It’s never easy for anyone to pack up their bags and go to a different country. Yet more than ten million Filipinos (including me and my family) decide to do that because of necessity or choice. Whatever the motivation that drove them to go to a different country, they still need the support of family and friends.
My faith community and church is important to my life. That is true for a lot of Overseas Filipinos, too. Some churches and non-profit organizations have some ministries and services to overseas Filipinos in many countries and also in the Philippines. Here are some ideas on how to support an overseas Filipino.
Before they leave
Offer to buy some of the things they will leave behind.
For immigrants or those who will be staying for a long time in another country, do check if they are leaving behind some things. Buy some of the things they will leave behind. Please don’t be a cheapskate. The money from this will be very helpful for the family who will need to buy a lot of things when they arrive at their destination country.
Give them some keepsake and things they need in their country of destination.
Could be as simple as the humble ‘tabo’ or something that will remind them of home. Don’t go overboard though and remember that they only can only carry up to a limited weight and luggage per person.
Throw a simple but meaningful Despedida.
You don’t need to buy a lechon for the whole barangay. A simple dinner with prayers and well-wishes will help lift their spirits as they leave.
Don’t be too emotional but assure them that they are loved and cared for. Don’t cry a river. But let them know that they are loved and that they will be missed.
While they are abroad
Ask them how they are doing without any catch!
Some Overseas Filipinos dread the “kumusta ka na?” that comes out of the blue. For many OFWs, this “kumusta” is followed by a request to borrow money. So please contact your friends and family who are abroad even when you don’t need anything. Ask about their day, what life is like where they are, and what kinds of things they miss in the Philippines.
Don’t just contact them when you need something.
Many OFWs are sometimes in dire need, themselves, but they won’t let their family know. So if you come with a request, a lot of OFWs would even sacrifice their own wellbeing for the sake of family.
Establish a ministry with them.
Pray for them. For churches, specifically, don’t forget to pray for overseas Filipinos who belong to your congregation. Don’t treat them as ‘alkansiya’ or bank accounts who can finance your projects and ministries.
Call them at least once a month by video if possible. (Subscribe to an internet connection, if possible, pay for it yourself. Don’t ask them to pay for the internet subscription.) Include them in family and church events and affairs. They will appreciate it.
Give them an opportunity to help. Keep them informed of family matters. For churches, give them updates of ongoing projects and ministries but don’t pressure them into giving or sending money. I know that this may contradict what I said earlier about not contacting them only when you need something. But the truth is, OFWs care for their family and friends, and the churches they belong to (if they belong to one, that is). Being aware of what is happening will certainly help them feel that they are still part of the family and the community.
Continue working or earning money (especially for spouses left behind) and don’t depend everything on your OFW spouse/parent.
I know of some children who are able to work but do not because they have been accustomed to the allowances from their parent/s abroad. Some OFWs spend their whole lives abroad because they and their families are not able to save money enough so they can go home.
on’t spend everything they send. Do not spend too much on appliances, gadgets, and other things that will lose value over time. Support them by earning and saving money so that they can go home sooner.
Respect their wishes on where the money should be spent.
Always consult them when it comes to money, especially if you’re planning to buy big ticket items such as a 4K TV, laptops and other gadgets, and other stuff. It’s heartbreaking for OFWs to send money month after month only to come back years later and see that all their efforts had been wasted on luxury items whose value depreciated over time.
Monitor the news about what happens in the country where they are.
Also check what the government and its agencies have in store for them and for the family of OFWs. My mother usually chats with me on Facebook to ask me about news she heard about the US.
When they go on vacation in the Philippines
Don’t expect them to pay for every single thing–restaurant meals, groceries, and everything you need in the house.
I know of a vacationing OFW who told me that he designated PhP200,000 for their vacation of 3 weeks. After the second week, he still had to withdraw another PhP80,000 because of other expenses.
Another vacationing OFW from the US told the story of how they went to an SM Supermarket in the province with their whole family and they spent PhP35,000 on groceries! They had five full carts!
Be gracious hosts and treat them as family.
They still are! They are aware that they will need to share for the expenses. They may even prepared to spend for some relaxation trip for the whole family. Bottomline is, they are still family.
Don’t expect pasalubong.
If they give you some, great! But if they don’t, respect their decision. Sometimes, simple pahaging like “size 8 cousin ha?” or “nasira na yung laptop ko, baka meron diyan…” can put a lot of pressure on them.
When they come back for good.
Prepare for their return.
This will require preparation on several levels–emotional, physical, financial, and even social. There will be a lot of adjustment on their part and yours.
Understand that they may have changed as individuals.
Prepare yourselves for their new habits and attitudes. Be patient with them. Communication with each other will be essential. And you’ll need grace and patience for yourself, for them, and definitely for each other.
The bottom line is that OFWs want to show love and feel that they are loved whether they send money back home or not. As friends, family, and church-mates, may we give show them love and support throughout their journey.