The OFW's passion and “death”, with no resurrection

DIRECT FROM THE LABOR FRONT - Atty Josephus B Jimenez (The Freeman) - March 25, 2013 - 12:00am

The Filipino migrant workers' own struggles and travails, from recruitment to repatriation, might somehow resemble Christ's own passion, death and resurrection. The only difference perhaps is that, in the case of the OFWs, there appears to be no assurance for them to rise again. No writer of note has ever recorded the sordid details of how our migrant workers undergo a series of pains, frustrations and disillusionment in the hands of cruel employers, greedy recruiters, scheming traffickers, uncaring public officials and inept civil servants, both here and abroad. Someone should tell the world and the future generation how much sufferings have been experienced by our poor people in the name of labor migration.

No one has ever reported the whole truth on how OFWs are being subjected to all forms of degradation and inhuman treatment, from the time they leave for a foreign job, until they come home either maimed, broken or dead. Of course, there is no dispute that our 12 million workers abroad, whether legal or undocumented, are remitting more than the 24 billion US dollars every year, which somehow prop up the financial and monetary standing of our labor-excess economy in the eyes of the world. But the human and social costs of producing such a huge amount could indeed be beyond pecuniary estimation. How many lives were lost, how many women were raped, how many innocent Filipinos were jailed, persecuted and beheaded? How many marriages were shattered and families broken?

Like Jesus Himself, every worker who goes abroad undergoes the five sorrowful mysteries. He has his own agony in Getsemane, when a worker has to make that very hard and painful decision to leave his young wife and children behind, the mental anguish and deep emotional pains, the lingering doubts and suspicions of possible temptations for adultery and marital infidelity, the fear for young children against juvenile delinquency and school truancy. He is overwhelmed with apprehension both on his destination and on the loved ones he would soon leave behind. There shall be many tempests in the mind of that worker and troubles in his heart, which no word can ever describe to those who have never experienced such an ordeal.

The worker who decides to go abroad has to undergo his own scourging in the pillar, when greedy recruiters and scheming traffickers descend upon him like vultures, all egging him, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, to beg, steal or borrow money to pay them hundreds of thousands in placement fees, and all sorts of exaction, They even offer their own rag tag financing firms, just to entice them to borrow at very usurious rates, and hoodwink him with all sorts of “Trojan Horses”, just to draw their “pounds of flesh”. They make them sign all kins of promissory notes, quitclaims and postdated waivers.  These workers' pittance fees shall end up in the pockets of these vultures and scalawags. Of course, to be fair, not all recruiters are scoundrels, and everyone would claim that they are no rascals at all. But, of course.

The worker's crowning of thorns shall be the employer's endless demands and expectations, the order to do these dirty and difficult work, those dangerous and degrading jobs, those seemingly endless working hours with  no respite, the lack of food and sleep, and the cruel treatment like virtual slaves. The worker's carrying of the cross is his own family's constant demands to remit money, not only for food, rentals, medicine or tuition fees but also for expensive cell phones, jewelries and fancy clothes, liquors and cigarettes for the spouse and drugs from the kids. Just to  make up for his being an absentee husband and father, the OFW would borrow or work double or triple jobs, in order to send home the bacon. He does not care of the risks of disease, disability or even death. He is truly a hero.

The OFW's own crucifixion takes the form of a letter or a text that his wife is having an illicit affair, or that his drug dependent son has murdered someone and is in jail or that his darling daughter is pregnant or has eloped, or his youngest boy has drowned or met an accident. He has left for abroad to build a family. Now, his family is in shambles. Would he then cry aloud: “My God, my God, why has thou abandoned me ?”. Or would he kill himself saying: “It is finished. Father, unto thy hands, I commend my spirit”. Indeed, the story of every OFW is a long and painful one. Employers exploit him. Recruiters bleed them. And government officials, like scribes and pharisees, claim them as their accomplishments.

Of course, there are endless tales of success, many of them woven by bureaucrats who, in their self-righteous hypocrisy, promote migration as a national policy, and recruiters who make the OFWs their sources of power and wealth. But God knows the truth all these, and He will make a way to tell the world the truth. The sooner we all wake up to this truth the better for us and for our country. I know whereof I write. For six years, I was there at the foot of their cross. And I carry this truth painfully in my heart.

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