Requiem for an O.C.W. 

You heard it before, the saying “the same dog with a different collar”. The overseas contract worker (OCW) is labeled with a new name by the Philippine government: “Overseas Filipino Worker”. This maybe a good sign of the times on how overseas workers are now being treated back home. In very recent times our cataract-eyed bureaucrats saw only the “contract” which is equivalent to money that shall be funneled into the economy. Now they come to recognized that those maligned,neglected,enduring,economical and politically significant new heroes, are Filipinos after all.
Technically speaking, I ceased to be one of them OCW’s since my assimilation into the local scene on January, 1997. But MAHMUD’s heart will always bleed for them whenever they are at the losing end in deals from fellow countrymen and or from foreigners. Their triumphs and achievements will truly make any former overseas worker smile.

Six months since my decision to come home for good and retire from overseas contract work, there are moments when I still contemplate if I really made the right decision. With misty eyes, six years is a damn long time to be separated from family and home. I missed the remaining critical years of development (the first 10 years of a child’s life) of growing my two kids, who became budding teenagers when I came home. But to be frank, six years is not enough time to get rich. Poor or rich, the time of reckoning came to me when I must choose family over and above money. That particular time was when my wife suffered her second bout of severe depression just barely two months after she spent 3 weeks vacation in my workplace at Singaua Plantation. Maybe her experience and her wild imaginations of the harsh realities over there made her sick. She used to dissuade me then from renewing my work contract with the mocking words “MAMILI KA, KUARTA O K_K_”!
Let me count my gains from the six years of toil in the land of the unexpected: my family is still intact although there were times when our unity was threatened; I am still alive and kicking, although physically scarred a little bit as a result of some violent encounters with PNG rascals; the regular income from our real estate investments realized by wise money management of the missus; my easy re-employment banking on my work experience or just plain luck; my enriched career; and the last, my spiritual metamorphosis from slimy atheist to obliging advocate of Islam.

On the other hand, let me cite the negatives which I and my family overcame: My wife's battle to maintain sanity, who during the years of my absence had nearly transformed into a nervous wreck, and whose health had ebbed to seasonal depressions and terrible variations; my own battle to maintain sanity and well-being put under extreme jeopardy from the forlorn environment and malarial conditions, e.g. stricken 2 times with cerebral malaria; the material losses and humiliations suffered from five instances of armed hold-up and ambush by barefooted but determined and always preying savages, who might have took advantage of the unguarded times when I was praying to Allah; and last but not the least, the potential loss of further propagating the germinal seeds of sturdy El Amore in the beckoning lands and verdant buxom of Melanesia (just a figure of speech , my dear).

Weighing the gains and the losses, I think I am a winner. Now I say, yes, I made the right decision to come here for good. MAHMUD the overseas worker is a “dead man”. From his voracious readings, he tried to ruminate some lessons on: outcomes rather than incomes; poverty of opportunity rather than poverty of income; development rather than growth; living hero rather than dead coward. He choked to death!

  • Ugly Balikbayans and OCWs
  • O.F.W.: The New Heroes
  • Philippine Census
  • Philippines Australia Union Link

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