OFW Problems

“It is health that is real wealth. And not pieces of gold and silver.”


OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker/Pilipino sa Ibayong-dagat

“Once you are born poor, you’ll always feel poor. Otherwise, you have forgotten who you are.”

I was born and raised in a small barangay in Tagbilaran City, Bohol. Life then was relaxed and seemed so simple. As a girl, I was always the positive type who had dreams, and my first inspiration was my parents, whom I love so much. I was often told it is crucial to finish your education. Perhaps you can work abroad. Overseas was the goal, everybody’s goal. I grew up observing several relatives of mine and neighbors enjoying quite better life conditions compare to regular Filipinos who stayed, work, and live in the Philippines.

If you want to build an extravagant house, buy a car, and support your family, all you have to do is work abroad. Everybody says, “You can always do and achieve better overseas.” It also means that investing your time and effort doesn’t even count at all, here in our own country. It sad but I always look back to the version of me before all of this shining achievements. There will always be that part of me that stays and feels the same. The girl who had dreams and had so much passion for everything.

I was 22 when I had my first international flight. I was given one time opportunity to come to Europe. After I finished my bachelor’s degree and worked for some time in a design company, I told myself this is not gonna work for me. Pilipinas, I am so sorry, but I had so many high hopes since I was a little girl, but I cannot keep a job with a minimum salary working 8.00-17.00 daily. I just knew that my dad got “diabetes” and how will this go for my other young siblings and me? I cannot afford to send him for treatment. My parents both work still it was tough. I am not sure about myself being smart, or will I make it out there at all? I was dealing with so several negative feelings at the same time, it was difficult to describe. I am the only hope of my family, I cannot face them crying and confuse. I would lie and tell them I am brave if I could.  

I will never forget that day, I stood in Hongkong Airport waiting if the damn flight personnel will let me board my plane. I had the passport and the right visa. I wasn’t trying to do illegal. I felt pity at myself, I felt so small. The desperate me begging for a little chance. I swear to the heavens above, I will do whatever it takes. I already sold the bed I bought. Now I am standing in line waiting for a Go signal. I felt so scared, but I have to live. I have nothing to lose. The small Asian girl who came from the unknown small town trying to enter the big fancy continent of Europe. 

It is a simple thought that many of us have to accept that you have to work far like “nomads” no fix home and address. We always wish to survive, and if there is no source of income at home, then you find it anywhere else.

First, we educate ourselves and later on choose a job that could hopefully fill up our basic needs. In the Philippines, like many people, experienced it. No work is easy to find. No salary is enough to pay and support your needs. You are in debts already before you even receive your first paycheck. In addition, your family is your responsibility.

You spend endless nights being threatened and worried. How can you survive for the next 6 months without enough means (money) to support yourself and family. People think about money, only a lot of money. How about passion and interest?

Money can only buy “Convenience.” “Convenience” is a form of achievement which comes from hard work. Having it convenient is good. It’s confusing to know what really matters the most.

If you are a man, you’d be most likely become an engineer or a seaman. When you are a woman, you’ll study caregiving course or nursing travel and move to Canada or the USA. It seems like society expects one should leave the country.

Life is full of terror. Terror, Terrorist, Terrorista!

This is Ann (Ann-e) coming home year 2017 after almost a decade, fantastic and fiercely exhausting years of being away.

This is like “Fifty Shades of Grey” just with a twist that Ann-a (Anastasia Steele) come to a realization “I’d kinda like it rough.” Despite the Abu Sayaff terror threats, I decided to fly home according to plan. I just completely lost my sense of fear. What actually bothered me that time, is that how will I survive as a person for the next two-three months. I still have plans and responsibilities.

I achieved most of my goals for my family. My brothers already finished their education and got jobs. My mother got a permanent teaching job at the local elementary school. I got married and recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I almost had it all and done it right as best as I possibly could.

My dad passed away just like that, and now everything is a mess.

Oh my, I realized I kinda missed a lot. I have been away consistently. I forgot how it feels to feel at home. I was only able to sleep 4-5 hrs daily. I am catching naps during the day, so I won’t collapse. I am always tired, irritated, I hated my own schedule. I consumed 3-4 cups of black coffee already at 9.00 in the morning. I felt like everybody is putting so much pressure on me and more and more things for me to do and fix.

I was burned out! Great! I was so excited about these terror threats. I booked my plane ticket and hotel one night I was still awake around 1.30 in the morning. I needed another strong feeling aside from feeling so anxious.

“The problem is that I couldn’t grieve the exact time and the exact place.” Thinking about my father, who died about four months ago, was hard. I didn’t fly home when he was sick, I never held his hands and said goodbye to him. This is it! This is where and when I mean, I can’t take it anymore!

