I have a soft spot for OFWs. Maybe because I experienced living abroad and working part time to earn, it’s just that I didn’t need to send the money I earned back home. The money I earned, I used to keep up with my extra expenses while studying abroad.
My mom was strict with me. She gave me the opportunity to study abroad but only gave me enough money to cover for rent, food and a little miscellaneous expenses. I had to come up on my own, whatever else I wanted to spend on like trips and etc.
And so I worked part time as an English teacher. My weekday afternoons were spent teaching kids English. I would walk 30 minutes to get to the pre-school, and teach the kids for about an hour to an hour and a half. While my whole Saturday was spent traveling two hours by train to a nearby province to teach middle school kids English. It was my very first time to teach English, so it was a kind of a shock to me. But when I got paid after a day of teaching – it was exhilarating. It was a different high to receive my salary right after.
Just like Leah, Clark, Tita Jack and all the OFWs in the world – we worked our asses off to earn money. We had to walk instead of commuting at times, just to save money. We would bring food and water in our bags to quench our thirst and hunger. We would do every little thing to save what we earned. I remember doing what Leah was doing – endless computing to see how much I would be making every week. It was exciting, tiring but very fulfilling.
I am Asian, I don’t look anything like a Western girl. I have chinky eyes but my only weapon was that I spoke straight English AND I had a California ID. I had this classmate, Bobby he’s an American – red hair, white skinned and bold. We got to talk and he asked me if I wanted in on his teaching sideline. I think he assumed that I lived in the US because the year prior, I went on vacation in the US and we were exchanging stories. He was the one who introduced me to this old Chinese guy, let’s call him Professor Wang. Bobby shared with me the rate that we would get for a whole Saturday teaching. I was excited because it was quite big. So I agreed, I even had my friend Alch join in on the *racket*.
On our first Saturday stint, I thought to myself that it was easy. My gulay, it wasn’t! We travelled I think for more than an hour to get to Hebei province. Then when we reached the school – we immediately had to teach! Each of us had their own classroom – and we had to teach English for an hour and a half. We had a 15minute break and then another class for an hour and a half. We were given water bottles before each class. At first I thought, I didn’t need the water – turns out, I needed more! It wasn’t as easy as it looks. Imagine handling middle school kids all 50 (sometimes more) of them. Noisy and rowdy. I never expected it to be that difficult. It was only then that I realized what our teachers were going through when we decided to push their limits. Was this karma? After teaching two 1.5hour classes, we were all exhausted. We were then fed at the teacher’s office and then sent back to the train to go back home to Beijing. Most of us slept through the train ride home. We would reach Beijing by 7 or 8 in the evening, often our friends (who didn’t teach) would invite us to a night out but we were already exhausted from the travel and teaching. So we just stayed home, rested and slept. This was my routine for 6 months.
Like Leah and Tita Jack. My pay was quite unfair. Since I looked Asian, my rate was less than that of my friend Bobby who is an American. I found this out the hard way – when were handed our day’s pay – I noticed that the amount was far less than what was told to me by Bobby. I spoke to Professor Wang and told him the amount I expected – he then pulled me aside (imagine, this was on the train platform and the train was about to leave!) and told me that what I had is the Asian teacher rate and not the American teacher rate. Bobby saw this and began defending me to Professor Wang, Bobby said that I was an American Chinese – he then suddenly asked me to bring out my American ID as proof! I was just very lucky to have gotten a California ID the year prior and it just so happened that I have it with me all the time. So I showed the ID and then Professor Wang handed me the difference. I think it was then that I experienced my first *racial discrimination*. I thanked Bobby for his quick thinking and for his help – he then told me *I thought you were American!* Hahaha.. All the other Asian looking teachers got the lesser rate. Professor Wang would then give me the higher rate every time without fail.
I totally could relate to Leah and Tita Jack’s hardships with work. We had to do what others didn’t want to do. We had to do double the work but with the same amount of pay. But that was life abroad I guess. It isn’t as glamorous as we all thought. It was get all the work you can for the time that you have. Save all the money and then keep it for a rainy day or send them home. Here in Manila, work was just the 8hour shift type, but abroad – as long as your body can take the work, go lang.
