Family, Fortune, Future: A Young Mom’s OFW Story

One of the many things the Philippines is famous for is our Overseas Filipino Workers or OFW. Proving that there is no doubt that wherever country you go, there is a Filipino. According to the International Labor Organization, roughly 10 million Filipinos live abroad to work, and a million more migrate yearly.

This desire for a greener pasture is the prime motivation for why Filipinos seek employment in a foreign country. But it is not a walk in a park to achieve this goal. There are dangers and obstacles you need to overcome. 

Some Filipinos see working abroad as a dream come true. There are countless career opportunities and various ways to have deep pockets. Contrary to what we have here, jobs are bountiful but too unreachable because applicants must have honed skill set for an entry-level position. Moreover, compensation does not align with the gravity of work.

OFW: Modern-day Heroes

Image from Rappler
Image from Rappler

Having the moniker “modern-day heroes,” these Filipinos not only choose to go great lengths to work. But also, sacrifice to sustain their family’s expenses and uplift their life status. Futhermore, they impact the Philippine economy due to remittances they send back home.

Through the years, there has been a trend in the age of people migrating from the Philippines to another country. As stated in a 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) survey, 52.9% of Filipinos ages 15-35 consider pursuing OFW careers.

Vealyn Fornolles’ story is one of many familiar stories of our overseas Filipino workers. Vealyn came from a low-income family of eight in Davao City; she is the fourth of her parents’ six children. At 20 years old, she got pregnant with her first child, which resulted in her halting her studies. It was distressing for her as she didn’t know anything about being a mother. Her dreams of getting a degree and starting up a business went up in smoke instantly. 

A Young Mom’s Testimony

Vealyn Fornolloes/Facebook

A few months after giving birth, she wanted to start earning to feed her baby. She knew that her possibilities of landing a job were thinner than air. Left with no other choice; she pursue her last option—becoming an OFW, even if it meant leaving her kid and family behind.

Her application to be an OFW was a rough and rocky journey. For her, the most challenging part is not the work itself but the mind-numbing, tedious process of acquiring documents from several government agencies. 

This venture for her was like boiling the ocean; still, her chances were shot in the dark. She spent hours going back and forth between agencies. Every night, she prayed to receive an opportunity to work abroad. It required a lot of patience, but she had no time to complain.

In 2019, only 23, she worked as a waitress in a Turkish restaurant in Qatar with a six-month contract. She said it felt surreal to be in an entirely unfamiliar place from where she came from. She got to meet new faces with diverse cultures and personalities but what mattered to her is she got to save a lot of money for her daughter’s needs. 

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Due to the language barrier, she finds it hard to build friendships with her coworkers especially they were all men. Of course, she had experiences with rude customers too. She got shouted out, laughed at, and received discriminatory remarks. Still, she reminds herself to bow down, keep quiet, and take it with a grain of salt. She does this to avoid any conflict; afraid of making mistakes that might put her in extreme danger. 

What’s in for the Future

Illustration by Jasrelle Serrano
Illustration by Jasrelle Serrano

Now at 27, four years after her first OFW experience, Vealyn is trying her luck again on securing a job abroad. In the meantime, she decided to move to Manila alone and work as a call center agent, earning minimum wage. She admits that it still hurts her to be away from her child. However, because life here has been in a tight corner recently, she is still determined to go and search for bigger opportunities abroad.

As Vealyn said, it takes a lot of work to make a living in the Philippines, specifically when you are young and inexperienced. As someone who had to go abroad to provide for her family at an early age, Vealyn empathizes with the younger generation walking out of the country to help their families. She can’t blame them, remarkably, in this economy. People might misunderstand that working abroad means serving another nation, but it’s okay to be selfish. It would be best if you prioritize what’s important for you. 

She commends the bravery of the youth to work abroad even if it puts their life at stake, especially if they are a domestic helper. Not everyone has the same guts to leave home, and it’s going to hurt to see your family cry when you leave, but if you have the right reasons to go, don’t feel guilty about it. It’s okay. 

Vealyn’s story reflects the steadfast spirit of Filipinos, highlighting that no distance can stop us from reaching our dreams. As a country, let’s honor our fellow Filipinos around the world and never forget to support their ambitions and recognize their sacrifices.

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