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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The OFWM (Overseas Filipina Working Mother) -- What Happens When The Light of The Home Is Gone? :(

                                         The sad plight of the Overseas Filipina Worker             
                                                                                                                                          INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

The family is the basic unit of the society.

It is usually composed of a father, a mother and a child/children. I say usually because the definition of a "normal family" has already changed in our modern society.

I came across an interesting blog of The New York Times. It said that in this day and age, the family is emerging. It now has alternative structures. 

                                      In “A ‘Normal’ Family, Lisa Belkin writes about a new study that shows  attitudes are changing:
What is a “family”?  Statistically, it is no longer a mother, a father and their biological children living together under one roof (and certainly not with Dad going off to work and Mom staying home).  Although perception and acceptance often lag behind reality, there is evidence that a new definition of family — while far from universally accepted — is emerging.
A report this month by the Pew Research Center asked 2,691 randomly chosen adults whether seven trends were “good, bad or of no consequence to society.” The trends were:

A popular American sitcom of 'modern families'
  • more unmarried couples raising children 
  • more gay and lesbian couples raising children;
  • more single women having children without a male partner to help raise them;
  • more people living together without getting married;
  • more mothers of young children working outside the home;
  • more people of different races marrying each other;
  • and more women not ever having children.

For purposes of this blog post, our definition of family would be the traditional one                
 "a married mother and father and their biological children living together under one roof."
We are a 'traditional' family.  :)
In our Social Studies classes, it is always emphasized that the family is the foundation of all the other institutions in society.

  The hierarchy is:

FAMILY (Pamilya)

SCHOOL (Paaralan)

CHURCH (Simbahan)

COMMUNITY (Pamayanan)

There is a saying that: "Kapag matatag ang pamilya, matatag din ang isang bansa." (If the Family is stable, the country is stable too.)

I am assuming that by stability it means, not just economic stability, but also the physical, emotional, mental, psychological and even spiritual stability of a nation. 

The country's stability is dependent on the solidity of the family.

We are presupposing that healthy and happy families breed productive members of the society, and the opposite of this --  dysfunctional and broken families produce ineffective citizens.

Sadly, because of poverty, the Filipino Family as the basic unit of society, now, more than ever, is at a huge risk of collapsing.

Poverty, which the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines or CBCP called as "the silent killer of families", is forcing the Filipino family to separate physically by means of one or both parents working abroad, leaving a spouse or their children at home alone, while one or both parents seek "greener pastures" in foreign lands.

The Philippine Government hails the Overseas Filipino Workers or OFW's as " mga bagong bayani" or modern heroes, because they remit billions of dollars to keep the Philippine economy afloat... but at whose expense?

(Note: As of July 2013, it is believed that OFW's number over 10 million and remit roughly $16B dollars a year.)

According to Maria Fe Nicodemus, chairperson of Kakammpi (Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc.),  a community-based organization of families of Overseas Filipino Workers and Migrant Returnees... 

In her presentation at the Filipino Migrant Conference in Athens, Greece in November, 1997 entitled: "Separated by Opportunity: The Impact of Overseas Migration on the Filipino Family" Nicodemus shared that:

Children suffer from being separated from their parents. :(
 "From many studies and Kakammpi's own experiences, overseas migration has precipitated a social crisis, affecting most especially the family. There are marital conflicts and breakdown of marital relations due to prolonged separation and lack of communication

Incidents of separation and abandonment are increasing. Intense loneliness, anxiety and pressure of child-rearing and domestic chores, are factors which contribute to emotional stress that affects the entire family. 

Philippine teen pregnancies are on the rise.
Among children of migrant workers, incidents of drug abuse, delinquency, early pregnancies or marriages and child abuse are increasing

Children also manifest strong materialistic values as they become overly dependent on money and gifts from overseas. Sometimes, they become extravagant especially when opportunities are good. A strong motivation to go overseas is developed among children in the belief that overseas employment is the only solution to improve their lives. 

