by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan
“Uuwi na ako sa aking pamilya. Kahit sayang ang perang kikitain ko dito sa Korea, mas mahalaga ang aking relasyon sa aking asawa at makita kong lumalaki ang aking anak.”
(I am finally going home to my family. A big amount of money I can earn in Korea may be put to waste but my relationship with my wife and seeing my child grow are more important to me.)
Tears were rolling down his face as these words were uttered by our very good friend who we sent off to the Philippines just recently. He has been working in South Korea as a factory worker for nine years.
His marriage is on the rocks and his three-year-old boy doesn’t get to see him regularly. Finally, he decided to go home. And we’re glad that he’ll be able to celebrate Christmas and welcome the new year with his family.
It is with sadness that we sent him off. My husband JM and I will miss him because his constant presence in our lives has been an encouragement. When he told us about his decision, our hearts rejoiced.
JM and I are children of parents who are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). JM’s father worked in Saudi when he was young. My mother went to the US when I was 17 and has been staying there since.
While my husband’s family is still intact, mine, on the other hand, is broken. I have seen and experienced the ill effects of having a mother who is physically away from her growing children. We can relate with other children who are growing up not seeing their mom or dad.
So, when we send off friends who are going home to their families in the Philippines, our hearts rejoice and our mouths praise God.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, there are more than 1.8 million OFW in 2021. Millions of Filipino families have fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles who are overseas, sacrificing and working to serve other nations to be able to give better lives to their loved ones at home.
Not only do they provide for their families, but they also help the country’s economy grow. They are heroes, with no capes and no recognition.
I used to question my mother’s motivation when she left us for the States. Why can’t she just stay and be with us? My brothers were just in high school then. They needed her. But when my elder sister and I entered the university and were confronted with tuition fees and school expenses, I got to realize, understand and eventually become grateful for my mother’s hard work abroad.
We wouldn’t have made it through college without her. She has been our lifeline. She took care of other parents’ children just so her own can flourish and not just survive. Now that we get to experience what it means to be an Overseas Filipino Worker, we are humbled and grateful for our parents who sacrificed their lives for us.
My family is blessed because we get to be together. My husband and I get to celebrate our anniversaries together, we get to witness our children’s milestones and enjoy their birthdays together. But our situation is more of an exemption rather than the norm.
Among the Filipino workers here in South Korea, most have left their families at home. And we hear their stories, we see their tears, and we feel their loneliness.
It has always been our prayer for God to flourish and prosper our nation so families won’t need to be separated. We pray for strength and grace to be upon our heroes as they endure being alone and away from the people they love the most.
I pray that their children will grow with grateful hearts for the sacrifice their parents are making to give them the best of life.
I pray that every OFW will realize and experience the provision of God upon their families, and feel the love that He has shown by sending His beloved Son.
This Christmas, millions of Filipino children will be celebrating the holidays away from their precious parents (and vice versa).
I am just so happy that after so many years, my friend will be giving his family the best gift that no amount of money can buy–his presence. He will finally be home.
May your homes be filled with love, joy and peace this holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!
by Seneca Moraleda-Puguan