DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Clutching a folder in his left hand while using his other hand to straighten the creases in his white polo shirt, Robert Ayudan patiently stood in line waiting to be entertained by different agencies seeking for employees to be sent to various workplaces abroad.
Ayudan, a 44-year-old former overseas worker who is now unemployed, said that it was his first time to present himself at a job fair.
He was one of the thousands of aspirants who flocked at the job fair in the city sponsored by the Department of Labor and Employment as part of the commemoration of Labor Day.
Ayudan shared that he finished a nautical course in college in Davao but didn’t practice it because he was not lucky in landing a job in the profession. After earning a 3-month course in Hotel, Housekeeping and Restaurant Services in 1984, he was able to get a job in Riyadh as an airline-catering supervisor at the King Khalid International Airport.
However, he was forced to return to the country in 1987 after a conflict erupted in the Middle East wherein airports became targets of attacks.
“I have no choice but to return home even if there is no employment waiting for me here. I opted to prioritize my safety over money. I officially became a ‘tambay’ for many years until I was able to get another stable job abroad,” Ayudan said.
In 1999, he flew to Jeddah to work as a party coordinator of an international fast-food chain. With this second chance, he worked hard in a foreign country and fought homesickness to support his family.
Robert added that he sacrificed his personal life including his chance to get married because he wanted to give his family a better life.
He said that one of the greatest rewards of his labor was when all of his 8 siblings that he sent to school were able to finish college.
But his life changed when something happened in 2008. A co-worker, whose contract was about to end, told him that a recruitment agency was offering a job opportunity in New Zealand. The co-worker encouraged Robert to give it a shot and asked him to end his contract with the company they were working for to explore greener pastures.
Robert assumed it was an opportunity so great, it was hard to let it pass by.
After deciding to grab the offer, he immediately asked his employers to grant his request to end his contract and went back to the country to process his documents for New Zealand.
Back in Manila, Robert, along with his former co-worker, urged the recruiter to immediately process their papers. The recruiter said that they would not need to wait longer because they will be given a go signal to fly to Indonesia where their visas would be processed.
But all of his dreams crumbled when the recruiter suddenly vanished after Robert released a total amount of P280,000 as part of the processing fee.
“It was really hard. We tried to go after him but we don’t even know the exact location of their office because when he transacts with us we usually meet at a mall,” Ayudan said.
Since the incident, Robert decided to settle in Davao while trying to sort things out.
“Everything has made a 360-degree spin. I was the one who’s supporting my family before the incident. Ironically, I am now the one who is dependent to my brother who I have sent to school,” he said with a sheepish smile.
Ayudan admitted he could not forever stay dependent on his brother.
“I must stand again and regain my normal productive self. That is why I have mustered enough courage to go to this job fair despite the fact that I will be competing with thousands of people to grab a very limited job opportunity.”
He was planning to return to the Middle East and take any available job there.
As his line moved forward, Robert took a peek at the tables where the interviewers from various companies and agencies were entertaining applicants.
He said that Filipino workers must continue to strive hard and push for the protection of their rights despite the economic hardships in the country and the poor working conditions here and abroad.
“Courage is essential for survival in this societal condition. We must not lose hope and we must keep moving forward,” Ayudan concluded. – Rappler.com