The main force that binds the Pink Tarha Ladies is not our love for shopping and eating but the fact that we are the second generation of overseas Filipino workers in our families. We have almost the same story. Our fathers were part of the early wave of migration during the 80s. We were the children left behind, the children who grew up in a different kind of home, where absence reverberates in every corner of our houses and echoes in every hollow of our hearts. What we have become are the fruits of labor of these brave, selfless family men. We owe it to them to tell our story.
What became of us, those little girls who only have vague memories of that day when the pillars of our homes left to seek a greener pasture? Shoegarfreeruby, Maryhadalittlehump, and Sundrenched grew up in the Philippines while Eyecandy was raised in Saudi Arabia. Was there ever a difference to OFW children who grew up in the motherland and in the Kingdom? What kind of fruits did our fathers’ diaspora bear?
Raised in the Republic
1984: R with her mom, dad, and younger sister
I was only three when dad decided to work in Riyadh. I vividly remember that time when we took our family picture the day he left (above). My sister was two, and my mom pregnant with our youngest. Facing the ordeal of having a father away was something my mother bore for 22 years. We owe it to her that she was able to raise us all up with love. We never questioned why our father had to be away because she made us understand. Growing up, I remember that our yearly trips to the airport waiting patiently for our father to arrive were the happiest memories of my childhood. There were tears we needed to hold back when his vacation was over but the promise of seeing him again after a year comforted us. Who would have thought that I would be following my father’s footsteps? – Shoegarfreeruby
It was in 1987 when daddy went to Saudi Arabia to work. I was two years old, too young to remember, and my sister was one. Our youngest wasn’t even born yet. My mommy told me how I refused to approach my father whenever he was home for vacation. I was a stubborn kid, crying and very shy around this “stranger” who leaves and returns home and leaves again. And then I finally understood the setup. It wasn’t difficult for my sisters and I because of mom and her relentless explanation why our father needed to go abroad. We cry when his vacations were over. And when he was back in the desert for the nth time, we resumed studying hard and asking the Lord to guide him because during those years, those were the only things we can do to repay my father’s sacrifices. – Maryhadalittlehump
The army green luggage now stashed in our attic never fails to remind me of the day my father first went to Saudi Arabia. That moment was framed in my brain, never mind if I don’t remember exactly when. All I knew is, it was the longest summer of my childhood. Two of my siblings and I were whisked to the province and raised by our grandparents while my other two sibs were raised by mom in Makati. Two different worlds brought upon by an absence, a distance bridged only by cassette tapes we recorded for him, letters sent, and calls only made possible through an aging static landline. How can I forget the graduation days missed, the holidays celebrated on a five-hour difference, the long airport waits and the vacations spent like stolen moments? But just as the saying goes, “distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult,” everything eventually fell into place. – Sundrenched
Being raised in the homeland has also done wonders for us. We were never deprived of playgrounds, friends, and Filipino cuisine. We knew our culture, history and geography. We were never left without our national identity. We’ve been parts of historic events and we’ve experienced how it is to become a Filipino. Of course, these too much freedom and exposure have also given us reasons to take them for granted and abuse them in various ways. We were never the perfect OFW children and citizens. We committed mistakes and caused problems but in our hearts we knew that we have become half of what our fathers and motherland have envisioned their children to be. The rest is now being spent in proving ourselves to our selves.
Raised in the Kingdom
Six years old was just about the time that I was beginning to develop my long-term memory and ever since I could remember, I’ve always considered Riyadh as my home. My father was fortunate enough to bring me and my mother to Saudi Arabia right after the Gulf War had subsided. Thrilled at the idea of riding a plane to be with my father, little did I know that ten years would pass before I would ride another one again. – Eyecandy
As children raised abroad, I can only hope that we find it in ourselves to realize what it really means to be a Filipino. Yes, we are all extremely blessed and abundant in all our neccessities. Heck, we’re probably even set by parents to not worry about a thing when we grow older. But that shouldn’t keep us oblivious to what our culture and nation is, and it’s expectation from US–the next generation OFWs–and what are we going to do about it. We should also keep in mind what our parents have done and gone through to be able to bring us all together in that kitchen table along with the food that we eat. And should we be so lucky, someday, we will be strong and hardworking enough to do the same for our own families.
All Grown Up
The country benefiting from the Filipino diaspora is just a by-product, it wasn’t the primary reason why parents leave the homeland. First and foremost, it’s for their families. Our families. To pack up and go doesn’t speak of our father’s identity as a nationalistic Filipino. It speaks a lot about our fathers being courageous men whose priority in life is their family. Lucky are those whose parents do not need to go abroad to provide for their families. For OFW children like us, we should feel luckier because we have parents who are willing to sacrifice their happiness for us. Admire their courage and turn their absence into something constructive rather than destructive. Distance should never be seen as a hindrance to grow up to our best potentials as persons. After all, our parents are only providing for our present. Our future entirely depends on us.
Filipino children raised in other countries, always remember whom and where you came from. Open your eyes to the hard work and sacrifices made by your parents to bring you to a new land. Do not forget your Filipino identity. After all, being born and raised in another country doesn’t limit your capacity to love your nationality. You are living in a world with no borders, with limitless possibilities where everyone is an extension of a particular race. One day, like your parents, you will come HOME and that’s probably one of the most wonderful feeling in this world.
OFW children have different stories to tell. But whatever our stories tell about us and our families, what became of us is the main part of the story our fathers will tell to the whole world. We are the outcome of their sacrifice twenty years ago. We are the fruits of our fathers’ labor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Kaming mga anak ng Saudi OFWs ang tunay na katas ng Saudi… and we hope that how we turned out was well-worth the sacrifice.
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