Likewise, relations within the family and among relatives are affected. Thinking that migrant families are
Anguish over leaving loved-ones behind. :(
well-off, relatives turn to them for almost any financial need, whether for hospitalization of a relative, graduation of a cousin, wedding or even birthday of a neighbor. In the community, migrant families are often the topic of gossips concerning relationships and affairs of the separated spouses. Community conflicts arise as a result of jealousy. This is especially true where the neighborhood is not organized. 

Yet, in the face of the problems caused by migration, Filipinos continue to go overseas in droves. Many times, we ask our members why they or their spouses decided to seek overseas employment. The usual reply is "to keep the family" and improve our lives. This response is truly admirable. But the separation of the family, especially when prolonged and reunification is uncertain, has become the very reason for breakdown of marital relations and disintegration of the family. 

Sadly, the solution sought to improve and keep the family becomes the cause of its disintegration, its dissolution.

We are all aware of the increasing incidents of extra-marital affairs and maintaining two families. UGAT Foundation, a Non-Government Organization based in the Ateneo University, said - 'Happiness cannot be postponed'. While Kakammpi does not agree with this view, this is a reality which we cannot deny. We cannot be judgmental in these cases because there are varying factors that may have led to marital breakdowns and infidelity. 
                                Filipinos communicate via body language.                                       Photo Credits: Wikimedia

It has been noted that the Filipino family is not ready for overseas migration. This is partly because Filipinos are more used to verbal communication rather than written. In fact, Filipino couples are used to sign and body language to communicate with each other. Facial expressions, body movements and the tone of voice are often enough to understand one's inner feelings. "

Such is the sad plight of the Overseas Filipino Worker.:(

Migrant Working Mothers are increasing in number. :(
Note that that was a paper written in 1997. It is now 2014, nearly 17 years after, and even with all the high-tech gadgets and the advancement of technology to connect and reconnect with loved-ones from all across the globe, the plight of the Filipino Family has sadly gone from bad to worse. :(

What is even more heartbreaking is the plight of the Overseas Filipina Working Mother or OFWM. :(

According to an Online Inquirer article published on July 21, 2013, based on government data, there seems to have been a change in the pattern of the profile of OFW's over time, based on their skills, occupation and country of deployment as indicated by the change in demand for overseas workers.

Filipino nanny Merle Flores with the Edmonton girls she cares for:
Hannah and Nyssa Dokken. (
Ann Sullivan/CBC)
Employment of women in household service, nursing and waiting [tables] or bartending is now largely more prominent than manual or skilled industrial work. This is a major shift away from the 1970s, when mostly agricultural workers (Editor's Note: men) were sent to Hawaii and construction-related professionals were deployed to oil-rich Middle Eastern countries,” said the report.

It said more than half of female OFWs (56.1 percent) were “unskilled workers, mostly domestic helpers and cleaners.”

Yaya Sepa with our kids at a friendly visit to our home -2010

Ate Sepa's husband with their child,Clarisa - 1997

In one of my earlier posts, Wanted: Helper,  I shared with you how it is part of the Filipino culture to have live-in nannies. I myself had one growing up. Yaya Sepa (Nanny Sepa) lived with us and took care of me and my sister for nearly 15 years. She was single then. She only left us when she got married and had a child of her own in 1993. She was able to take care of her own daughter who is now a young adult and amply employed in the Business Process Outsourcing industry. Nana Sepa's sacrifices had all paid off without having to leave her daughter to somebody else's (including her husband's) care. She still visits every now and then but as a family member, not anymore as a hired employee. :)                   

However, she is an exception rather than the rule. 
With our four kids - 2013

Such is not the case for most of the poor Filipinas in the country who have to leave behind their little children, (some still infants) to work as caregivers or nannies abroad. :( They take care of other people's children while their children are being taken care of by others. Such is the irony of the Overseas Filipino Working Mother's life.:(

For most women living below the poverty line, working abroad is their ultimate dream. It is their ticket to prosperity. They feel that working abroad will give them the necessary financial freedom to give their children a better future. Sadly, due to poverty and lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines (which is due in most part to corruption) more and more mothers are going abroad to work for their families, leaving behind their husbands to take care of their children. 

