Imagine an OFW returning home for the first time after so many years of working abroad. It’s an exciting moment every Filipino worker abroad looks forward to.
Whether you’re a nurse, domestic worker, aircraft mechanic, or any other job abroad — returning to your home where bittersweet memories were built and the source of motivation is firmly based. Perhaps that moment when the whole family was preparing a little sendoff party with family and neighbors. While laughter was in the air, you prepped up for that long period of homesickness in a place that offers a new cultural, perhaps personal perspective.
During the time of the pandemic, more than half a million OFWs returned home. Probably a large portion of them has gone home unplanned. The idea of going for good came in earlier than planned.
You devote long hours at work, staring at the calendar and closely monitoring the big day of your return in between long-distance calls, packing balikbayan boxes, and trips to the remittance outlet.
As you look carefully at your air ticket, making sure you got your name right, you anxiously prepare your pasalubongs, carefully choosing which toys, pair of shoes, or pack of chocolates you’d gift every member of the family. As you bid your folks at work goodbye and prepare for your departure, you imagine things will turn out once you arrive — welcome party, going to church together with the family, picking your child from school, and hanging out with childhood friends and longtime neighbors.
Then, the final call for boarding sounds.
Little did you know that while you are thrilled to be back home, your family is also staging their own surprise welcome for you.
But other OFWs are also very creative. Instead of expecting their families to drive to the airport in a mini caravan, they’d prefer to sneak into the night or, as you’ll see in the video below, crouch inside a large water container.
After almost five years of spending time apart, an OFW who was based in Dammam, Saudi Arabia was unfortunate to lose his job along with thousands of other migrant workers in the country. Thankfully, with help from the government, the breadwinner was sent home for free to reunite with his family in Bacolod City.
This is how every OFW should be treated as they go home — treated as heroes to both the country and their families — whether they bring plenty of pasalubongs or simply returning in one piece after overcoming obstacles during their time overseas.
Meet the OFW returning home at the airport
You may not be there when they left the airport because you were so emotional. But this time, it’s hopefully a happy ending and your presence as part of the welcome party should boost the spirit of a returning family member — your mom, dad, ate or kuya — who missed a lot of time with the family all these years.
A warm tight hug is one of the first things they want to experience after being deprived of that encounter for so long.
Surprise them with their favorite treats
The long time abroad entails a long list of sacrifices for overseas Filipino workers. This includes time with family, hanging out with friends, and eating home-cooked meals or favorite merienda treats. It might be a long time since they last tasted lechon or bukayo.
Prepare a simple meal with these treats with the whole family gathering at the table. They don’t need a festive welcome, as they learned a lot of lessons on frugality and the value of saving for the future is more important than lavish parties. After all, they’re back home and that’s what matters more.
Share with them the output of their money remittance
As they face the uncertainty of life after a career as a migrant worker, it would be great to reassure them that the money they sent. This is especially comforting if they had barely saved up for themselves because they were all out when sending you the money.
As a responsible family member, you must have put a portion of his or her remittance money into good use. Investing in a small farm lot, starting a piggery or a sari-sari store. This brings a great sense of fulfillment to every OFW.
If not, achievements may not be a business investment but using their remittance money to get a family member to finish studies or renovate the house.
Prepare their place to rest
The long trip back home might take them a day or two, including layovers and connecting flights. They must be imagining the relief of returning to their very own home, that humble place filled with wonderful childhood memories. To make that imagination a reality, prepare that room by cleaning up the mess, and anticipate he or she might be too exhausted for a celebration and need to rest before sharing stories from abroad.
An OFW returning home to the Philippines deserve the love we can give. Now that they cannot send us money every month from income abroad, it’s our turn to help them reintegrate their life back home. In that way, they feel their years of sacrifice were worth every moment.