bilang machine operator sa parehong kumpanya, kung saan minsan na siyang nakaranas ng diskriminasyon.

Inulit ni Dave ang mahal at mahabang proseso ng aplikasyon. Maliban sa mga bayaring sinisingil ng gobyerno, marami pang pinagkakagastusan ang mga OFW  tulad niya—broker’s fee, health insurance, labor insurance, tax at placement fee.

Tumutukoy ang placement fee sa kaukulang kabayaran para sa recruitment agency o employer na namamahala sa paglalakad ng ‘referrals, contract services, promising or advertising for employment’ ng isang OFW, ayon sa Labor Code ng Pilipinas. Bago pa man umalis ng bansa si Dave, may utang na siyang P120,000 sa kanyang employer na ibabawas mula sa kanyang sasahurin sa loob ng dalawang taon.

“Hindi nagtatapos sa Pilipinas ang mga bayarin,” aniya. Sa taya ni Dave, tanging P20,000 lang ang masasabing niyang “tunay” na sahod bunsod ng maraming mga  bayarin at kaltas sa Pilipinas man o sa ibang bansa.

“Magandang buhay” ang pangako ng pamahalaan sa pagsusulong ng labor export policy. Subalit kalakip pa rin ng pangakong ito ang malaking kabayaran. Mahigit- kumulang P32.8B ang nakokolekta sa 1.6M OFW bawat taon subalit nananatiling pahirapan at kulang na kulang ang serbisyo para sa kanila, dagdag pa ng Migrante.

Malaking pera ang inuubos ng mga OFW upang makakuha ng oportunidad sa ibang bansa. Bagaman tinuturing na ‘big time’ ang mga tulad Dave, hindi pa rin niya magawang makabili ng sariling mga gadget: hiniram lamang daw niya ang Apple laptop na kanyang gamit.

Short URL: http://www.philippinecollegian.org/?p=2368

Posted by on Sep 8 2011. Filed under Featured Story, Lathalain / Kultura. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Balikbayan”

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