Baguio City – A Hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. Our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are our modern day heroes because they contribute to the economic growth of our country through their remittances and most importantly, there personal sacrifice to give their family a comfortable life despite fighting homesickness.

We’ve heard all sorts of horror stories encountered by Filipinos working abroad. Despite the increasing number of abuses towards our OFWs, there are still a lot who aspire to become one. Nonetheless, they consider this as the only way to provide the financial needs of their families.

Not all our modern heroes are lucky in our current working condition abroad. Some of face difficult situations, some are being abused by their employers, some are working longer hours than what is stated in their contract, and many other circumstances that become an additional burden in their personal sacrifice.

The recent data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) states that the number of OFWs who worked abroad was estimated at 2.3 million. Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) or those with existing work contract comprised 97 % of the total OFWs. The rest which is 3% worked overseas without contract.

There are more female OFWs which composes 53.7 % while the male OFWs compose 46.3%. The largest proportion of OFWs belonged to age group 30 to 34 years comprising 21.7 % of all OFWs, followed by those aged 25 to 29 years with 20.4 %. Female OFWs were younger compared to male OFWs. Higher percentage 24.1% of female OFWs were in the age group 25 to 29 years while the male OFWs were reported to have higher percentage 19.8% in age group 30 to 34 years. There were more male OFWs than female OFWs in age group 35 years and over.

Michelle is from Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya, a single mom working as a domestic helper in Hong Kong. She went through a lot of struggle and pain in life. According to Michelle, her grandmother took care of her ever since her father passed. She was 7 years old back then. Her mother, who got married later on, took her older sister. Since then, Michelle’s life became a living hell.

Ever since she was a child, she dreamed of going to Hong Kong Disneyland. That dream pushed her to pursue her studies despite all the hardships in life. During vacations, she worked as a housemaid. She used her earnings to finance her studies.

Michelle also did other jobs to earn money. Unfortunately, when she reached 4th year high school, like any other teen, Michelle was influenced by her friends to try different vices, prompting her to stop studying. She went to work in the concrete jungles of Manila as a saleslady. Work is hard, standing all day and struggling to make ends meet, these dark moments of her life f her life, she met her live in partner and they decided to live together at the same house. She still continued to work in different establishments.

She got pregnant in 2011. Unfortunately, their relationship did not go on smoothly. They were fighting all the time. Her live-in partner is jobless drunkard and she became the breadwinner of her family. They finally broke up on 2013.

Michelle then decided to work abroad to provide for her child. She applied in different recruitment agencies and finally in May of 2014, she was able to go to Hong Kong and was hired as a domestic helper. She hopes a buy a lot for her family. She strives very hard despite the stress and homesickness she feels every day.

There are many reasons why we call our OFWs as modern heroes, aside from providing strong remittances inflow, did you know that remittance from our OFW is the second largest source of the country’s foreign reserve. Despite poor working conditions, OFWs choose to work patiently to provide their families adequate nutrition and other needs; OFWs suffer family separation which is a big sacrifice; OFWs endure the deleterious effect of loneliness and homesickness. They bear these emotional scars just to earn money for their families and they give up the value of “Family” to make a living.

Working abroad is a big sacrifice. It is both physically and mentally agonizing to be separated from families for a long time without assurance of what lies ahead and what risks await abroad. Regrettably, several OFWs return in the country on dead bodies. Some are victims of terrorism, poor working conditions and unjust treatment.

So if you to travel to another country and had the chance to meet an OFW, sometimes you will notice that the smile has left their eyes because they have experience the different kinds of hardships- physical, mental and emotional but then again our OFWs are considered modern heroes not only for the love for their families but more importantly, their significant contributions to the country’s economy.

Before leaving to take the train to Hong Kong’s Statue Square to meet her friends, Michelle said “In my hometown, whenever they learn that I work abroad, I know they think of me having a lot of money. What they don’t know is that I never enjoy my pay out because I have to send it right away to my loved ones. Most of the time, the only left for me is hope that everything will be fine soon.”

Michelle is now 26 years old and is one of the many modern heroes today. Overseas Filipino Workers strive to earn money for their families in the Philippines. Her life-story is an inspiring piece of hard-work, perseverance and courage to take on all the challenges in life./Patrick T Rillorta