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 a 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.
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Bad family habits can wreck relationships with OFW relatives
As we provide for 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 a designated time makes OFWs feel guilty. As a result, some Filipinos abroad resort to doing things beyond their limits, such as working outside their usual tasks. Such acts violate their employment contracts and risk 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, 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 overseas Filipino workers?
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: “Enrollment na naman ni RJ.” “Ang mahal na ng presyo ng bigas ngayon.”
“Na shock ako nang matanggap ang bill ng kuryente.” Indirect, but we get the point: there is a dire 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?
Accuse OFW relative when he or she fails to send money on time.
Sometimes money is spent on other things (SSS/Pag-IBIG/Philhealth annual premiums, dental check-up, 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 plan to automatically receive the funds get furious, perhaps because they made promises to pay and failed to honor the pledge. Siguro kumekerengkeng ka na dyan. Baka may iba ka nang pinapadalhan. Siguro may bagong pamilya ka nang pinapakain.
Bring along neighbors and 5th-degree relatives on a family vacation.
An OFW arrives for a short vacation (sometimes with borrowed money, mind you) and tries 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 says 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.)
Do not attempt to help out 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, but continue to ask for money to join some random seminar to justify the need for financial assistance. The OFW then notices this brother or sister proudly shares a photo of his/her new iPhone, a recent “bonding with BFF” at Starbucks or karaoke bar.
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 family on being more careful in spending the money we send. It is possible to point out reasons why we should not remit payment 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 ethical foundations to correct this mistake.