Saturday, May 16, 2009

Global Filipinos

Business Times p.B1
Saturday, May 16, 2009

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Filipinos here, Filipinos there, Filipinos all over the world

Our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are not only propping up our economy; in particular, they keep afloat all airlines flying the Philippine skies. The Philippine Airlines plane from Manila to Hong Kong and the Cathay Pacific plane from Hong Kong to Manila were simply brimming with OFWs. There were just a few of us non-OFWs and foreigners on those flights.

In the Hong Kong-Johannesburg leg of my tour and the return trip, maybe a fourth of the passengers were OFWs, mostly seamen and mine workers.

You know you are travelling with OFWs when:

• They show pictures of their family to one another.
• Male OFWs talk about their spouse with longing ("I have to buy this face mask to follow my wife's orders for me to take precautions against swine flu. I didn't really wear it."). The females talk mostly about their children, their parents, their friends. They talk about their dreams and aspirations for their children.
• They compare notes about their employers and circumstances of their employment, happy or sad.
• Going away, they bring a lot of local cooked food, even instant noodles.
• Coming home, they bring everything that they could put their hands and could afford—anything that would please the family they left behind and compensate for their absence. They could barely lug their hand-carry baggage filled mostly with toys and overstuffed dolls.
• At the NAIA pre-departure, nobody is in the mood for chitchat. The moment the plane takes off NAIA runway, there is a silent mantle of sadness (or even a feeling of doom) and you see a lot of eyes filling with tears. Nobody is talking now. They pretend to sleep or read the inflight duty free catalog. When they reach Hong Kong, they are businesslike. They plead their newfound acquaintances to meet on Sundays at the park.
• From the pre-departure area in Hong Kong and all throughout the flight, they are very animated and jubilant. Some are resting, with a smile on their face (maybe playing in their mind their anticipated reunion with their family, kin and friends).
• The moment the plane touches NAIA runway, there is an air of euphoria! Never mind the admonition of the purser to sit tight until the plane comes to a full stop; they jump from their seat and retrieve their baggage from the overhead bin. When the plane finally stops, they are all lined up in the aisle, ready to bolt out of the plane, touch the soil of their motherland and hug and kiss the faces of their loved ones.
• They rush out of the airplane, stop at the duty free counter for some last minute pasalubong walk fast to Immigration, wait restlessly at the baggage carousel, pass customs (some even give something to the customs personnel), and zoom to the waiting area where their family shout their names all at once while the OFWs review the faces at the other side of the road, recognize loved ones and shout with glee while waving hands vigorously. Lots of kissing and hugging and joyful tears.
• Some get out of the arrival area via the vehicle exit, cross the street to get a regular taxi. All along they walk in a bunch, people and cargo (in Tagalog, kuyog). Everybody happy.

Some of the OFWs I met are: Delia Tolentino, Brian Dionela, Noli Santos, Robert Espina, Larry Mendoza, Rely Mendoza, Mina Foronda, Elaine Oliver, Willie Bonaquit, Ana Marie A Martin, Dunder and Bernadette Velasco, Russelle Matitu and Jun, Isay and Joshua Regala. Thank you all!

Questions: While everybody is proclaiming our OFWs as modern day heroes, are we doing enough for them and the family they left behind? What assistance do we give them at the airport? They appreciate the rondalla. I have a thousand and one questions. I wish every OFW is a Manny Pacquiao who earns millions and who puts our country in the consciousness of the whole world. But in their own quiet toil, don't all our OFWs do the same? We are known every day in the whole world because of them. The people they serve only have praises and gratitude for them (even HK mediaman Chip Tsao).,

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