Roles have been reversed to suffer irreparable consequences. :(

Allow me to quote verbatim, part of Mark Joseph Ubalde's insightful article for GMA News Online dated May 9, 2009: (For the complete article, please click on the link here.)

"Since 2004, the number of women working overseas has steadily increased. The Commission on Population (Popcom) attributed the feminization of labor to the growing demand for health workers, particularly nurses and caregivers, who are mostly women.
The World Bank reported that close to half of the migrant population in the world are women. Andrew Morrison, WB’s Gender Group lead economist, said the more women migrants there are, the more positive effects to the development of the economy it will have.
OFWM's or Overseas Filipino Working Mothers

When fathers took jobs abroad, it bore little dent on the family. But when the mothers left, the entire family adjusted. 

"Women are sending lots of money to their families back home, and evidence from rural Mexico shows that their migration leads to positive effects for the homes they leave behind," Morrison observed.

But Dr. Lourdes Arellano-Carandang, a renowned child psychologist who published a book about absent mothers, begs to                                                   differ.

“They remit more money because they are more faithful in remitting than the men, but that’s on the side of the money only. The emotional and social costs are not talked about but the money. But we have to consider the entire [OFW] phenomenon holistically," Carandang said.

A typical OFW family with a "houseband" or a husband handling the household
                          while the mother is abroad providing for the family.   Photo Credits: Reuters
According to her, when fathers took most of the jobs abroad, it only had a little dent on the Filipino family. But when the mothers left, the entire family needed to adjust.

The departure of the mother redefines her traditional role as the primary caregiver by taking on the position of the father as the main provider. Meanwhile, the father is often unprepared to assume the mother’s care-giving function, which in turn, affects the entire family, especially the children.

When the 'light' is out
A domesticated child

Carandang conducted a case study where she interviewed 10 migrant families, who like Karen, left their families behind to work abroad. For a year, they studied each of the family’s backgrounds, their insights and feelings about the mother leaving the household. They discovered that there is a pervading feeling of sadness in the family and a deep longing for the mother to come home.

Most fathers unfortunately do poorly with house management,
           MISSING MOMMY.  Macoy Leyba has learned to cook,
            take care of the children, and balance the family budget,
                       but he still misses his wife everyday. [From PCIJ - Photo by Alecks P. Pabico]
including taking care of household chores and being sensitive with their children’s needs.

The team suggested that the men should accept their new roles not as the breadwinner of the family.
Kids miss their Nanay and don't understand
why they are not home. :( Photo Credit:Nordis

Depending on their age groups, children also have different understandings of their situation. 

Carandang later published her study as a book entitled, “Nawala ang Ilaw ng Tahanan (The Light of the Home Is Gone): Case Studies of Families Left Behind by OFW Mothers" in 2007. In it she noted a startling discovery:

While the young children simply miss their mother and don’t really understand why she has to be away, the adolescents are in conflict because they appreciate the necessity and benefit of working abroad (in that they can go to school and buy more things), but they also feel sadness," a part in Carandang’s book read.

Interestingly, children of migrant parents also become the “tagasalo"
                                                                              Photo Credit: Reuters
(burden-bearers) of the father when he doesn’t perform his patriarchal duties well
. That’s why there are kids who would volunteer to cook the family’s meal, do the laundry, perform household chores, and even cheer up the father who they sometimes see as “sad and helpless."

But the mother’s absence poses a more serious threat to the family, according to Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrants’ Advocacy. Sana said incest is present in OFW families, particularly when the mothers are away.

“Incest relationships are being talked about among OFW
The Filipino indie film,"Nuwebe" tackles incest.
communities, but the figures aren’t there," Sana said. “It’s an open secret but no one wants to talk about it. It’s embarrassing."

