Filipinos risk lives and go out of their comfort zones (comfort with family, access to favorite dishes, or TV drama) to work abroad. And for good reason: we all want the best for our families, something we cannot easily envision while we remain at our low-paying jobs in the Philippines. So becoming an OFW is mostly for the sake of families.
As we provide for our family’s needs, we could also unwittingly cultivate the bad habit of making family members too reliant on our money remittance. It is easy to justify that money sent is money well spent: education for a child, hospitalization and medical bills for parents, investment or savings back home.
But while many OFWs have successfully molded their families to become responsible recipients of dollar remittances, others have failed to do so. Many OFW families have become more demanding, and failure to send money at the designated time makes OFWs feel guilty. As a result, some Filipinos abroad resort to doing things beyond their limits such as working above their limits (which violates their working contracts and risks their health and well-being), engaging in prostitution, or selling prohibited items which, of course, carry heavy penalties in certain states.
Filipinos abroad may complain about the changing attitude of family members towards them but concede that it is bound to happen. Fulfilling the needs of the family in the Philippines, no matter how outrageous their demands can be, is still a sign of honoring the word they promised when they left their native land.
Bad habits of relatives have been discussed among OFWs themselves, as many of them hesitate to open up this predicament to concerned families. So what must every family member of the family need to know about the bad habits of being a relative to an overseas Filipino worker?
They only talk about money on the phone.
Trying to be a responsible child, or parent, OFWs call their families regularly. But instead of the customary kumusta ka na sa trabaho mo? to begin the conversation, relatives on the other line recite a litany of things: exams na ni Junior, ang mahal na ng presyo ng bigas ngayon, na shock ako nang matanggap ang bill ng kuryente! to imply the need for money. It’s always a given that part of the conversation will have the OFW say ‘nag remit na po ako, paki check na lang po. But follow up questions are still related to money. Kelan ka magpapadala ng pera? Magkano ang ipapadala mo?
They accuse OFW relatives when they fail to send money on time.
Sometimes money is spent on other things (SSS/Pag-IBIG/Philhealth annual premiums, dental check-ups, Christmas party contribution, etc) so the relative abroad may be short on the money he/she sends. Worse he or she sends it later than expected. So those who expect to automatically receive the money get enraged, perhaps because they made promises to pay and failed to honor the promise. Siguro kumekerengkeng ka na dyan. Baka may iba ka nang pinapadalhan. Siguro may bagong pamilya ka nang pinapakain.
They bring along neighbors and 5th-degree relatives on a family vacation.
When an OFW arrives for a short vacation (sometimes with borrowed money, mind you) and try to treat family members to a rare beach outing, he or she is surprised to see a neighbor wearing those sandals recently packaged through a balikbayan box, chime in, excited naman ako sa beach trip NATIN. Meanwhile, the supposed responsible husband/wife/parent calmly say isama natin si [insert random name], pamangkin/kaibigan/kainuman kasi siya ni Lolo mo na taga [insert random town].
It’s not only limited to family circles. Some random person also gets introduced. Ito pala si [insert random name], at ito ang inaanak mo, referring to the little kid in tow. This new acquaintance then says ikaw pala ninong/ninang ni bunso. Laki na ng utang mo sa kanya.
The meager budget gets stretched to the limit OFWs end up borrowing money to sustain that happy bonding moment. OFW returns to work abroad with the mindset of working double-time to pay for the loaned money. (Sometimes they decide to hide from those who loaned them the money, partly because of the demanding relatives back home.)
They do not attempt to look for jobs and rely only on the monthly remittance
. A recently graduated younger sibling an OFW financed his/her college education pretends to be looking for jobs. On every occasion, you talk on the phone, naghihintay lang ako ng tawag for an interview but continues to ask for money to join some random seminar to justify the need for financial assistance. The overseas worker then notices this brother or sister proudly shares a photo of his/her new smartphone, a recent “bonding with BFF” at Starbucks or karaoke bar, and enjoying a YOLO moment.
Related: 19 Common OFW Problems
There could be more bad habits one may share. Therefore, it’s a responsibility for us OFWs to educate our families on being more careful in spending the money we send. It is possible to point out reasons why we should not remit money to our families, but, of course, this should not be the route to get rid of those bad habits. Better communication set a good example, and planning and looking after your stint abroad are good foundations to correct this mistake.
How families can help OFW relatives
One of many ways families can return the favor extended by their generous OFW relatives is to put into good use their remittance money. This can be through setting up a savings account or signing up for an insurance policy. The latter is preferred not only to build wealth through a related investment but also as an income shield in cases of certain circumstances such as illness in the family or loss of livelihood. By doing so, the OFW won’t dip into his or her savings to finance the medical bills or spend extra money to support unemployed family members. Talk to an insurance agent and consult with your OFW relative on your plans. They’ll surely be glad you thought of such initiative.