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An OFW’s journey home

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An OFW’s journey home

12:15 AM January 15, 2014

After barely four months in my latest job and more than a decade of protracted overseas employment I headed home for good, just in time to be with my family to celebrate the coming of the New Year. For every overseas Filipino worker, especially those married, there is no better time to come home than special times like the yearend holidays.

My journey as an OFW is a story shared by all others like myself because it is a story of dreams—dreams of a better life for one’s family, to have one’s own house, to give one’s children the best education, to help one’s siblings complete a college education, to provide the best medical treatment to ailing family members, and ultimately to ensure a comfortable life after one retires and grows old.

Leaving family behind to work abroad is a bitter pill that no Filipino would want to swallow given a choice. But with the economic degradation and lack of employment opportunities in the country, we have had to make a choice between leaving loved ones in exchange of greener pastures and staying with them and enduring the pangs of poverty.

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To realize those lofty dreams, we missed the joy of seeing our children grow up and enjoying the company of people we’ve known all our lives. It’s true: One has to sacrifice so many things when one chooses to go abroad in search of better opportunities. The pursuit of a good life for our family is the chase of a lifetime, and it does not come easy especially to OFWs like us.

Hearing loved ones’ voices and seeing them on our computer screen simply cannot fill the void in our hearts, the emptiness in our lives. That empty space gets bigger when one realizes that one can’t be with them in some of their trying moments. Unseen behind our loved ones’ big smiles every time they receive money and balikbayan boxes are our great sacrifices, our sleepless nights, and our being deprived of the true essence of life. Who does not want to be with loved ones during the best and worst of times?

No one would be content seeing loved ones only on Skype or Facebook, and no responsible father would want to be away from home when dreadful calamities like Supertyphoon “Yolanda” strike. One doesn’t need the IQ of Einstein to understand the devastation and shattered lives reported and photographed in the news. Sooner than later, our family will need us.

Like other OFWs, I have had my own share of sad and trying moments while far away. I was not present when my wife and I marked our first wedding anniversary, and when she was lying in a hospital operating room fighting for her life. I was not around when our son graduated from kindergarten and when my father had a series of surgeries.

I was not around when my grandmother died. I recall receiving the news on New Year’s Day and locking myself inside the office to weep. I wanted to fly home but it was too late. Though I prayed for the eternal peace of her soul, making wishes and saying goodbye in my thoughts was not the same as holding her hand and telling her, “Thank you for all the good things you have done for me.”

Truly, no amount of money and nothing one can do will bring back lost times and missed occasions in our lives.

My return will surely bring happiness to my family. But in one corner of my heart, I will definitely miss the company of nice friends and coworkers like you, who helped make this journey a lot easier. I will miss the free meals in the dining hall, the free use of vehicles and tennis courts, and above all the barren and vast deserts across the horizon that hosted the realization and fulfillment of my noble dreams.

The end of every migration is success for those who persevered, worked hard, and endured sufferings and complications that accompany the long journey and quest. For us humans, the end of our journey will always be death, but we have the choice and the capabilities to die happy. And so, regardless of the pain we have to deal with or the path we have to take, we should always keep working on what makes us happy and content. Let us not be afraid of taking bolder steps and making changes, especially if these are a means to attain our goals. But it is also important not to lose sight of what is right, or our lives will be meaningless, and we will never enjoy the fruits of what we have worked for abroad.

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As I wrote this last paragraph, I took another step forward. Life is, after all, a great move, and I cannot afford to delay. I look forward to bumping into you, my friend, somewhere, somehow, sometime down the road. But until then, I’ll be putting one foot before the other. It’s time to go and make memories that last a lifetime. My time has come and I know yours will eventually come, too. And when that time comes, all I want to say to you is: “Go, enjoy life and be bigger than yourself.”

Really, there is no easy road in this short journey we call life.

As an OFW, John A. Parica (japarica@yahoo.com) specialized in project management in oil and gas projects.

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TAGS: Family, Loneliness, overseas employment, Overseas Filipino Workers, relationships
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