How to Say NO - OFW's Are Not Banks

Jetlagged from the airport, I walked into a room with no window, the smell of feet comparable to a rotten rat stings my eyes - runs through my nose. It was so bad that I wanted to vomit.

It was year 2000 when I first went abroad as an OFW in the Middle-East. Accommodation was provided by the company, a small confining room, reasonable for 1 but not for 3 persons. This is the norm for most of the line staff, not an easy life. While people back home think, OFW's live comfortably.  

LOVED ONES, that's how we call our closest living relatives in the Philippines. Parents and siblings are foremost if you're single - spouse and kids if married.  Then, first degree ancestry and so forth. Closest friends could probably fit the description if you allow it.

Establishing a dream of owning a home, saving for a business - if not for something else, and career ambitions while a novice abroad is rather a common primary goal. After all, the decision to work overseas is, clenched with no doubt, motivated by foreseeing a better future with superior quality of life or at least more convenient than the present condition.

Sharing from my own experience, as an OFW myself (Overseas Filipino Worker), for all time, we are expected to support the whole family back home, an obligation that eventually becomes a heavy load.  Commencement on our thoughts triggers in international airport departure. As a first time traveller, it is somewhat accepted as a fate as if you have no choice. 

With zero reference of how things work, we thought this is truly our responsibility. One is ought to support not only your spouse and kids but also your parents, siblings and relatives. You become a super hero with absolutely no extra-terrestrial  power. Interestingly, in an extremely short period of time, the whole barangay seems claiming to be related to you.

Priorities considered, the sole obligation by all means deserves financial support, supposedly only pertains to your spouse and kids, if married, no one else. Should extra money can be spared after your immediate family needs, a little help is reasonable to extend to other relatives. 

We often carry the Filipino trait "Utang na loob" which is often translated as a "debt of gratitude". This applies to all people who supported you in any way. But when does this end? Is it for eternity? An issue of agree to disagree with families and individual. 

I find it difficult to comprehend why people back home does not realize how hard it is for an OFW. We don't pick money from the streets. It is earned the hard way. Not everyone is lucky in terms of job assignment. Sometimes, employers are mean and abusive, not to mention the long hours in a boiling hot condition environment.  Most of people I know, does not even have sufficient food, just to save every dollar to send back home. 

It is extremely sad and hurtful when families back home does not even say thank you.  Some, I dare say have the audacity to say that what they receive is not enough.  

To stop this toxic behaviour, individual OFW's should say NO. Re-align your family's expectation based on your actual reality abroad. Lay down what you can and can't afford. Most of all, save and invest something for yourself. You deserve to have financial security, think of your future. No one will help you once your back home and have nothing.

About the Author

RAFAEL ROXAS is an OFW and Entrepreneur. He is an active digital nomad that helps individual, start-ups and SME's establish their brand. He started the project for Filipino community PinoyHow Q&A, training and information hub.

DO YOU WANT TO SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE AS AN OFW? Please feel free to comment.

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