The holiday that never was

AS I was thinking of what interesting subject to write about – I already missed the December slot – an idea popped up! I was actually reading through one of the copies of a posting I sent last Friday to a number of mailing lists I subscribe to when the idea came about. Why not, indeed? What I related to the group describes exactly the difficult yet challenging life of an OFW (overseas Filipino worker), the very topic of this page I maintain at!

Let me just mention a brief background. December 3, 2001 it was when I received an email from one of my sisters, mentioning, among others, that my mother, who had been lately declared a terminal case (she was diagnosed to be suffering from invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast in April 2001, less than a year after her right leg was amputated) was repeatedly asking for me. I couldn’t immediately ask for a leave of absence from work as I already missed months of working time in the past year because of my twice hospitalizations and the subsequent quarterly follow-up checks at the Kuwait Cancer Control Center and the Daiya Diabetic Clinic. I needed to wait for the Christmas holiday.

December 12 was the last day of work at The English School where I work as a School Nurse. That night, I took a plane trip to Manila and was with my mother in the afternoon of December 14. I felt the time was moving very slow then. Had my most uncomfortable trip ever as I was forced to stay outside the terminal of Philippine Airlines anxious to catch the early 5 am first trip to Iloilo.

My mother’s condition was really bad when I arrived. I thought she was dying. A week prior, one of her breast lesions burst out and she lost a lot of blood. She was white as a paper and she could hardly move. It was too much for me to take and I almost cried in front of her. Five days later, she asked to be taken out for a ride in her wheelchair! And that was after two bags of whole blood were transfused into her body, arranged to be done at home. I didn’t want to take her to the hospital as I was afraid she won’t leave the hospital alive!

When I left the Philippines back to Kuwait on January 3, 2002, my mother was much much better than she was on the day I arrived. I even took her for a trip to the capital town of San Jose (of the province of Antique) for a promised sumptuous lunch in the morning of my night departure to Kuwait.

I would like now to share that posted message I mentioned earlier.

“Dear folks, all friends in the OFW Community of Lists, as well as my special cyberkada in the OFW Club and Pinoy Claimants Club: warm greetings to one and all!

“Please bear with me as I tell you a little ‘story’ – my way of sharing with you my ‘accomplishments’ during my very recent HOLIDAY in our beloved Philippines!

“It could have been one memorable HOLIDAY of a lifetime – what with the ideal timing of Christmas and the New Year – save for the lack of proper sleep and rest, which are, of course, major ingredients of an ideal HOLIDAY!

“Primarily, I went home because of my ailing mother. That, I already related in my previous posting. Attending personally to my Mom at the verge of a near-death condition is a privilege I will always cherish in my career as a nurse. What could have been more fulfilling than to care for your very own mother? I’m lucky in that I also had the good chance of nursing my Mom back to health during her ‘leg amputation’ experience in May 2000.

“Why should you leave? That was Mama asking me when I kissed her goodbye on the day I was to return to Kuwait. I have to go back to work, I said, so you may continue to get well and live long enough to see the fulfillment of my dream of making all your children’s life better! You once dreamed about it, remember? I’m here now to fulfill that dream.

“In-between attending to Mama, I was also busy doing so many things all at the same time. I accomplished the following:

– gathered all my siblings together (six of us) for Christmas eve. It was one celebration we will all cherish in our lifetime. With Mama still weak but happily beaming as she sat in her wheelchair, surrounded by all of her children and grandchildren (only the children of my eldest sister in Marikina were not able to come), she distributed gifts to everybody. I made sure that everybody got his/her gift, specially and patiently wrapped by me. Aside from the exchange gift, which I also practically financed, even those working for me, and those nieces and nephews (from first cousins) residing near our compound, received their share – all handed over by Mama. At one point, there was one she fancied and before the rightful owner came near, she already opened the box! We all laughed! She must have thought that there was not something coming for her for a long while! The funniest part was when I threw coins! You should see how everybody ran after the coins. I enjoyed it the most as I was the one seeing everybody scampered for a catch. My old Nanny (who’s paralyzed from waist down) was overheard saying: “what a wonder! coins are coming from heaven!” She even asked me if I got some!;

– finished the tiling of a beach house (which my hubby and I will finally occupy in July 2002 for a real holiday). The outside wall and terrace, plus the waterbreaker, are still to be finished;

