August 4, 2008 – the day we became an OFW family.

August 6, 2008

I was up at 4am. And by 5:30 am, I was already driving through SLEX.

Arrived in San Mateo before 6:30 am. It was going to be a long day (August 4th) because my sister Joy was flying to Abu Dhabi.

By 8:15 we were driving through Marikina and along C5 we made a right to pick up my older sister Ethel. Joseph was his typical 15-year old self. Sleepy and would not participate in any meaningful conversation, the last few ones before his mom would take off.

We arrived at the general airport area by 9:30 am and we had a lot of time to kill. Jollibee was a good option so we had our real breakfast. By 10:25, we drove the short distance to the NAIA1 Departure terminal. I dropped them off while I made a long turn toward the parking.

Over at the OFW pre-departure area, I was really thankful that we could at least be comfortably seated while waiting for the 4PM flight. The liaison officer of the agency arrived shortly and instructions were given.

The OFW pre-departure area was a microcosm of the whole OFW phenomenon. Banking booths, seamen counters and other OFW booklets, paraphernalia, POEA and OWWA counters, free coffee, cafeteria counter for the last goto, sandwich, canned drinks and other food items. A big TV tried to entertain the families as they struggle with the reality of a loved one leaving for an overseas work in minutes.

I would look at my sister and my nephew many times. I still could not believe that she was finally leaving. Mixed with anxiety and the fear of the unknown, I find myself praying again and again for her safety and protection. Looking at Joseph, I would ask God how He would allow a single Mom to be separated from her only child, and for a 15 year old boy to suddenly become physically orphaned.

We were like most OFW families there. Trying to engage in some funny and yet memorable talks. Figuring out the OFW Sim card, getting the last minute instructions and curiously looking at the other OFW families.

There were so many younger people in their 20s who were leaving. There were those who had been to an overseas work for quite awhile, and then there are those who wore on their faces, the quiet anticipation of someone going out for the first time.

It broke my heart to see fathers carrying their small children, trying to have that final family picture as they fumble with the settings of their digital cameras. Of women trying to get some privacy as they talk for awhile on their cellphones, saying their goodbyes to their families who were maybe still at the parking lot. Husbands doing the last minute hand carried luggage check before their wives leave. Of little children crying when a parent finally gets up and head for the DEPARTURE entrance.

I was taking all these in. These scenarios are played out on a daily basis in our international airports.

We were just like them. We took pictures using our phones and bluetoothed them. I took pictures of Joseph napping comfortably on the steel chairs, unperturbed by the goings on. I would hesitantly look at the wall clock because it would factually show us that time is ticking fast and our long goodbyes would have to end soon.

At 2:30 PM, I got the courage to tell my sister that maybe it was best for them to head to the Departure entrance. I was getting emotionally drained already and besides, we wanted her (her first flight ever) to have more time adjusting to the environment and get settled before her flight. Her OFW companion also followed and said goodbye to his wife and 2 small daughters. I hugged and kissed my sister Joy. Hours earlier, God comforted me in my grief. The Lord GOd can and will take care of her while she works in the Middle East. And as I looked at all the people going through the Departure entrance (MGA BAGONG BAYANI – our new heroes / rightly so, because their remittances of P12.7B and counting this year, has given our country an annual hope, and sadly, a false sense of security that our economy remains strong. One newspaper editorial even went so far as to declare that because of the OFW remittances, our government fooled itself into thinking that it was doing a good job securing the economy of the country.)

I did not see her go through the departure entrance because I started to head down the stairs to the parking lot. My brisk steps betrayed what I was really feeling at that time. I was sad with a mixture of guilt and anger all strewn in between…

The three of us were quiet as we drove to Market! Market! My sister offered to treat us for a meal. Then we headed for the groceries for Joseph to get his provisions for the week. I could not imagine being by myself at 15. He lives with the grandparents – but he would still be basically very alone.

I wrote his excuse letter from missing school that day, gave some more instructions and tested the Skype on his computer – then I left for Laguna.

It seemed as if I had been driving the whole day. I was tired. I was emotionally depleted. Wifey was already asleep when I entered the house. She was still asleep when I left 18 hours earlier.

Sent an sms to my sister’s OFW SIM and said a prayer for her. Thankfully, I drifted off to sleep.

It was going to be a long day tomorrow ( August 5th) because 14 Americans will be visiting us and I will be picking them up at the airport.

At 1:22am – I got an sms response “Here now in Abu Dhabi. My Nokia 8250 (for the OFW sim) is working.”

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One Response to “August 4, 2008 – the day we became an OFW family.”

  1. eugeniosadrao Says:

    Hi Rex,

    Your feelings are very typical of the family of an OFW. But the Lord will look after Joy in Abu Dhabi and Joseph in the Philippines. Let us pray that both of them focus that the separation is suppose to better life for them. Ha ha gusto kong makabasa ng blogs about tinola. Kapag tinola ang -ulam Rex agad ang pumapasok sa isip ko. Ang makasaysayang luto ng manok – tinola.

    Regards,

    Eugene


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