‘A short compilation of stories from Filipino Migrant Workers and the facts that summarize the reality of their situation.’

In search of a BETTER PAYCHECK, I am willing to be separated from my loved ones with miles and miles of oceans and lands between them and me. I have even accepted a menial job much lower than my previous profession and the challenges don’t stop there. Arriving in an unfamiliar land or an exotic destination may be a nice scenario if I am on a vacation, but if I am there to clean toilets, walk other people’s dogs, scrape left over foods out of other people’s plates, or be treated badly by people I don’t even understand so I can afford a DECENT EDUCATION for my children and THREE CIVILIZED MEALS per day for my family – “Is it worth the sacrifice?”

“According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 2.3 million Filipinos left home to work abroad from April to September 2018 with 92% of them leaving their current jobs here in the Philippines. The largest group of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) or 37.1% (mostly females) were hired to work in ELEMENTARY OCCUPATIONS or defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO) using the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO) as: ‘consist of simple and routine tasks which mainly require the use of hand-held tools and often some physical effort.’ The second largest group or 18.8% were hired as service and sales workers and the third largest group or 13.8% (mostly males) as plant and machine operators and assemblers. All of these efforts to send and bring cash home to loved ones as a part of an estimated total remittance of 235.9 billion pesos.”

Leaving the country means leaving the habits and routines I am used to and going out of my comfort zone. LONELINESS is my new shadow as a result of not being surrounded by the people who makes me laugh and gives me comfort. Since I am in a relationship, this would mean LACK OF AFFECTIONATE PHYSICAL CONTACT and ABSENCE OF SEXUAL ACTIVITY with my partner. I am trying to imagine what it feels like working all day, and sometimes all night, to sustain the needs of my family while feeling an emptiness resulting from missing all the activities that makes me satisfied and happy – “and yet I decided to go, face the challenges and brace myself for the consequences.”

“The April 2019 HIV/AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines from The Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau states that: ‘78 Filipinos who worked overseas within the past five years, whether on land or at sea, were diagnosed HIV Positive comprising 9% of the total newly diagnosed cases for the month. 97% of the HIV Positive OFWs were infected through SEXUAL CONTACT.’”

One of the requirements I need to attend to before leaving my country is the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) as mandated by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). One of its main components is the importance of understanding the Basic Information on STI, HIV and AIDS.

I am lucky to have the opportunity to attend Positive Action Foundation Philippines, Inc. or PAFPI’s lecture on HIV since they’ve been doing this for twenty years to people like me who is willing to work abroad by providing me the following: PROPER EDUCATION and AWARENESS on HIV, ABSTINENCE and FAITHFULNESS, CORRECT and CONSISTENT USE OF CONDOM … SAFE SEX PRACTICES – “I’ll be able to protect myself.”

“Mistakes happen as a consequence of circumstances you are subjected to. It’s not fair for other people to use your mistake in defining your ability for improvement or change. It is just humane to consider that not all people have the valor to fight human urges every time a temptation presents itself.”

But now, I have the courage to face the social consequences and psychological challenges of my decision. I am hoping that the people I left behind feels the same way. It is just right that PAFPI offered me the best advice I needed to hear and listen to before I left my country and the people I love. I need to protect my health and myself so I’ll be able to say these words confidently when I return: “I came home safe for the people I have sacrificed for.”

PAFPI’s projects for Filipino Migrant Workers or Filipino Overseas Workers (OFW) and involvement in the PDOS Program is funded and supported by Union Aid Abroad APHEDA (Australian People for Health, Education and Development Abroad) Since 2001: Australian unions working globally in partnership for the achievement of dignity at work, social justice, economic equality and the realisation of HUMAN RIGHTS.

The data used on this Article are from the Department of Health’s Epidemiology Bureau, International Labour Organization and the Philippine Statistics Authority. The first three photos used on this Article are from the websites of Brink News, Arabian Business and Business World.