– changed the bathroom door and toilet bowl/wash basin of the house;

– fixed the outrigger of the pump boat which was destroyed last typhoon time and fine-tuned the engine ready for a trip out in the sea come “moonless’ night;

– started the improvement of one rice paddy into a “tilapia” culture habitat;

– refinanced the fencing of the end-part of the land (original fund was ‘used’ by my sister) to protect the animals. One cow was boloed when it grazed a neighboring grassland – already a loss as the proceeds of the meat sale (happened a month prior to my trip home) went ‘everywhere’. Lost two of the goats to ‘grass poisoning’, had eaten Mahogany leaves, according to the caretaker (I didn’t know that Mahogany leaves are poison to animals!);

– renovated the boutique-cum-dress shop (which I opened May 2001) by adding more glass cabinets, glass encasement for the mannequin, glass wardrobe and glass stands. It gave the shop a “classy” look afterwards;

– fired the shop manager (one of my parents’ 2 adopted daughters who went back to her biological parents when she was 15) as I discovered she was stealing money from me;

– fired my personal assistant, as, she, too, was discovered to have stolen a lot of money from me. She’s the one entrusted with my checkbook;

– assigned my sister (next to me) as new shop manager and personal assistant, and needed to “fix” her. Gave her one of my hearing aids (as she’s also hard of hearing), financed her visit to a dentist, bought her a mobile phone, hired a nanny for her 6 children, bought her husband a welding machine, bought her a TV set, financed a cable connection and added more features to her new house which I built for her last year. Her humble nipa hut was washed away by the sea during that worst typhoon which hit Antique last year;

– increased salaries of all people under my employ. Hired two new people, one for the shop and another for the house, as regulars. Hired 2 part timers for the shop: a bookkeeper and an accountant;

– increased the personal allowance of my youngest sister who again had a relapse after confinement in a private asylum last May 2001. She gets “better” if she keeps cash with her, huh!;

– closed one of my two checking accounts, dollar account and joint account (with my adopted son) at the Philippine National Bank last December 28. Closed also my two sons’ ATM accounts;

– attended the “Layas nga Antiqueno” night held December 27 in the capital town of San Jose and was honored to meet the “Bugal kang Antique” awardees, with Bishop Tomas Millamena (of the Aglipayan Church) as one of those. Was tipped by one organizer to get ready as I will be one of the awardees in December 2002 Binirayan Festival celebrations;

– organized the families of the OFWs in Mapatag, my homeplace. My way of making up for my inability to attend the OFW gatherings in Manila;

– sponsored a basketball team led by my eldest son (he’s one hell of a basketball player, mind you!) and witnessed the team’s first win game. Was challenged afterwards to treat all team members and friends to a snack after the game. I didn’t watch anymore the succeeding games. Was afraid to be ‘challenged’ again by my youngest son to spend more money, LOL!

– ‘blessed’ quite a number of godchildren, nieces and nephews who all came to ask for their ‘Pamasko’;

– financed the doctor’s visit and medications of my adopted son’s father who’s suffering from gastric ulcer;

– received quite a number of carollers, all with advanced letters asking for special contribution to this project and that, whew!

– received solicitation letters for renovation of the church and elementary school in Mapatag, including a few coming from neighboring barrios; and

– paid salary advances of my Mom’s caretaker (to finish her house started from a previous cash advance), our house helper (for her daughter’s tuition fee), the pump boat’s operator and two of its workers, my two sisters (as shop’s personnel) and dressmaker.

“Reading the above, can someone argue with me re my earlier pronouncement that life of an OFW is a difficult one? Surely, I’m not the only one experiencing this difficult life!

“Relating to you the above is aimed at inspiring fellow OFWs to stay steadfast in their enforced responsibility over immediate and extended family. Remember always that we are here for a purpose. It is difficult alright but it’s what which keeps us going, di ba?

“I also pray that with this open announcement of my responsibilities in life, my job will stay. FYI, I’m now facing the danger of losing my job and God forbid . . . if I lost my job . . . what would become of my loved ones and those under my employ?

“Hope I didn’t bore you with my litany. And sorry if, to others, my post is out of the context.

“Your humble friend and co-OFW,

Freda in Kuwait.”


Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: January 14, 2002 




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