It is 4:02 a.m. on my watch. The seatbelt light is flashing as we prepare for landing. Every plane ride is an emotional experience for me, especially the takeoff and the touchdown where tears never fail to fall. And this ride is no exception.
With me on this trip are 179 passengers from different walks of life—tourists, business executives and several overseas Filipino workers who, like me, occupy most of the seats and are eager to get back to the Philippines to be with loved ones.
I remember that rainy day of June 6, 2010 when I said to my mom, “Mama, I am going to Singapore.” Surprised, she responded, “What for?!” and I smiled and said sweetly, “Ma, I’m not asking for your permission. I’m informing you I’ve decided to go to Singapore to find a new job there.” On that day, I claimed my right to independence. In no time, we booked my flight for July 28, 2010.
The day after my mom’s 50th birthday, I stood at the gates of Clark International Airport, giving my parents goodbye hugs and kisses. With my life savings and love gifts from my loved ones in my pocket, I mustered the courage to turn around and push my cart, which carried my luggage full of Lucky Me spaghetti noodles, canned goods, toiletries, wrinkle-free wardrobe, and shoes to board my flight.
“With freedom comes great responsibility.” This may sound like a cliché but this statement was pregnant with meaning to me. When I reached Singapore, I lost no time knocking on the door of every establishment in the whole stretch of Orchard Road, City Hall, Marina Square, rain or shine. I called all the employers listed in the classified ads like a telemarketer of a call center. I went to my interviews prepared with answers for all the possible questions my potential employers would ask me. Until finally, in exactly three weeks’ time, I got this text message, “Congratulations, your employment pass has been approved and you can start working.” Thank you, God!
Usually, they say, “The rest is history.” Not in my case, because in the following days You revealed the meaning of my so-called Declaration of Independence.
Whereas before my dad drove for me and picked me up wherever I needed to go, now I walk a kilometric distance to go to work, losing my unwanted pounds without going to the gym. My feet and my legs are my greatest assets, as I stand 12 hours a day, six days a week to serve the guests in the restaurant where I work; whereas in my former job, I sat in front of the computer all day long. In Manila, my mom was like my ATM as she gave me almost everything I asked for. Now, I have to count up to the last cent my hard-earned money and ensure it is well spent. One time, I texted my mom to ask, “Ma, paano mo pinagkakasya ang budget mo (Ma, how do you fit everything in your budget)?” From a “brattinella” lifestyle—which included pampered spa sessions and out-of-town trips with my friends; household chores done by our helper; Nicole my Chihuahua pet, greeting me whenever I came home—I now find myself spending my off-days in the self-service foot spa, doing the laundry and cleaning the flat. Daily, I grapple with going home to a place without my family, and my frog-like eyes swollen from shedding tears because of homesickness.
Dear God, tough as it may be, I have never regretted being away from home. I have spent each day not just living for a mere existence but having a life well lived. I have matured as a daughter, friend, professional, sister and, most importantly, as Your child. My faith in You has been strengthened ever since I got to Singapore. Whenever I have only SGD$50 to tide me over till the next payday, I would receive miracles, unfolding right before my eyes, of Your providence through the guests I served. Truly, whenever I had to let go and let You lead my life, I would overcome all the “ifs and buts” of the life-choices I made.
They say OFWs are our country’s new heroes. For me, being an OFW has been my saving grace, a blessing that helped me find my purpose in life. Now, every flight takeoff means a goal to be achieved and a dream to be fulfilled. Every touchdown means a mission accomplished and a destination reached.
I always said I would make my Mama proud, but now every day I give pride and honor not just to my Mama but also to my roots, my “Inang Bayan,” my Motherland. Whenever a guest asks me, “Where are you from?” with a smile and confidence I respond, “I am from the Philippines. I am a Filipino.”
I am very proud to be a Filipino. Being an OFW is more than just a career that I am building every day. It is the practical test of my knowledge, values, character, integrity and dignity as a Filipino. And I strive to pass it with flying colors to showcase the Galing Pilipino (Excellent Filipino).
Oh my God! I am finally seeing Manila Bay on my left window across the aisle, and on my right side is the sparkling city of Metro Manila.
There are around 11 million OFWs all over the world. My name is Adoracion Regina Romero Vidal, 23 years old, and proud to be one of them—a certified OFW.
“4:40 a.m., Manila time, Flight 2827 preparing for landing. Now we are going down in 10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1
“Good morning, Philippines! Mabuhay!”
Thank you Lord for listening. It feels so good to be home!
Your loving daughter,
Inah Vidal, 23, is a Hotel and Restaurant Management graduate of St. Paul University.
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