The Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are called modern-day heroes, but they are oftentimes neglected by their families and society.
Overseas Filipino Worker is a term often used to refer to Filipino migrant workers, people with Filipino citizenship who reside in another country for a limited period of employment.
They face a lot of stereotypes such as being considered by some countries as low-skilled or low-wage workers.
This kind of story has been used as a concept in a lot of movies and stories in the Philippines, Asia’s Christian-majority country.
One example is the heart-warming movie “Anak” (The Child, 2000) which starred Vilma Santos and Claudine Barreto, or the anthology series entitled Tadhana hosted by Marian Rivera where the common stories of hope and struggles are portrayed to show the world how these Filipinos overcome their struggles.
But these movies and series are not enough to tell how resilient and courageous OFWs are.
These movies and series are just a small part of what is truly happening—of what they are truly experiencing.
That is being seen in the life of Annaliza Celetaria, a 40-years-old mother of six. She has been in two countries for eight years–first in Saudi Arabia where she stayed for one year. Then she was to Qatar where she stayed for seven years. Like many OFWs, being a domestic helper is not easy for Annaliza.
According to sources, there are about 494,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia and 123,000 in Qatar.
Annaliza’s first year being an OFW was a nightmare. She was treated like “an animal” by her Saudi employer.
She experienced severe starvation and physical and mental pain. But, life is not always rough because her other subsequent employers treated her with kindness, undemanding and goodness—
she was like a part of a family. She felt belonged and loved where she enjoys her work.
Having seen hardships in the Philippines, she says, “I do not want my children to be hungry.”
That is the turning point that made her decide to try her luck abroad. While working, she experiences a lot of struggles such as hunger, sleep deprivation, and homesickness.
At times, she misses many important events in her children’s lives such as birthdays, Christmas, the New Year, or even the graduation of her children.
Thinking of those occasions, she said, “I just cry and then focus on work so that I can forget.”
Her dreams and aspirations for her family to have a good life are driving forces for her. Hunger or starvation is not a problem.
Having enough money to sustain their living is what makes her stronger to overcome those struggles.
When asked what her dreams for her family are, she said, “I want all of my children to finish their college studies and they do not experience hunger.”
She wants her children not to experience the unfair hardship of life, but learn from the challenges of life to be strong, hopeful, and resilient.
God was her only support when she felt that nothing good would happen while she is abroad. He guided Annaliza and her family throughout their journey.
Her message to someone who's also experiencing what she has gone through was just to stay strong.
“One must know what one’s rights are so that when they are violated, one knows when to fight for them,” Annaliza said.
“Never let others hurt you and make you feel less of a human. At times, when you feel that no one is supporting you, just lean on God because He always listens to us and will always support us," she said.
“Also, do not forget to have your own leisure time with your friends because you will need it. It will serve as your escape from cruel reality. Enjoy even just for a while. It will give you peace of mind,” she added.
Annaliza's story is just one in a million OFWs’ stories that are left untold. Her story of strength, resiliency, and love for family will inspire a lot of people to continue achieving their dreams regardless of the challenges that are yet to come.
She is an example of a mother who will sacrifice everything just to provide for the needs of her family.
A mother's love who is willing to give up her dreams just to make the dreams of her children possible.
When asked what her motto in life is, she said she believed in what Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Do not settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.” - Pexcel John Bacon
Radio Veritas Asia (RVA), a media platform of the Catholic Church, aims to share Christ. RVA started in 1969 as a continental Catholic radio station to serve Asian countries in their respective local language, thus earning the tag “the Voice of Asian Christianity.” Responding to the emerging context, RVA embraced media platforms to connect with the global Asian audience via its 21 language websites and various social media platforms.