For our children

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero Ballescas - The Freeman

"Isa lang naman ang purpose ko kaya ko nag-abroad..un mabuhay ko mga anak ko." This anguished FB message reached me early this morning. At the time of this write-up, the sender is now with the police and an interpreter at the scene of a car accident she encountered weeks ago. She was not able to sleep the night before because her alcoholic husband verbally battered her again and it got to a point where she said, they wrestled over a knife. Gratefully, no one got hurt. However, our female friend thought of killing herself after that.  Gratefully again, instead of ending her life, she cried herself to some few hours of troubled sleep.

What will happen to her next after the police investigation of the car accident and when she goes back again to her abusive husband? We will soon know. Right now, while waiting, we are praying for God to continue to see her through. We also pray for God to lift other needy migrants beyond their difficult trials and challenges. These are legion. Not only domestic violence. It remains a kapit-patalim situation for so many migrants, whose only dream is for their children and loved ones to have a good, a better life.

Is migration the better option or the only alternative to giving our children a better life? Can parents not stay in our country and be able to support the rest of their family members? Sadly, millions of Filipinos have answered this before and their answer continues to be the same until now: "No, there are not enough decent jobs that will allow us to support our children and provide them with good education, stable present and better future."

Stock estimates for 2013 published in the website of the Commission on Filipino Overseas show that 10,238,614 Filipinos went abroad either as permanent, temporary or irregular migrants. In October 2015, a CFO report mentioned that about 5,000 Filipinos leave everyday to migrate abroad.

Philippine population in 2013 was about 97.704 million people. The 2013 stock estimates of Filipino overseas then was close to 10 percent of total Filipinos. The number of migrants predictably may have increased by now. While more Filipinos are staying in the Philippines, there is still a need to address the reasons why millions still leave, with many of our overseas migrants exposed to the challenges present in a foreign land. There is also the urgent need to halt all abusive recruitment and dispatch schemes that extort exorbitant costs from our unknowing migrants.

Our overseas Filipinos themselves also are not the only ones exposed to challenges and trials. Children of migrants left in the Philippines have expressed their heart's desire to have their parents with them, instead of abroad. Although showered with gifts from abroad and with adequate assurance and provisions for food, clothes, education, health, and other needs, children honestly express what to them is most important, the presence and company of their parents.

Migrant children – those who are brought by their parents, or those who follow their parents, or those born abroad also have diverse experiences growing up as foreigners. There are migrant families who reap the benefits of migration and whose relationships stay strong through the years. There are others, however, who are at the other side, who do not attain their dreams about the benefits of migration and whose family is in shambles as a result of migration.

It is not always the case that migration ends up fulfilling dreams. Nightmares have been experienced by so many of our overseas Filipinos. Best for all, for governments, civil society, and the migrant themselves to equip themselves with adequate knowledge and safety nets related to the whole migration process and stages.

There are short-term and long-term consequences of migration as well at various levels, on the personal, household, community, region, national, and international. Whether migration, especially for our women in vulnerable jobs, will not translate to challenges that may be experienced across generations, especially for children – in terms of discrimination, marginalization, and exclusion in host and sending countries – is an urgent issue that has to be addressed soonest to better protect the migrants, their children, and the dignity of the sending countries that support migration.

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