I think my friends would often think that teaching English was easy. It’s not. Since I didn’t have any background in teaching – I was clueless. I just put a brave and confident front! Bahala na as they would say. Hahaha.. I was just given a topic to teach (the topic was handed to us when we got to the school – there was no time to prepare!) and we all had to improvise. The language barrier was to be considered too! It was hard because most people in China don’t understands English. I had with me my trusty Chinese-English dictionary, I drew – I acted out, it was like playing charades and pictionary. Nakakahiya at times because I needed to make them understand – it was tiring, nerve wracking and very draining. The first few months, I was being methodical – but in the last 2 months, I felt burnt out already – I was dreading Saturdays. So I thought – I might as well enjoy teaching and change my style. I needed the extra money. So I scrapped the lessons and began to just speak to the kids in English. Since the older teachers didn’t understand me – I had nothing to lose! Hahaha. As long as the kids were glued on me, that was okay. We would converse on topics of their choosing. I felt that by doing that – I imparted more basic English knowledge like words and sentences. I felt they learned more – because of the set up. I began to enjoy it eventually.
I feel that when you start working abroad without prior experience (add to the racial discrimination at that and working permits) – you can’t choose what work you would get into. You start from the bottom, whatever is there and work your way up. I wasn’t choosy – all I thought about was I needed extra money for my expenses. My goal was to earn money to spend on shopping and trips. Hahaha! Just like OFWs they have their own gaols – earn enough to send money home to help ease their lives.
Many think that working in a foreign land is all glitz and glamour, what they don’t know is that its really blood sweat and tears. Being away from family is hard, I never thought I’d feel homesick but I did. I once broke down and shouted *Hindi ko ito ginagawa sa Pilipinas!* I realized how lucky I was back home. To have all the comforts of life – in Beijing, I had to clean my own room, do laundry, wash dishes in super cold water (since it was winter and our faucets wasn’t attached to heaters), clean the house, pay for utilities. I walked or biked to school everyday. I had to commute going to and from teaching, gimmicks and shopping trips. And imagine, back then – the internet was still dial-up, so you can imagine the quality of the signal. I only saw my Panget twice on webcam. I had to grow up and take care of myself. My roommates, we all grew up and took care of one another.
That’s why I super dislike Jiggs’ character – he’s very ungrateful. Yes, it’s a given that he’s bratty because he was *left* by his mother. That’s the OFW generation, it’s hard enough for their parents to work for a better life for their kids only to come home and see how ungrateful they are to their parent’s hard work. I’m not saying everyone is like Jiggs, but let’s be honest – many are like him. Many are just after the money and comforts of life. There are only a few who appreciates their parents hard work abroad. Look at the difference between Clark’s siblings and Jiggs – super different.
Aside from the children of the OFWs – there are the siblings and relatives. I remember asking Yaya Ritchie about her being a DH in Hong Kong. She said it was hard, because she did everything! Cook, clean, do grocery and take care of the baby – it was all her. But she says that her pay was the most rewarding. It was all worth it she said. She says too that she was very lucky because her employers were very nice. It was just unfortunate that in HK, you can’t extend your contract. While she was staying with me, she told me that every time she gets a call from her family, she would be nervous because it only meant one thing – they needed money. She said they always needed money. Her siblings depended on her for their daily expenses. I asked her why her siblings were not employed – she said that since her siblings knew she was working abroad, she earned more – they could just live off what she gave them. I then asked her feelings about it and she cried – she said that it was hard because for every need, she had to give in. If she didn’t they would all get mad at her. She says, she doesn’t have any savings left for herself. It was as if her two years in Hong Kong – all the blood sweat and tears were all for nothing. When she came home – her siblings would push her to go back abroad to work. She felt unappreciated. I think that’s the problem of most OFWs. They become the breadwinner of the entire family. Even if they have siblings who are married and have their own lives – they still depend on the graces of their sibling who works abroad. It’s unfair really – but I guess that’s the kind of like most OFWs have.
It’s nice that On the Wings of Love #OTWOL paints us a picture of what life is like abroad – specifically in the US. It’s not all glittery and wonderful and easy. You’ll need to work, as in really really work to earn. Yes, the exchange rate is high, but every cent involves blood sweat and tears. I just hope that #OTWOL being true to life impacts those left behind by OFWs. That they realize that life far away from family is not easy. That whoever is providing for them is working really hard to give them a better life. And that they should not waste money on drinking sprees and unnecessary parties.
I really feel that #OTWOL shows us the real struggles and triumph of Filipino families. It shows us the good and the bad. The low points and the high points. It shows us the TRUTH. I truly believe that OFWs are the modern day heroes. Everyday is a struggle. Everyday is a fight. A fight for a better life for their loved ones.
P.S. I’m really excited for tonight’s episode. Sana happy na forever! Hahaha… Previous Posts on #OTWOL #JaDine On The Wings of Love: James Reid & Nadine Lustre The MAGIC of #JaDine & #OnTheWingsOfLove Addicted to #OTWOL & #JaDine + Love Teams Falling in Love ala The Proposal & On the Wings of Love