It was like when I was a little girl. Everybody expected me to sing and dance and put a great show. People only expect the best performance, but the audience failed to see the real person behind the curtain. The person who wants to entertain everybody but was always anxious, nervous, and alone. I should be celebrating when I know in the back of my head. I have made it through, ten years of rough and challenging years of being away. Those times I’ve been wild and unstoppable. I always expect that I can win anything with flying colors, every single negative/positive challenges in my life. I was patient, rigid, and so psyched to conquer it all. I am still am, but now actually feeling so tired! I don’t like it when I can’t do and give my best.

“If it happened that I was Snow White, without resist, take the apple with poison from the Evil Queen. Then I will sleep freely for a thousand year.”

After Check-in Moment I found an empty hammock tied between the two coconut trees. It was around 1:30 in the afternoon. The sun was shining, and there was a quite good sea breeze. I could feel the white powdery sand under my feet. How can this be soothing? It was Easter but I also felt, crucified. God save me from this awful feeling.

For 10 minutes, I was swinging back and fort like a little baby. The sound of the sea waves was like my mother singing to me her precious lullaby. I thought about what happened in the reception area — trying to be so critical again! First na shock ko sa akong bill for the entire stay. Murag pang Europe man intawn sad ning prices aning mga rooms nila. Na hala! i-ignore ang price kay na book na raba ni. Wla raba ka naka pabook didto sa “Hennan” kay full. Daghan sad Koreans didto samok! Dli ka pwede mag moment didto, basin ma viral ka ug mo ligid ka sa baybayon.

Naka remember ko sa reaction sa receptionist murag ready na gyud siya sa akong bill. Then pindot pin code sa akong mastercard then booking reservation fully paid. Natinga siya kay nag bisaya ko (spoke Boholano), I told him taga Bohol ko. Bahala wala ko tagae ug discount.

Pag abot nako sa among room, murag nahuwasan ko sa akong gibati. Hala oi! Ka nindot sad diri! Nindot kaayo ang ambiance! Tapos naa pay ga sunod nako assistant gadala sa akong mga bagahi. Feeling VIP kaayo. Akong anak, ready na mo langoy! Gipangita niya asa daw ang iyang mga pang swimming. Ang twin bed humok gyud kaayo, naa pay elephant towel with a welcome message, freshly cleaned bathroom, tapos terrace with direct beach access.

Naa pay pakapin nga fruit basket ug peanut kisses. Siyaro dli ko ma relax ani! So I asked myself. Unya, unsaon naman intawn tong imong ” I want to grow old like J.Lo goal?” Nga bisan 8 hrs. of good sleep lisod man gani i fulfill. You just turned 30 years old but your already feeling awefull.

If you have to grieve, you have to do it now. Tapos kalit lang ko nakatulog! I fell asleep under the coconut trees for around 20 minutes.

“Healing is believing” I woke up in a better emotional state. Just like that! Milagro kaayo! Now I am sleeping better, feeling better! Feeling more happy and more alive!

OFW with Mental and Emotional Struggle

O.T.E. (overseas traumatic experience) not currently defined as an illness. It is a personal experience or a struggle caused by prolonged travel and stayed overseas. It is useful to justify such a situation rather than putting yourself confuse in an undefined abnormality.

Cause: Overseas/LDR (loving in the distance) relationship.

Psychological Symptoms: You’re feeling ill but cannot really explain it why? Feeling slightly confused, feeling more sensitive and emotional, having anxiety, or generally feeling so negative. You will have insomnia or lack of sleep, irritability, out of focus, not feeling effective and more.

These things are difficult to interpret since your mind (brain) is the one who is struggling at this point. Gimingaw ka sa inyo, but cannot go home. You are going back home but in a fixed date after 3-6 months. Others have it worst cannot really go home or whatever crazy situations they got into being a TNT (Filipino for an illegal alien who is in hiding).

Physical Symptoms: You’ll most likely experience body changes such as weight gain/ weight loss, aches and pains, and low energy. Symptoms which are not good if you want to be effective in any way.

You are already feeling guilty that you cannot even take care of the most crucial person in your life “YOU.” This awful feeling can still be corrected (normalize), but you must know when to stop or know how to move on from this endless slavery. If not corrected, this can lead to longterm disease (worsen).

You’ll end up having depression (emotional instability) or can lead to suicidal thoughts and attempts. Then you find yourself unsavable.

The hero who has saved everybody but failed to save himself.

