OFWs’ 2018 ‘Via Crucis’
The coming Holy Week puts aside the old devotional prayers and takes the Way of the Cross with the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Carry their burden, wear their crown of thorns, drink from their bitter cup, feel the stripes on their backs and the fever on their brows, broil in the desert sand, be tossed at sea, descend to the pit of their loneliness.
For many, the way to overseas jobs is a road to Golgotha, and also an escape from the valley of death back home.
1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death
A poor Filipino sells properties, borrows money at high interest rates so he/she could find work abroad.
2nd Station: Jesus carries his cross
The labor recruiter exacts a high fee but the poor worker has no choice. The OFW-to-be leaves carrying with her the burden of the family’s debts. How long will she slave away in loneliness in a foreign land so her family could have a better life? Will she come home to find her family intact?
3rd Station: Jesus falls the first time
A poor, young Filipino woman arrives in a foreign land and she is taken by her strange employer to a place where she finds herself alone, with no one to share her burdens. Held like a virtual prisoner, and with little contact with the outside world, she imagines the worst that could happen to her.
4th Station: Jesus meets his mother
Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong gather regularly on certain days to seek solace from compatriots. In the Middle East, domestic helpers have no way of getting in touch regularly with other Filipinos.
5th Station: Simon of Cyrene helps
Jesus carry his cross Filipinos help other Filipinos who are victims of abuse. Philippine embassies are supposed to be places of refuge, but many OFWs feel that the embassies cannot always be relied upon. Where are you when we need you?
6th Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Nongovernment organizations, religious groups and women’s centers come to the rescue of OFWs in distress. They provide havens and oases for battered and disease-stricken Filipino workers.
7th Station: Jesus falls the second time
A seaman finds out too late that the salary he is going to receive from his employer is much lower than what was written on the contract.
8th Station: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem
Women come to the aid of other women. A runaway domestic worker with burned hands and face tells her rescuers a horrible story of constant battering. Her mind gives way and she is shipped home sans money and sanity.
9th Station: Jesus falls the third time
An OFW is injured in an accident. Because he is an undocumented worker, he finds himself helpless and devoid of any health benefits. He is sent home. A dancer finds herself prostituted and held as a sex slave.
10th Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments
An OFW is accused of committing a crime. Guilty or not, he finds himself stripped of his rights. He has no counsel, he has no visits. He suffers loneliness in a foreign prison.
11th Station: Jesus is nailed on the cross
A maid is pinned on the bed by her male employer and is raped. He does this repeatedly. When she gets pregnant she is sent home with nothing. Elsewhere, a Filipino woman kills her cruel employer and faces a death sentence.
12th Station: Jesus dies on the cross
A Filipino worker is accused of a crime he did not commit. He is detained, tried, convicted and sentenced to die by beheading. He dies alone, unmourned and unsung.
13th Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross
A domestic helper jumps from the window of a fourth-floor apartment to escape the brutality of her employers.
14th Station: Jesus is laid in his tomb
The body of a Filipino domestic worker is found inside a freezer. She had been dead and frozen for over a year. An autopsy reveals telltale signs of cruelty. Her name is Joanna Demafelis.
Let us weep. Let us pray. Let us arise.
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