Saturday, September 15, 2007

Honey, are you lonesome tonight?

CLOSE your eyes. Imagine that you will not be seeing your spouse, children, parents, friends and relatives for the next six months. Try to feel what it would be like to wake up alone in a strange land each morning and face strangers as you go to work to earn dollars to send back home.

"The harshest enemy for all Filipino Overseas Workers (OFWs) is loneliness and when this strikes, everybody, male or female, rich or poor is vulnerable and powerless. Kaya mo ba 'to?" Mindanao Cordinator of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, Lito Abadilla asked participants of a Pre-departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) recently.
Abadilla said that 98 percent of the families of OFWs are not prepared and are not aware of what the real situation is about going abroad.
"We have seen firsthand the damages loneliness create when it strikes, whether in the partner who went abroad or the partner left in the Philippines," Abadilla, who had been abroad for quite a number of years said.
"What shall it profit a man if his money is overflowing but his home is shattered and broken?" he challenged. "Talk it out with your partner before going abroad. Discuss your coping mechanisms, like financial matters, rearing the kids and most of all, the sexual aspect."
Abadilla said the element of trust and assurance should be established with both couples. He said the first three months abroad is the most crucial, a survival period that requires a person to be tough, firm and strong.
"Before one of you leaves, revive your sweetheart days and closeness, be a friend and help your partner to resist temptation by strengthening your relationship. Create fond memories that each of you will remember when loneliness strikes," he said.
One more warning, Abadilla said, "Never, never leave for abroad if you have unsettled conflicts with your partner because this would only pave the way to give in to temptations and eventually lead to more broken homes."
Abadilla added that the success of those abroad lean greatly on the families that is left here.
Everyday, he said an average of 3,500 Filipinos go out of the country to work abroad, two Filipinos go home in crates (coffin) while another one comes home without problems anymore, a candidate for the mental hospital.
"OFWs walk on a very thin line between shattered dreams and success. If this thin line snaps, the OFW will be transported to the other side where problems no longer exist. He or she becomes a candidate for the mental hospital," Abadilla said.
Why do Filipinos work abroad?
Lourdes Dulatre, of the Mindanao Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) Multi-purpose Cooperative (Momco) said there are four motivations that push people to go abroad.
"High salaries of employees abroad, the high rate of unemployment here, adventure or exploration, and development of economic and social well being push the Filipinos to go abroad," Dulatre said.
She said that everybody wants to seek greener pastures, especially with the economic crisis the country is going through now to give their families a brighter future.

Among the problems the OFWs face abroad are starvation, sexual harassment and rape, withholding of salaries, illegal termination, violation of contracts, and other forms of abuses, on top of loneliness.
"To these hazards, the OFW stands helpless alone just to be able to send precious dollars to families back home," Dulatre said.
Having lived abroad for more than 20 years, Dulatre said she has seen first hand all the sad plight of OFWs who lost hope and got desperate because instead of receiving inspiring letters from home, all they get are discouraging letters.

"One advise please, don't write 10-page letters to your kins abroad asking for this and that or dumping all the problems on them because they might commit suicide)," she said.
She urged family members to write inspiring letters instead so that the OFW will have something to hold on to fight the daily battles of working in a strange land.
Rey T. Elaya, Overseas Workers Welfare officer said that to support the OFWs whom they consider as the unsung heroes, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) has come up with several programs to support both the OFW and their families.
Elaya said that among the programs the OFW can avail from the Owwa are: insurance benefits, dismemberment, total disability and burial benefits, credit programs, loans, skills and employment scholarship programs, education for development scholarship programs, social services, repatriation and reintegration programs, worker's assistance and on-site services.
"In addition to the above-mentioned programs, Owwa also offers psycho-social and HIV/Aids counseling, conciliation services, medical and legal assistance and other outreach programs," Elaya said. To date, Elaya said that there are over 2.2 million Owwa members around the world.
"On an end note", Elaya said, "we want you to come back to the Philippines alive, high spirited and successful despite all the risks and hazards."

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