In 2013, there were 2.3 million Filipinos reportedly working overseas, a whopping 65% increase over the course of 10 years, not counting undocumented OFWs.
Indeed, many of our kababayans are sacrificing being so many miles away in order to find work and earn money abroad. Overseas job opportunities seem the only answer to the scarcity of jobs back home. But OFWs always have a reason or two to return, and here are ten of them.
Colorful public jeepneys are a national icon, and jeepney commute is a shared experience among Filipinos. OFWs would surely miss the long wait along the traffic-laden city streets, passing fare to “manong” driver, and the occasional conversations with other passengers over the latest gossip in town.
Apart from jeepneys, OFWs may also miss these equally interesting domestic means of transport: kuliglig, tricycle, habal-habal, pumpboat and even the rail transit systems, LRT and MRT.
Those who grew up in the outskirts of the city are definitely used to waking up to the loud crow of roosters, particularly fighting cocks – those groomed for tigbakay or sabong (cockfight). Many Filipinos are deeply obsessed about breeding and caring for fighting cocks, to the dismay of rural wives with sabongero husbands. As a centuries-old sport, it’s safe to say a good number of OFWs are into the sabong and are missing the games and the fowls a lot.
3. Rice Cakes
Kakanin or rice cakes are an everyday treat for Pinoys who enjoy eating them with traditional beverages like Kape Barako (Baraco Coffee from Batanggas) or sikulate (rich chocolate drink), or even cold Coke. These native delicacies are likewise ever-present on the dessert table during special occasions, and ideal pasalubong after an inter-island trip. Well, the perfect marriage of sticky rice, coconut milk and sugar is hard to come by outside the country.
4. Barrio Fiesta
Apart from internationally renowned fiestas held in large Philippine cities like Bacolod (MassKara Festival) and Cebu (Sinulog), barrio fiestas are a festive respite on their own. Village folks are more close-knit and cohesive, it’s virtually impossible for a stranger to visit the barrio unnoticed. Although modest in every way, barrio fiestas remain jovial occasions worth remembering, if not coming home to.
5. Lechon (Whole Roasted Pig)
Lechon is so tasty, it’s one of the main dishes that propelled the Philippines to second place in CNN’s poll: Best Food Destination in the World.
Lechon means festive, communal, grand, abundant. . . It is perhaps the emblem of Philippine cuisine, a staple in any celebration. The absence of lechon on top of the buffet table could downplay any grandiose event, except of course those held for non pork-eating diners. And whenever OFWs miss an event back home, they’re sure to miss the lechon as well.
Traffic in the Philippines is one of the worst in the world.
Although, this indicates the inefficiencies of our infrastructures and shortcomings of our government, it is also a part and bundle of Filipino culture that persistently leaves a mark into our being. That said, we
7. Street Food
Pinoy street food is a hodgepodge of oddly named goodies to which many, if not all, Filipinos are addicted. Balut, kwek-kwek, isaw, betamax, fishballs, adidas, chicharong bulaklak, kikiam, banana cue, scramble, sorbetes and buko juice are just some of the staple street foods readily available wherever there’s a crowd or passersby. They’re cheap thrills with sanitary risks, but unforgettable nonetheless.
8. Tropical Weather
The usual destinations of OFWs include the Middle East where it’s too hot, or in snowy countries like Canada and America where it’s too cold. It’s easy for OFWs to long for Philippine summer when the weather is just right for go on a holiday with family and friends, be it at the beach or by the countryside.
9. Special Family Events
It’s normal for OFWs and their families to celebrate Christmas, graduation, birthday and other intimate gatherings apart from each other. Most overseas job contracts last two years or longer, and within this period, OFWs rarely come home, if not altogether prohibited to come home. If they do come home briefly within the contract period, OFWs generally have to shoulder travel costs.
10. Loved Ones
Being away from home and family is perhaps one of the greatest tradeoffs of working abroad. More than any Pinoy festivity or cuisine, what OFWs miss the most is their loved ones. Despite the varied means of fast communication today, it seems that distance is still the family’s foremost adversary.
The sheer number of OFWs toiling in strange and foreign environments is staggering enough (read: unemployment issues in the country), but the consequences of them working abroad are more far-reaching.
To OFWs and their respective families, we pray for you remain steadfast and united in love. May each Pinoy family be unshakeable, unbreakable despite having to part in search for greener pastures.
Have you been abroad for quite some time? What are the things you miss back home?