I am one of your avid readers. A friend has been regularly lending me her Kabayan since I am not getting any days off. After reading our fellow migrants' letters in your column, I felt compelled to write you too. I hope other overseas Filipino workers would learn a few lessons from my personal struggles.
Working abroad is something that I had never thought of doing. I did not plan this. Financial difficulties and more importantly, an irresponsible and lazy husband, forced me to leave our country. I was married at age 20. My husband and I have been blessed with two children.
I did all that I could to put food on the table. Walang trabaho ang asawa ko kaya ako ang gumagawa ng paraan para may makain kami sa araw-araw. Nag-aangkat ako noon ng gulay at isda sa palengke at ibinebenta ko sa lugar namin. (Since my husband was unemployed, I had to find ways for my family to survive. I tried purchasing fish and vegetables from the market and peddling those goods in our village. The money that I earned as a vendor was enough to buy us three square meals a day.)
Since I was working most of the time, my husband had to babysit our kids. If the kids were asleep, he would take a nap too. Pag-uwi ko galing sa palengke, ako pa rin ang nagluluto at nag-aasikaso sa loob at labas ng bahay namin. (There was no rest for the weary. After spending an entire day at the market, I still had to do household chores. I had to prepare our meals, and do other domestic tasks.)
I only had simple dreams Kabayan. It never crossed my mind that the guy that I married was selfish and uncaring. He was always hot-tempered and loved his booze. He often went home very late after a night spent carousing with his friends. Bone-tired, I could not help but complain about his lifestyle. Those squabbles sometimes turned violent. One time, my husband beat me up. Helpless, all that I could do was weep in one corner. "How could this happen to me? Why did I end up like this?" I asked myself then. "Am I being punished for disobeying my parents?" My parents had tried to dissuade me from marrying my husband but I turned a deaf ear to their pleas. I was blinded by my love for him.
One day, things finally came to a head. My husband beat me up again. This time, he did it in front of our neighbors. I endured his past shortcomings for the sake of our children. There was even a time when he tried to kick me out of our house but I refused to leave. One time, I was forced to sleep outside. Feeling sorry for myself, I beseeched God to touch my husband's heart.
A friend suggested that I find overseas employment. Since I already had a passport at the time, I asked my parents to help me raise the money for my placement fee. They also babysat my kids whenever I went to job interviews.
It took me seven months before I finally landed a job in Taiwan. My husband was stunned when he learned that I was leaving for Taiwan. According to the gossip mill, my mother-in-law had even been bad-mouthing me. Napakataas daw ng pangarap ko at hindi ko raw iyon maaabot. (My mother-in-law was allegedly telling people that I was over-ambitious, and that I was dreaming the impossible.)
God is my constant source of strength and endurance. He is also my guiding light. I am very grateful to our almighty Father since He has blessed me with extremely kind employers.
I asked my parents to check on my husband. They told me that he had gotten thinner since I was no longer there to cater to his every need. He had also stopped drinking and smoking. My husband even sought my parents' forgiveness. He said he had wronged me, and that he was extremely sorry for hurting me.
A few months ago, I took my annual leave. My parents were telling the truth. My husband is a changed man. To this day, I still could not understand why he had been such a brute early on in our marriage.
That is however all in the past. What is important is that my husband and I are ready to turn over a new leaf. Hindi ako nagtanim ng galit sa anumang masamang bagay na ginawa niya. (I did not bear him ill will.) If we forgive those who have sinned against us, God will also forgive our sins. Everyone deserves a second chance.
If we stumble and fall, we have to pick ourselves up and march on. If we could do that, we have already won the battle.
Currently, my husband is looking after our children. I often thought that God willed me to work overseas because He wanted my husband and I to give our marriage another go. Oftentimes, we have to lose those whom we loved for us to realize just how important they are to us.
My fellow migrants, please treasure your family. Do not let anything -- especially money -- destroy your home. If you already have some savings, go home to your family.
Merry, merry Christmas and a happy New Year to all!
A daughter's gift
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I hope that you would find the space for my daughter's letter.
Gusto kong ipadama at iparating sa anak ko na si Loraine ang hindi ko maipaliwanag na kaligayahan. (I would like my daughter to know just how happy she has made me. I am happy beyond words.)
To me, her Christmas card and message are the best gifts that I have ever received. My dear daughter, thank you so much for your wonderful present. You made Mama cry but those were happy tears!
I hope my kids will treasure the values that I have taught them. They are always on my mind -- every second and every minute of the day. I am their mom and best friend. I am here to guide them. If they stumble and fall, I will be there to prop them up.
My dear children, always remember that you would never go wrong as long as you have love, integrity, and self-respect. Most of all, live a life that is pleasing to our God almighty.
I would like to thank the Taiwan News, ICRT, Radio Pinoy and Hello Taipei for keeping me informed. You have helped me overcome my struggles in Taiwan. I am grateful to our Lord since He has gifted me with wonderful employers. He never broke His promise. In fact, God gave me more than I could hope for.
To my fellow migrants who are not getting any days off: Please don't feel bad. Why don't we invest our time and emotions into our families? Write them. Text them. Napakasarap ng pakiramdam ng hindi naliligaw ng daan. Napakasarap.
DEAR MAMA BETH,
Yes, you have received one of the best gifts this Christmas. Here is an excerpt of Loraine's letter.
"Ma, if I never had a mother like you, I wouldn't be the person that I am today. Thank you for the love and care. I appreciate everything that you have done for me. I will never forget the lessons that you have taught me. How I wish I could turn back the clock, and erase all those hurts and pains that I have caused you. I would replace those hurtful words with 'Ma, I love you' and 'I'm so glad you're my mom.' You have always been there for me. You are there whenever I need a shoulder to cry on. When I am feeling low, you are there to cheer me up. You are my role model, and you always lead by example.
Thank you for your unconditional love. I was never alone and never would be for I would always have a home.
I know that I can never thank you enough for all that you have taught me, given me, and done for me. I can never repay you. All that I can do is to tell you how much I love you with all my heart. I feel incredibly lucky to have been gifted with a mother like you. I love you."
'Thank you Pinoy Express'
I would like to thank Pinoy Express for putting together an essay-writing competition for foreign workers in Kabayan. Pinoy has been extremely generous. Those prizes could go a long way for us OFWs. To me however, the articles produced by all those aspiring writers -- myself included -- are the real rewards of that contest. Their stories have helped ease our homesickness. The top three winners in particular have inspired many of us with their message of love and hope. I hope Pinoy Express will continuously grow, and never tire of helping OFWs. Thank you Pinoy Express! Hatid mo'y kaligayahan.
Kabayan, I am lucky enough to place ninth in the contest. I am kindly requesting Pinoy Express to donate my prize to the victims of typhoon Reming in the Philippines' Bicol region. I am not from Bicol but I feel for those who lost a loved one, a home, or a livelihood in the violent storm that battered the region in November.
I know that winning that contest is one of God's gifts to me on my birthday. He made me win for a reason.
Finally, I would like to thank my dear friends who made my recent birthday celebration a memorable one. They are Sister Theresa, Sister Mathy, Father John and all the Ladies of Taitung. Thank you very much! To Father Joy and to you Kabayan Marie, thank you for greeting me on my birthday. Merry Christmas to all!