Broken marriages, as well as juvenile delinquencies and unwanted pregnancies among teenage children, are a very major and common problem among overseas Filipinos in Hong Kong, Singapore, the Middle East and elsewhere.
Due to limited manpower and other resources, relevant government agencies, notably the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Commission of Overseas Filipinos and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), have not compiled empirical and extensive studies on the high social costs of migration. The prolonged separation of OFWs from their loved ones back home often exact a very heavy toll on relevant parties – but neither the DSWD nor DOLE hardly cares, as indicated by the continuing absence of a multifaceted and holistic strategy and road map to address and resolve this problematic phenomenon.
In the absence of empirical data, is it fair to assume that the costs of migration are high? In my view, yes. Numerous anecdotes from public and private gatherings of friends and acquaintances in Hong Kong, social media chat groups in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, as well as popular OFW-focused radio and TV programs in the Philippines all point to the high incidence of broken marriages and other social problems that affect OFWs and their family members.
What can and should be done to reduce the scale and severity of the social costs of migration, especially broken relationships arising from the prolonged separation of OFWs from their spouses and children? Because the government is often hard pressed for resources and bereft of enlightened and holistic ideas on how best to promote and safeguard the general interests of OFWs in general, it is unlikely to expect over the next few years a comprehensive study into the social costs of migration. But a host of simple and practical measures can be taken by OFWs to protect and maintain valued relationships with loved ones back home. The following are being employed with much success and efficacy by select OFWs:
1) Regular communications
Mary Deso-acido, a single mother from Negros, calls her parents and only son almost daily using a combination of Facebook, other social media and the promotional IDD services of one of the country’s three telecom companies. With her nearly daily calls, it’s almost as if Mary is living physically with her parents, her son, siblings and the rest of family members. As a result, her bond with her family remains strong as ever.
And she no longer hears or gets from her son this heart-piercing message: “Ma, how come you take care of other people’s children? How about me who’s your only child and without a father?”
Robert, a Filipino professional in Hong Kong, employs the same strategy as Mary. He communicates nearly every day with his two grown-up children in Manila. And his relations with them remains rock solid despite the prolonged COVID-induced physical separation.
2) Allocating ample time and genuine concern
The fact that Mary regularly allocates ample time and genuine concern for her loved ones back home has understandably and inevitably elicited the desired and ideal results. Her son never went astray even when he was still a teenager and often in the company of his friends as his dance group competed in dance competitions in different municipalities across Negros. Her relations with her son, parents, siblings and the rest of her extended family has remained firm and strong despite occasional family friction and petty disputes. How much does it cost her to maintain regular communications with her loved ones back home? Just about HK$200 to $300 each month or just about 2,000 pesos. This amount is certainly very small and affordable compared to the headaches and heartaches of a marriage or partnership on the rocks, or a wayward teen-aged son or daughter hooked to dangerous drugs.
3) Clear sense of purpose and mission
Working overseas and earning much more than what one gets back home is always great! But overseas work is not forever, it is merely temporary meant most times to earn incomes that will help raise the quality and stature in life. With a clear sense of purpose and mission, OFWs should save and map out overseas exit plans and aspire to become entrepreneurs when they return home one day in the future. Family incomes can be secured if one’s own business is set up and nurtured successfully.
Sentimentality aside, going back to one’s own roots, to one’s homeland, to be with loved ones amid familiar and endearing surroundings is the most exhilarating experience that many overseas Filipinos always look forward to. Despite increasing hardships in the country, the yearning for home is evident even among Filipinos who have settled for years in Canada with entire family members.