[Peacefulwife Philippines Note: These next few paragraphs are very alarming and heartbreaking. My heart bleeds for the Filipino families, especially the children. :( ]

Substitute spouses

Sana explained that if an incestuous relationship happens in a family where the mother leaves the home early in the morning to sell goods in the market — leaving the father and the daughter at home — how much more if the mother works thousand of miles far away from home?
“It’s gut feel. You know it’s happening but no one wants to talk about it," Sana said.
Erwin Puhawan, a paralegal of the Kanlungan Center Foundation, shared Sana’s observations that families tend to be discreet about problems of incestuous relationship.
Fathers make their girl-child the substitute for the absentee wife. :(
 Photo Credit:
He said it is an “open-secret" among OFW communities and they talk about it in private. 
In 2007, Senator Pia Cayetano expressed apprehension on the emerging problem of the growing number of women working abroad. 
While the number of mothers abroad has been increasing, the number of daughters (especially the eldest) who take on roles at home left by their mother, is also increasing, Cayetano said. 
“Sometimes to the point of being subjected to sexual abuse and forced to become substitute spouses by their father," she said.
Senator Pia Cayetano thinks the feminization of labor migration and incestuous relationships stemming from it are the most damaging impacts of this OFWM phenomenon.  Photo from Senator Pia's website.

"This disturbing phenomenon of the girl-child being turned into a substitute spouse has been happening in our country along with the feminization of labor migration," the lady senator lamented.
She described the phenomenon as one of the most damaging social impacts of labor migration, which she said can never be measured by any of the government's socio-economic indicators or captured by statistics on labor export."

This entire blog post just made me want to go to my four children and hug and kiss them all. :( You really don't know how blessed you really are until you hear of stories like these. :(

I started writing the Peaceful Wife Philippines Blog upon the suggestion of my dear husband, who said that I should help spread the Word on God's Great Design for Marriage, after I repented to God and to him, after realizing how controlling and prideful I have been in our marriage and how disrespectful I was not only towards Dong, but God Himself.

I now live by Ephesians 5:22 

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
I am dumbfounded by the OFWM phenomenon because never in our country's history have we had it so, so, very, very wrong.:(

Because we live in a fallen world, and in a country where our politicians are corrupt, sin just continues to beget sin after sin after sin... :(

Because of the greed of some politicians, in direct and indirect ways there is constant:

  • poverty
  • hunger
  • massive unemployment 
  • lack of education
  • lack of health care
  • lack of decent housing

In short, most Filipinos cannot even attend to their most basic needs. That in itself is already an oppression. 

A typical scene anywhere in the country. Mga tambay or the jobless :(
It doesn't help too that most of the men in the country who belong to the lower income bracket seem to be in bondage too. Having take-charge wives and/or the lack of opportunities encourages them to be idle and to drink, and hang out with fellow idle booze buddies. :(

It seems that the Filipino woman time and time again, has been forced to step up to the plate to become the "man" in the relationship. You would seldom see a poor idle woman in the country. If she is not cleaning their
The super sipag (hardworking) labandera
 humble house, she is busy washing clothes, cooking, or taking care of children. That is to say, if she is not working for a living as a kasambahay (household helper), labandera (laundry woman), cook or yaya (nanny) in somebody else's household. Or if she was able to finish schooling, she will be busy working perhaps as a cashier, sales lady or secretary in an office or establishment. Filipinas are by nature, hardworking. 

Most of the destitute Filipino husbands, for some strange reason, aren't as motivated. :( Again, an oppression by the evil one to paralyze the true leaders of the home in order to make an already pitiable condition, more difficult and much, much worse. :( 
The Dominant Wife and  Passive Husband Combo all over again, but under pitiable financial conditions.   :(

                                            Ephesians 6:12 
For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Filipinos pride ourselves in saying that we are the "ONLY CHRISTIAN NATION IN ASIA", and yet, look at how the Enemy has been playing us and oppressing us so well! Not only through corruption which breeds gut-wrenching poverty, but also by destroying the very core of our nation, the basic unit of the society -- the Filipino Family. 

