Friday, August 17, 2012

The Road Home

How is the road home for OFWs? Two words. It’s long and it’s expensive.

In two weeks, I am one again coming back to the place where everything got started, the laboratory that has kept my blueprint and the workshop that has molded me to be the character I am today. If you think this decision entails only temporarily leaving my job, buying a ticket and packing my baggage with tons of chocolates in between, you’re dead wrong. This vacation is almost two years in the making. And again, if you’re thinking my presence will alone well absolve my family's anticipation for not seeing me in years; I have some qualms about it. Truth is, they expect more than just seeing me and I am happy to deal with it.

Where I am today makes me luckier than the majority of Filipinos working abroad. My ticket is not free though but I am planning to take the UAE Central Bank when I come home so that every possible expense can be covered. That doesn’t hold true for all. For most OFWs, vacations are granted only once in a year. Some companies provide tickets while some let their employees shoulder their own fares. That’s the sad part, so even if some OFWs have leave credits, if they need to pay for their tickets, they rather choose not to come home and instead just send the money to their families. What good is homecoming when you're coming home empty handed. As I mentioned previously, it’s a given assumption that if you’re an OFW, you are just as good as the things you send or bring home.

That makes coming home more like an option rather than something exciting to look forward to, because it’s not easy and because it’s not free. People back home perceive OFWs with overblown pockets not even realizing the hardships we endure to earn every single cents we have in our wallets and bank accounts. When we decide to spend our vacation in our native lands, they believe we have already amassed enough funds to build new house, buy a new car or treat a family to a holiday getaway. They don’t even realize how pathetic it feels to be alone most of your life working mile apart from your loved ones. Yet we oblige, we trade the high expectations with heavy borrowing. We swap a year of mandated living for a month spent with our families, because we value and we believe, family and togetherness matters the most in this world.

Coming home can be slightly soap operatic, especially when there are unresolved issues that need to be settled within family circles or when the migration of a family member has caused some relationships to fall apart. It will be a good gesture therefore if these things are set aside and talk about separately in some other time. Spoilers are the least we want to be welcomed with when we come home for a vacation. Our stay usually lasts for a month and we don’t want that short period of time to be exhausted trying to dig old hatred and grudges that might have made us strangers. Coming home is not about blaming and mudslinging, it’s about reconciliation and moving forward with a forgiving and understanding heart.

It’s also essential that before the anticipated departure, we complete our checklist of requirements to secure, things to buy and other activities to do when we get home. There’s no need for a grand celebration or elaborate spending. We just want everything to be memorable and there’s no better way to make it happen than by spending it with family, friends and things that have used to be part of our lives. For the OFW family’s part, I honestly believe that they have the equal responsibility to make their homecoming relative’s stay as worthy and as special as possible. It’s a high time for them to show their appreciation for all the help they’re getting and to reciprocate all the sacrifices that OFWs have made on behalf of their families. For OFWs, its something they don’t need to beg, but something they truly deserve.

So which part of the road do I stand now?

Well, I have yet to receive my flight itinerary but a friend of mine is already working on that. I’ve been looking for the cheapest direct flight from Dubai to Manila so I could spend whatever savings I’d make to buy more pasalubong for family and friends. I have also sent two balikbayan boxes ahead of my departure so that even my distant relatives can receive something from my side. It’s been part of our culture to share whatever little things when someone arrives from abroad. As the big day draws closer, I can only wish that everything falls into place, notwithstanding my desire to have a safe, sound and memorable homecoming.


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