When OFWs party
It’s that time of the year again.
Fujico Klee is set to celebrate her 9th Christmas in Kuwait this year with a party with her friends, fellow overseas Filipino workers.
Some have been there longer than she has. Some are more recent hires. But they all share one thing in common: they are about to celebrate Christmas away from their loved ones.
Bringing home overseas
"Maybe we can go to the beach this time?" Fujico wonders. "That would be fun."
Fujico has been celebrating with different people every year. They’re all her friends, her workmates. People come and go in OFW communities. Some stay for a long time like Fujico, some return to the Philippines earlier than they had planned.
Most of the time they party at someone’s house. But if there are too many on the guest list, they celebrate seaside instead. Filipino parties can be pretty loud after all.
If they celebrate indoors, the first thing on their to-do list is to warn their neighbors about the noise. The last thing they’d want is an angry neighbor ruining the party midway.
Second on the list: Karaoke.
Filipinos love karaoke, moreso OFWs. Fujico and her friends would belt out their favorite OPM songs the whole night – the one night every year when their neighbors wouldn’t mind (or at least pretend not to mind). Music by Gary V, Regine Velasquez and other local artists fill the air – every song reminds them of the Philippines; every beat feels like home.
And, of course, there's the food.
Early morning on D-day, Fujico and her friends are already busy preparing their specialties: kaldereta, kilawin, adobo, pininyahang manok, among others. Sometimes they’d also whip up Indian food, when their Indian friends join them.
If they're lucky, they get to eat pork too – courtesy of their friends from the US military base.
They prepare the recipes typical in every Filipino party, but they become extra special for OFWs who don’t get to eat them every day anymore.
And of course, the night wouldn’t be complete without exchanging gifts through the Monito-Monita. Fujico is stoked. "What should I buy this time?" she thinks.
Fujico loves giving. She makes it a point to give at least even small gifts to all her friends. Mugs, keychains – anything.
One time, she was in deep financial trouble and had nothing and no one with her in Kuwait. She was about to give up when someone in church, a complete stranger, gave her a mug and a siopao. Suddenly, she had the courage to stand up again.
It was a simple gesture of goodwill that Fujico still carries in her heart until now.
Happy and lonely at the same time
An OFW Christmas party is unique. It’s fun and festive like most parties but lonely at the same time.
It’s a night of happiness and games and good food – but also a night to remind them of all the things they miss from home.
When gifts have been unwrapped, singing voices exhausted, and greetings made – loneliness starts to sink in.
At one point, the laughter stops and conversations get serious. They talk about life: their struggles at work, mean people they’ve met, and how much they miss home.
Some of them cry. Some manage to keep the pain hidden from sight.
Fujico misses home too. Very badly.
She misses her home in Makati. Going to the church with her parents, partying with her cousins, and bonding with her siblings – priceless memories.
But at least when OFWs party, they forget for a few hours the things that make them lonely. Whether indoors or by the beach, somehow they get to imagine they’re home. It’s not just the food and karaoke that comforts them – it’s being surrounded by people who share the same struggles with them. It’s the greetings from their kababayans, the comforting hugs from their "second family," and the assurance that they are not, and never will be, alone in that foreign land.
There are 365 days a year. 365 days for Fujico to worry about home. But for now, she's got a party to plan. – Rappler.com