Because of poverty, the Filipino family is in jeopardy.
Because of poverty, the Filipino mother is working abroad and leaving the family.
Because of poverty, the Filipino husband is losing (even more) his masculinity.
Because of poverty, there is incest and infidelity.
Because of poverty, the very reason the mother left in the first place (to provide for the family) is the very reason too that she has no family to return to. What an irony. :(

And the list goes on...

I hold no easy answers right now (or maybe ever) to the vicious cycle of poverty and migration of the Filipino worker, most especially of the mothers. The problems are just too deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche and identity to solve overnight. :(

I leave it to God, Who is Sovereign and Almighty, to create a widespread change among the hearts of all Filipinos

Reuters/REUTERS - Rosario Capidos cries thanking God that she and her family
                      survived typhoon Haiyan as she prays during Sunday Mass at the damaged 

Santo Nino Church in Tacloban November 17, 2013

We, who have numerous faults and failures as individuals and as a nation are also known for our great faith in the Creator. 

We are resilient amidst adversity.We know how to be grateful despite great losses in calamities. 
'Surfing' in a flood

Filipinos love to smile! :) Photo by: Krystel Cayari-ElepaƱo

We know how to smile in the midst of tragedy. 

It is my hope and prayer that there will come a time that our faith will be translated to action. 

I have not lost hope in the Filipino and in the Philippines. It is the Christian in me that refuses to do so. 

Corinthians 4:16-18 
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." 

Feb 2, 2014

I may not be able to change the whole country but I have changed one thing -- myself  (with the Holy Spirit's Help) -- and I can use what I have learned from the Bible to create joy and peace in MY family through this very simple but powerful gift of submission to God and to my husband, the leader of our home. If I want change; I begin it with ME...
                  1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife[a] is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

And I can (with the Lord's Help) lead fellow wives (Filipina or non-Filipina) into following God's Great Design for Marriage by means of my life, personal witnessing and through this blog.

                                                 Titus 2:3-5

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine,but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

I do not judge the OFWM for she is worthy of compassion and not judgment. Leaving behind a family, and most especially a child/children would grieve any mother's heart.  :(

We as women, should not add to the already heavy burden they are carrying. They need our prayers. They need our love.

My prayer is that no matter what state of life a Filipina wife finds herself in, whether rich or poor,
A book on what happens when the OFW mother is gone. :(
may she understand her true role in the family -- that is as helpmeet to her husband and the light of the home. I pray too for the Filipino husband that whatever state of life he may find himself in, whether rich or poor, that he may understand his true role in the family, that is as leader and provider for the home.

Due to our fallen nature, as it was in Eden when roles were reversed, so it is now, yet again. :(

                                          Genesis 3:16 

"To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth. In pain you will bring forth children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

It is only by clinging to Christ and to His Words that we can conquer our sins. It is only by dying to ourselves can we conquer this sinful flesh. And, no matter how seemingly impractical staying at home is, that is I believe, where we wives and mothers are called to stay. I can only pray that more and more Filipina wives understand just how important their role is in the formation of the souls of their children.

Coming from the viewpoint of somebody not in need, what I am about to say might come across as unsympathetic, but I really truly believe that money is not the solution to one's problemsProof of that is what we just all read above. :(

January 12, 2014
Only God is the solution to our problems. He, Who created us and He Who designed marriage wants to be glorified by our submission to Him first and foremost, and then to our imperfect husbands.  

 Ephesians 5:22-33
      Wives and Husbands

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 
Traditional Family with Traditional Roles in Our Humble Home :) - Oct 2013
28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

What happens when the light of the home is gone? 

The family becomes susceptible to the Prince of Darkness. :(

Darkness however can be defeated by THE Light.

                                          John 8:12 

"I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

Join me in praying for the Filipino Family and the Overseas Filipino Working Mother, dear sisters in Christ!

May we all be richly blessed!


  1. Love this post! Very well said!

    1. Thanks for appreciating the blog post, Joyjoy!God bless you.




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