Philippine Star, December 01, 2009
By Rachel del Rosario

My name is Rachel, a 2004 University of the Philippines Diliman Business Economics graduate, who after almost three years of working, drinking, smoking and loitering in Makati City, decided to join the growing number of overseas Filipino workers here in Singapore. Today is a Saturday, and I am alone at home. With only the news on TV Patrol TFC catching my attention, this article should be done in no time. Or so I thought.

Come, let me give you a sneak preview of my constantly exciting, sometimes frustrating life as an OFW.

I've been here since July 2007. Wow, that's two years of independent living!!! In less glamorous words, that means two years of washing my own clothes, cooking my food, and cleaning my room and toilet. And yes, I made a milestone for operating a washing machine for the first time in 24 years.

I was naive when I came here two years ago and I immediately saw the difference. A car almost hit me when I attempted to cross the street. I forgot that this country is on right-hand drive, and I should drop the orientation I'm accustomed to. A pack of cigarettes costs 10 to 12 times more, and I abruptly gave up on smoking. The cost of a modest house here is equivalent to a mansion in the Philippines; thank goodness for the abundance of land that our country has. No one is too rich or too poor in Singapore, compared to Manila where the slums and the exclusive subdivisions tell the story. Singaporeans just love branded stuff; my day won't pass without seeing a woman clad in a Louis Vuitton or Gucci. In Manila, there's class triple A, class B, class C... you choose. I could go on and on with this comparison exercise for hours but it all boils down to one point. There's a big difference in the standard of living between a first-world and a third-world country. Or using the correct economic terms, between a developed and a developing country.

I have grown to love the convenience this country brings. The public transport is excellent, traveling is a lot cheaper, income tax is a lot lower, shopping malls and supermarkets are everywhere, etc. On top of the bigger moolah that most OFWs here bring home each month, it's the quality of life that endears a lot of Filipino singles and families alike to apply for permanent residence, and eventually, citizenship. Crime rate is lower, staying out late is safer, air pollution is a lot less, trees and birds abound everywhere, government allots for public recreation (i.e. community center, swimming complex, parks), to name a few.

Yes, this country has a lot of qualities to charm my heart but I have come to terms with my own identity. I am a proud Filipino working in a foreign country. It saddens me how others discriminate our race. It's a sad how they equate Filipinas to domestic helpers.

I've experienced it at least in two different occasions. Once, a stranger asked me about my work and where I’m from, my work, until I figure out from the flow of the conversation that I am being mistaken for a maid. In the first place, they should not be called as such. They are also OFWs like everyone else.

Singaporeans, being accustomed to life's comfort, are in general more impatient than us. Of course, anyone can disprove this but this is just my general observation. While most Singaporeans consider a little road congestion as "traffic," Filipinos wouldn’t consider it as such, if one is to compare it with the traffic that we have back home. We are more appreciative of the simple things in life. I am amazed at how Filipinos can still muster to laugh in the middle of a calamity, the latest being the super typhoons that hit our country.

Two and a half years of working abroad made me feel like missing out on a lot of things. My parents look older each time I come home, my nieces grow taller by the minute, my friends and cousins start to set their wedding dates, and I could only share my excitement through e-mail. These are just some of the sacrifices an OFW takes — but these are the important sacrifices, the intangibles ones.

Working abroad is not always like having a bed of roses. It has its own share of challenges and frustrations. So why am I still here? At the end of the day, it's for the hope of having a better life — not just for me, but for my loved ones.


Rachel del Rosario loves working in Singapore and plans to stay there longer but then she misses her family so much.