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Open Letter from an OFW

OFWs or Overseas Filipino Workers are our modern day heroes. Sacrificing the comforts of home for a better life for their family, being an OFW is a tough yet rewarding job. Motivated only by the thoughts of our loved ones, we work late hours, multiple jobs, and budget our meals just so we could send enough money and fill our balikbayan boxes to send home. Even seasoned OFWs know the struggle overseas. Relationships crumble, money runs out, yet still we persevere overseas.

Being a first-time OFW myself, the struggle is real. It wasn’t until I stepped inside the airport where the anxiety and stress started to kick in. I wanted to get out of my hometown, be independent, and further my career; it was everything I ever wanted. But now – after being abroad for more than a year, I’m having doubts about myself and my reasons why I wanted to go in the first place.

Why am I really here? What am I doing?

Sometimes you think that giving up is a much easier option than waking up in the morning knowing you won’t be seeing your family or your dogs (I have two back at home) nearby. You are so close to that breaking point that you just want to book your ticket home, pack your bags and leave for good. Yet in your darkest thoughts, you find motivation to keep on going. Why? Because your family needs you, your dreams are at an arm’s reach and all you need to do is to jump up to grab it.

Oh how I miss the food

Among the many things that I miss about home is the food. I’m a big fan of street food, that means isaw, kwek-kwek, balut, and fishball are part of my diet (don’t judge, street food is life). Whenever I see pictures of my friends eating street food on Facebook, my mouth suddenly waters like a dog on rabies. Same goes for other Filipino foods such as adobo, sinigang, law-uy, lechon, pancit, log-log, hinalang, bulalo, even C1 sa Jollibee and McSaver Chicken Fillet sa Mcdo. For us Filipinos, no matter which fancy restaurant you go to abroad, you would still love to come home to some hot tinola made with love.

It’s a good thing my mom taught me all the basics and my sister was an HRM student who often teaches me some things here and there about cooking. For others who are not so lucky, I would recommend that you learn how to make your favorite Filipino dishes. There are countless recipes available on the Internet, uncle Google is there to help.

Pagbalik ko jan, yan kakainin ko araw-araw.

Every. Single. Time. This is the thought that comes to my mind whenever I see Filipino food I can’t recreate.

The smell of mornings in my old room

A year ago, I would never thought I would leave my familiar bedroom for an independent life abroad. Growing up in a middle class family, we didn’t have airconditioning, heck we didn’t even have privacy. Sharing space with two of my siblings was commonplace, we would even share the bathroom and take a shower together; something I would never do in my apartment today.

Mornings were always noisy. The rooster cockles, the smell of garlic and smoke from the kitchen, my mom yelling at my sisters for being late, and my two dogs licking my face until I wake up. Instead of having a warm shower that I’ve been enjoying for the past year, I take an icy cold one which I always dread yet it kept me awake for the whole day. I worked full-time at a radio station, go to school in the afternoon until 10 o’clock in the evening and during free time, I do freelance work.

It was tough but I do miss the old routine. Sometimes, I think about leaving my career for a more comfortable situation at home. Being able to give belly rubs to my dogs, seeing my little sister grow up, and pursuing my passions for radio has always been so tempting. Would I trade my old room for my own private, airconditioned space abroad? Maybe, but for something even better than a medium-room in a condo. Waking up to my own house, in a property under my name; that for sure I will.

Long-distance relationships need a lot of work… a lot

I’ve been in a relationship for five strong years; a year of which we celebrated while I was away. Transcending from an intimate relationship to long-distance was tough. A year before, I would see him almost everyday, scavenge surplus stores for small trinkets and toys, play music together (we own a small home studio), and watch K-dramas and shows since it was his favorite thing (weird, I know). It was everything I asked for, considering the fact that he was my first boyfriend.

The first few months was bearable but after a year of being away, I was having a hard time coping and so was he. Being accustomed to being always by his side, I would miss the days he would hold my hand, put his arm on my shoulder for a hug, and when he playfully pinches my belly fats just because. All of this, taken away for the promise of a better future. I always condition my mind to think this is for our relationship, if ever we decide to take it to the next level.

Like in a normal relationship, we do encounter bumps along the way. We would have arguments about the smallest things and have LQs (love quarrels, I know it’s an old term but you get the gist). I cry, we apologize to each other and move on. It’s a simple solution to a simple problem yet every time it happens, I feel anxious about the strain that it puts on our relationship. It’s like an invisible crack that just piles up until the glass breaks. Little may it be, these doubts take a toll on our relationship. It’s a good thing he remains supportive of my decision to pursue my career overseas and I will always be thankful for it.

Seeing each other after being apart for months, even years makes all the work worth it. You get to cherish every last second you have with that person and make new memories that you will cherish until it’s time to be apart once more. It’s so funny that whenever I leave for the airport, I always instruct him to never say his goodbyes at the airport because it makes it harder for me to leave.

Is it all worth it?

An OFW life is a lonely life but only if you make it that way. There will be times where you will question your intentions about going abroad but in the end it will all be worth it. As for me, building a better future for my family and myself is a top priority. Working abroad was everything I ever wanted and now I’m here, I just need to push myself to become a better person that I was a year before.
This letter was written by MJ Mendoza from iPrice Group.

Submitted by benjamin.sim@ipricegroup.com

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