If your an OFW/Balikbayan you should be familiar or had experienced in such a messy emotional experience. Or you’re still wondering why? What is more important than your own health and feelings? To give a better future to the family you love and willing to die for? Isn’t relationship is about love, affection, and give and take?

It is important to simplify things when things seem too complicated. It is not possible to always ” kill two birds with one stone.” You are tired and dizzy. You are not even sure if it is really a bird you have as a target. Focus on one single problem and fix what is wrong.



Tips on stress mastery for OFW

  • Take care of your BRAIN Yes, your one and only brain. Your body’s most important organ which controls your entire nervous system.
    A brain is a powerful tool, but it is sensitive and vulnerable.
photo of head bust print artwork

Photo by meo on Pexels.com

Your brain requires proper nourishment. Eat a balanced and healthy diet, do a regular exercise, sleep 8 hrs. daily, and engage in recreational activities.

When you are healthy, you will feel healthy.

  • Meditate, Pause, and Remember why? Overseas meaning far distance, time difference, apart from your source of hope and happiness, your family.
    How do you think those things affect your brain? Is there a single day you don’t think about the people you love back home? When your mind is overwork (overthink), it won’t function optimally as expected. In this case, your brain burns more than 20% of your energy. Not to mention, you’re dealing with a lot of stress, time squeeze, and expectations from work and more. It is exhausting!

When you’re an OFW, you basically feel like a “Cow” or “Chicken” on a big farm.

You are alive but trap in a big cage. Sometimes you have a chance to roam beyond the green pasture. Still, you are in a place fenced, there is caretaker, and there is only one way out. You aren’t really free.

  • Learn to Accept It was a difficult choice. Meaning it is not easy.

OFW in a relationship

A good example is when you lost someone you genuinely care about. You are far, far away from that big scenario. You are triggered by sudden and harsh emotional conditions such as death (grieve), relationship challenges (break-ups), or any form of negative feelings “naay problema, kuan.. blah! blah! (stress).” Then you will be “shock” (dli maka move-on period) having difficulty to understand the idea why the situation occurred.

You are far, but still affected because you love and you care. It’s not fun to wake up every day with an aching heart.

Accept what are the consequences base on your reality. Avoid holding on about things you cannot control. Instead, be flexible and re-focus on people who are still there, the life that you still have. Your bright future and things you can even improve. You cannot control people and nature, but you always have free will to choose.

Find the problem and then explore for answers. “Life is an experience. Without experience, there is no meaning.” The problem is that you cannot choose. You are stress dealing with  time and distance. It’s challenging to make good memories. If they experienced sadness or grieve. You can’t even relate to it. You learned things slow and hard. Long distance makes it difficult to comprehend things which are not seen, feel, and experience. There is no regular communication, time, and togetherness.

It is a sad reality that other people have difficulty understanding what you have been through. What is lost, it is already lost! In life, there is no replay like in the movies. No one has invented the time machine yet.

You’re away and alienated with some most essential experiences such as happiness or sadness. Your perception of happiness is based on your expectations, to feel happy, to care, to feel loved, to be together with your friends and family back home. Your life is divided in two. Your life back home, and living abroad. It’s like falling in love with a piece of the picture. You hold on to that happy memory, because that is all you have. You’ll have that constant expectation that things will be the same when you meet your family again. “Larawang kupas” a picture will eventually fade in time. Even a digital image, when saved, can still be lost.”

  • Stay Focus and be oriented. Sacrificing, and working hard for the family. That is your purpose if life. It takes time to understand the real meaning of it, but in time, you will. It’s a big commitment, harsh struggle, an awful situation.
    This might be some of your questions: How can you win from feeling just not right? How can others only focus on there selfish emotional struggle? They are being left behind back home and expect that you are doing good and feeling awesome. How about they can at least ask “How are you doing out there?” to show they care. Despite everything, you are still human. A completely normal human being. A human who is trying to do extraordinary work and decisions. It’s difficult to describe or find means to understand each other — two unknown situations at the same time.
  • Learn to segregate it is like when you throw a garbage. You put together what is recyclable or let you off from those rotten pieces you don’t need. Let it all go and vanish them. You don’t have to time for so much drama. Putting yourself with the wrong people is terrible. If you stay, there will always be chaos, and more emotional risk for yourself. People who loves you supports you. Not make you feel bad about yourself.

Moral lesson:

“Nature has it’s own way of healing.” If you want to live happy, never forget to stop and take a break. You can always break from stress and society’s endless expectations.

Note to yourself: Your experience is different from others. You as a person is unique, cannot be compared to anyone. Whatever challenges your are going through, it is important to mentalize, be a self-critic and find ways so you can feel better.