THE estimated 4.2 million Filipinos working abroad, time and again, have been tagged by the Philippine government as ‘New Heroes’. This is so because of these workers’ great contribution in the country’s economy through dollar earnings remitted home to their families. The Philippines’ gross national product (GNP), which is the broadest measure of economic output, has continuously gone up and sustained in the past few years, and economists all agree that the contributions of overseas Filipino workers play a great role in this respect. It has also been recorded that the OFWs saved the country from going down the drains, so to speak, in the recent economic turmoil experienced in Asian countries and elsewhere around the world. The OFWs’ steady remittances had made the Philippine economy afloat!
Through the Philippine government’s recognition and outright admission of its reliance on OFWs’ dollar remittances, these so-called ‘New Heroes of the Modern Philippines’ have developed within themselves a new sense of honor and pride. They feel elated to be considered as one of the recognized players in the growth and sustenance of the Philippine economy.
Others may bask in the ‘borrowed’ glory of being termed heroes of the modern Philippines. But a few others, beginning to recognize that their toils abroad will come to nothingness in the end because of the Philippine government’s failure to provide a concrete program for their eventual return to the country, think of themselves not as heroes but as slaves! Economic slaves, as some of these unsatisfied workers have termed the OFWs.
This new line of thought – just now emerging out of overseas Filipinos’ frustrations in the government’s ‘playful’ attitude – has actually evoked an added idea, that of ‘New Freedom’. Freedom from the bondage of being treated as merely ‘milking cows’ by the government officials, especially those manning the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). Freedom from unscrupulous employers and manning agency officials. Freedom from eventual feelings of despair and uselessness once retired from working overseas. Freedom from loneliness of staying long away from their loved ones. Freedom from recurrent dwindling of savings and resources. And the most important of all – freedom from poverty and neglect!
I would say that these OFWs should fight for their own freedom, a new freedom which will take them to an eventual atmosphere of economic stability. No longer dependent on their government but ON THEIR OWN.
A noble idea indeed and one which every OFW should consider and seriously think about.
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: July 30, 2002