It is a popular notion in the Philippines that people who work abroad are having enjoyable lives away from home. This is the main reason why there is a predominant OFW culture in the country. You can ask students in schools today and most of them would tell you that they aspire to work abroad after college.
Can you blame them if they always see the beautiful photos on Facebook of their relatives or friends who are Overseas Filipino Workers? In the photos, they will always see them smiling, wearing fashionable clothes and in amazing places of other parts of the world. They would never know that those photos only give the wrong impression about the real lives of OFWs who are away from home. This is also brought about the stories they tell which leave out the bad parts so as to avoid making their families back home worry about them.
Let us unmask the lies to bring out the reality in the lives of OFWs in Canada.
Lie #5: OFWs in Canada live in comfortable and beautiful houses or condos. Their houses are fully furnished with high-tech appliances. They have centralized air conditioning systems and hot/cold tap water systems.
Truth: For new OFWs, being in a house or condo is the goal. They would start out renting a room or an apartment and work hard so you can finally afford a house or condo. Every OFW in Canada would experience living in a house that is not theirs. The difficulties they would face everyday because they can’t cook and eat, take a shower or a bath, on their own time and they are running late to work. As soon as they can afford a better place, they are changing their budget that would now be double or triple so they would then consider buying a house or condo but they will need to get a loan for. As for the furniture, appliances, air and water systems, most of those are requirements for a house in Canada.
Lie #4: OFWs always eat delicious and healthy food. In the photos they post, they are always seen eating Ribs, Salmon, Barbecue and Lechon Kawali. These food are considered as special occasion food in the Philippines because they are expensive but in Canada, it is easy to prepare those because they can buy them at affordable prices.
Truth: It is true that they eat these fancy and healthy food because those are more affordable in Canada than in the Philippines. However, it is not always fancy and healthy. Eating at a restaurant would require a special occasion or a bonus. Most of the time, the usual food they eat can be as normal as those back home. Eggs, cans of sardines and corned beef, and pancit canton will always be present in the cupboards. Eating fancy and healthy would require money and time which are not always available to OFWs. They would be busy working one or two jobs so they wouldn’t have time to prepare food. They would also be under a strict budget because they need to send money back home so they wouldn’t be able to afford Ribs and Salmons all the time.
Lie #3: OFWs have a lot of time on their hands. They are seen in photos always out and about – in malls, parks, beaches or out of town trips. Always with smiles on their faces, they are having fun all the time. Through the photos, it would seem that they are shopping and going on trips almost every week.
Truth: Similar to jobs back in the Philippines, a full-time job would be an 8-hour job. There are times that they would only have one day for a weekend because they need to do overtime work. when they get home, they would be tired so most of their days-off would be spent resting at home. Sometimes they don’t even get to rest because there are house chores to tend to. No one will do their laundry, house cleaning and cooking for the so they would have to make time for those as well. However, if they do get holidays, they try to make the most of them for leisure so they go to the mall, parks or out-of-town with friends. They deserve a little treat after working hard.
Lie #2: The OFW life is easy, fun and enjoyable. Most OFWs work 10, 20 or more years abroad without stopping. They are presumed to choose working abroad over staying in the Philippines because they have been used to it and they enjoy working there.
Truth: Each day an OFW spent away from their family is a day that they would trade for anything just to be back home. The main reason they work hard for a long period of time abroad is because they want to be able to go back home for good. That is their end goal. Everything a person does for a long period of time would seem easy but that doesn’t mean it is. The sacrifice and hardships they experience everyday are nothing if at the end of it all will be a better future for their family.
Lie #1 – The Ultimate Lie: OFWs have a lot of money because they earn dollars in Canada. It is sfae to assume that it is true because they would always have pasalubong for everyone when they go back home. Each homecoming is always celebrated with big parties and they would always open balikbayan boxes! Relatives back home don’t seem to have problems asking money from their OFW relatives because they would always give them whatever they ask for.
Truth: OFWs earn Canadian Dolllars because they are in Canada. If they earn in dollars, they also spend in dollars. It is not too different from how things work because whatever they earn would be budgeted and set aside to be sent back home. Whatever would be left will be for their own everyday spending. They might be able to save some money from their earnings but that savings would be for emergencies. If something urgent comes up and they don’t have money to send, they take loans because they know that they need to be able to provide for their family no matter what. As for those pasalubong, those are things that were bought one at a time if they can afford it just so they can give a little something to their families from abroad. If in any case that they really cannot provide something that a brother or a niece who is asking for something, the reason is simple – they really don’t have anything to give anymore at that time. They should understand that the OFWs feel more disappointment for not to being able to give than those relatives not being able to receive.
These are the truths behind all the lies. OFWs are genuine with their intentions to provide for their families back home. They sacrifice their time with their own families because they know they would rather provide for them and give them better futures than being with them all the time barely meeting their needs, barely surviving everyday living.
Next time you see those photos – OFWs all dressed up, smiling and visiting beautiful places abroad, think twice about assuming that they are completely happy and contented in Canada. Behind those smiles, all they are thinking about are their loved ones back home.