It was in November 28 years ago when my Mom left for the United States to marry her sweetheart, an American. Unlike many OFWs, I knew that it would be a permanent separation. After all, she was getting married, and no matter how difficult it was to accept, my brother and I gave them our blessing. The good thing about it was, still unlike many OFW families, we got to see her at least twice a year. Her husband worked as a flight attendant and one of the benefits was discounted (if not free) flights to and from the USA.
Of course, seeing her twice a year did nothing to ache the pain of knowing the reunion would only be temporary. Every now and then during one of her visits she would say that they would like to retire in the Philippines eventually. Around 3 years ago, I thought that it would really happen! She was already retired, and her husband had just retired that year, and they were excited over planning for a permanent stay in Manila. But due to health reasons and monetary considerations, it wasn’t possible or practical. The Philippines’ cost of living has drastically increased and with the weakened US Dollar, prices seemed at par, or even higher, than those in America.
And so, up to this day, I haven’t been able to spend more than two weeks (at most) at a time with my Mom. That’s a total of 28 months, equivalent to 2 years and 4 months of being together out of the 28 years apart.
Why am I sharing this with you? What has it got to do with being an OFW? EVERYTHING! I remember getting excited and giddy over receiving a package, or the much-anticipated balikbayan box, once or twice a year, especially around Christmas time. It felt exhilirating to open up that box and see all kinds of goodies you couldn’t find here. But they didn’t last very long. The ‘kilig’ feeling of receiving began to fade as my brother and I got older, and though I hate to admit it, there was a time when I became immune to the ‘PX’ charm.
Looking back I am so glad that it didn’t reach a point when I would have preferred receiving presents over my mother’s physical presence. No child, OFW or not, would consciously choose things over their parents, in my opinion. Even up to this day, even when I can afford to visit my mother in the States, I still feel like that child who grew up different than the other boys and girls I knew. They had a complete family and all the ideals and expectations that go with it, while I was hungry to just be normal. Of course, now that I’m older and hopefully more mature, I realize I had it better than others. I had a great Papa, wonderful grandparents who practically raised me, and a comfortable home.
But the point is this – I was still, and still am, in need of my mother’s presence, no matter how old I get. Now that I have children of my own, I had dreamt that she would at least see them grow up and do the things mothers do with their children/grandchildren. It is also my desire to be able to be there for her as she enters her golden years, since we’ve been apart for the past two decades and a half.
You never outgrow the need for your mother’s love, and her physical presence. And this is why this particular article happens to be the very first one to be featured in ofwcoach.com – my dream has rippled outward with the desire to see OFWs reunited with their families. I couldn’t help my own situation in having my mom permanently stay in the Philippines due to uncontrollable circumstances, but I can certainly try to encourage others to find a way back home, for good. If there’s a will, there’s definitely a way. And we can find that way together.
Visit ofwcoach.com weekly for new articles and stories to empower you to come home, for good. Subscribe to my mailing list to get updates straight to your mailbox, and feel free to check out the tools section for useful resources. If you have a personal OFW experience you’d like to share, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you! Coach Summer signing off until next time!