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Posts Tagged ‘OFW’

As of this posting, there have been some news that PNoy stopped the planned random checks of Balikbayan boxes sent by OFW’s to the Philippines, and the imposition of applicable taxes on the items in those boxes. Even so, I still believe I need to re-post this article I wrote (er, vented) in my FB page, because it was the collective cry of indignation made up of individual voices like this piece that provided the pressure needed by the President to rouse from his apathy and rectify an unforgivable transgression about to be committed by his government. Here it goes:

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Opening a Balikbayan Box from a loved one abroad is a sacred and highly-charged occasion. Imagine the scene: The whole family gathered around the box, some kneeling closer to it while others squatting further behind, forming an outer ring, seemingly providing a reinforcing perimeter wall around the sacred box.
The patriarch holds a pair of scissors, starting to snip at the layers upon layers of packaging tape in one corner of the revered box and everybody grows quiet. The air is tense with anticipation. What could be inside? For sure, there will be chocolates and biscuits, coffee and soap or even perfume! There definitely will be Spam, corned beef and canned salmon, and some other unknown (well, at least to the barrio folks) canned goods. The shoes requested by the teen-aged brother, or the 1 Direction shirt that the youngest sister begged to be included…
In those moments, there is a suspension of reality as the whole family forgets the separation and the longing, the poverty and lack. At that very moment, they are rich! All they could think about are the goodies inside the box, small tokens of love from their kin working abroad. An inconsequential albeit cherished gift, in comparison to the years of absence of a loved one.
Soon, each of them will have their gifts. Lovingly wrapped and labelled by their benefactor who packed the box full almost to bursting point. Usually these boxes are packed by our OFW’s after their working hours – the only time they have, to do something as tedious and labour-intensive as packing a truckload of items into a single box of love.
These boxes have been a symbol of love and devotion, a fulfilment of promises made to kids who were crying when their parent left them to work abroad. “Magpapadala ako ng mga laruan mo. Ibibili kita ng magandang sapatos mo,” all said by the parent while trying to extricate themselves from the tiny arms clinging around their neck at the airport.
These boxes show our solidarity as families, our generosity as a people as even neighbours are included in the bounty at times, our resourcefulness as providers and our drive to get what the world has to offer and give our families a chance to have them, too.

And then the BOC decides to tax these items, taking away the magic and violating the sacredness of this enduring expression of love and family ties. The OFW’s are hurt. They are the ones who brave the loneliness to provide for their families, helping shore up the economy and giving pride to every sitting President, Senator and Congressman, who, in their own conceited ways, try to claim the credit for a growing economy. The OFW’s are a big part of why the Philippines is growing economically. This very same government that claims the credit for the hardwork of remitting OFW’s, want to tax these boxes that they send to their families! They are being betrayed by the same government that should have given them jobs at home so that they did not have to leave in the first place. How can they be so foolish? Nincompoops!

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It can now be officially said: I am an overseas Filipino worker or OFW. I have just been accepted as a part time clerk in our local hospital. In fact, I just had my induction last week. I work only part time because having no maid or nanny, I have the kids to look after in addition to the house chores (not to mention maintaining my two blogs).

Being the workaholic that I used to be, my life now is way too laid back. I work just three hours a day in a workplace not more than a three-minute walk from where we live. My work back then involved a lot of cerebral activities, I mean, using the mind all the time. Here, I have a job that accounts to nothing much but a mindless task.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not complaining. I am getting for my three-hour daily shift more than what I worked for full-time back home. Not to mention the fact that I am now thankfully spared the horrors of endless traffic jams and bumpy FX rides.

In Manila, I used to wake up at 4:00 am everyday to cook my family’s meals for the whole day – breakfast, lunch plus my son’s packed lunch. Sure, I had a maid then, but I still did the cooking, groceries and marketing on weekends on top of keeping track of my kids’ school lessons. Then, I get home at around 7:30 pm and will not retire until 11:00 pm, only to wake up at 4:00 am again the following day…

Now, after sending the hubby off to work and taking the kids to school, I have five solid hours of blogging ecstacy, or television heaven or sleeping utopia – whatever, before I go to work in the afternoon. And this is where the difference in my life as a worker here and in the Philippines lies – the quality of life I get.

I used to be harried and stressed and toxic. Now, I get to do the things I love to do and at the same time, personally attend to my family. Work has now become just a diversion and a way to sustain the quality of life that I am getting. I would prefer to work more in order to earn more but at the moment, I am enjoying my transition into the British workplace and gaining all the experience and knowledge I need for me to survive in a more demanding and competitive job perhaps in London in the future.

I know I have what it takes to make it in that world-class city. After commuting for more than a decade in Manila traffic, I can stand the daily squeeze into London tubes to get to work and home on time. After working with the best minds the Philippines has to offer, I should be able to handle anything my prospective British bosses ask me to accomplish. After living in a city so hot temperatures can hit 37 or 38 degrees C, I should be thankful for the chilly, albeit cruel English weather as I wake up early mornings in the dead of winter to get to work. And last but not least, after working my a__ off in the Philippines and still not get enough to secure my family’s future, I sure can use with the enormous windfall a London job can offer.

But I am getting far way too ahead of myself. At the moment, I relish every moment of my being an OFW – an experience so new and at the same time humbling. Imagine, I now belong to that mass of Filipinos hailed as the Modern Heroes, sending billions of dollars home to keep the economy afloat, to feed our families, send our young ones to school and put a roof above their heads.

It is something I have never dreamt of becoming before, but something I feel proud of now. Me, working in the UK, making the most of every opportunity to secure a brighter future for my family, showing the Brits that Filipinos are world-class workers, sending money back home to my parents, loving every minute on the job. Now, that last one is something new to me (and I hope it stays that way) J.

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