The distressful plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) became the highlight of a gathering of families at the Itogon Training Center at Bua, in Barangay (village) Tuding here, as the event focused on five Benguet OFW families.
BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat
ITOGON, Benguet (200 kms north of Manila) — The distressful plight of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) became the highlight of a gathering of families at the Itogon Training Center at Bua, in Barangay (village) Tuding here, as the event focused on five Benguet OFW families.
As the world remembers migrants, the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) here gathered on Dec. 17 some 100 families of OFWs in Benguet for its annual OWWA Day.
Town mayors were earlier enjoined to select at least six families to represent each of the 13 Benguet towns in the said affair, which also honored five families of migrants who are among the most distressed of such families.
“We bring them gifts, groceries, livelihood packages and some cash so that in a way these would ease some worries,” said Cordillera OWWA Director Manuela N. Peña in an interview with the press.
Similarly, in his welcome address, Itogon Mayor Mario W. Godio said he is looking forward to a time when there would be no more OWWA Day. In the same speech he emphasized the social costs of migration, like the unwanted breakups of family relationships, the behavioral problems in children arising from the absence of one or both parents, and the risks to job security and safety that OFW’s face while in the hands of their employers abroad.
Peña said she is not in favor of the so-called OFW phenomenon. “If possible I would not send any Filipino to work abroad,” she said, agreeing with Godio.
Sadness was evident in the faces of members of the families of OFWs from Tuba, Itogon, Kapangan, and Mankayan as they were called up the stage to receive additional cash incentives and prizes.
One of the OFWs worked for five years in South Korea – two years with legal employment, the rest as an illegal alien. On his fifth year, he met a vehicular accident that rendered him comatose for one year in a Korean hospital. Since his arrival in January, he has not been responding to communication despite continuous medication for a brain injury.
Another one has been missing since she went to Macau almost two years ago. Another died of an ectopic pregnancy while in Singapore. Others have been jobless since they returned.
Despite live entertainment from female impersonators, free five-minute calls and a free P25-load from a giant telecommunications network and offers of discounted prices from real estate companies, the migrants’ families did not seem to enjoy the fanfare.
“Each had a hesitant smile, waiting for a day when their loved one leaves them no more for a dreamt better-paying job abroad,” said Godio, who also hopes the government would give sufficient jobs to the unemployed here.
Last month, OWWA honored successful OFW families in ceremonies that glorified overseas employment. A family in Baguio City and another from Tabuk, Kalinga were then chosen as outstanding sea-based and land-based OFWs, respectively.
Meanwhile, OWWA is still at a loss as to the number of OFWs retrenched as a result of the global financial crisis. They (the OFWs) have not been reporting, according to Evelyn Laranang, chief of Programs and Services in OWWA-CAR. Recently, factories in Taiwan, South Korea and other Asian countries have been reportedly cutting down on manpower, thus the retrenchments. Northern Dispatch / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)