10 reasons why OFWs are global rockstars
BOGOTA, Colombia – I am not an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) but I’ve met a lot of them during my world travels. Every time I land, I make sure I connect with the Filipino community of the country I am in.
I don’t know, I think it makes me feel at home.
After being on the road for a long time, we all need some company – someone you can share your homesickness with.
I was 20 when I met my first group of OFWs in Milan, Italy. I was very young, new to the European scene. I knew nothing about anything. I think I don’t even know how to take trains nor buy food for myself. I was very stupid with a lot of things but you know what they say, “To be smart and clever, you have to be young and stupid first.” (READ: How travel healed my broken heart)
They guided me, treated me like family, cooked adobo, sinigang and beef steak for me everyday just to make me feel welcome. They would always call me just to check in: “Are you okay? Are you doing fine? Call me if you need anything.”
OFWs have inspired me to see the world at such a young age. I've learned a lot from them, and I want to share why I think Overseas Filipino Workers are global rockstars.
1. They are hard working
This is probably the most obvious. They will go beyond their means for the people they love just to be able to send their kids to school and provide their families a better future.
But that's not all they give. Much of their income also goes to holiday gifts for their children, spouses, grandparents, uncles, and extended family – even if it means that they cannot be home for Christmas. If anyone knows the meaning of sacrifice, it's OFWs.
They are not selfish. They put others first before themselves and will do anything to protect their loved ones.
2. Fast at learning the local language
English, Italian, French, Spanish, you name it, they know it.
They don't just know, but can speak so well that they often speak like the locals. Of course, learning a new language is a struggle at first. But it helps that many Filipinos have patience, drive and passion to learn.
3. No one gets left behind
And I mean NO ONE. When I was in France, a Filipina who was based in United Arab Emirates was traveling with the family she was working with. They didn’t pay her salary for 6 months and confiscated her passport.
When the family went out for a walk in Paris, she was left at the hotel room and escaped – no passport, no warm clothes, no cash. The Filipino community there rescued her and helped her settle down. Today, I believe she is still working in France freely and in the care of her fellow Filipinos. Everyone is always welcome even if they don’t know you beforehand.
Some even say the bayanihan spirit – Filipino for 'spirit of community' – is more alive among Filipinos abroad than at home.
4. Filipino hospitality
I didn't pay for anything when I visited Austria. They told me I was their youngest Filipina visitor so I needed to “chill out” and leave everything to them.
I slept in different houses every night because everyone wanted to meet me. I think I even ate 8 meals a day because they were taking shifts when they were showing me around Vienna!
In 2012, I spent New Year’s Eve with them with the most comfortable room in their house, lechon, pancit bihon and puto! Since I was younger, I offered to sleep on the couch to make room for the others but they insisted that I take the big room. I was so thankful for the experience.
5. Unparalleled resourcefulness
I learned a lot from them financially, emotionally and spiritually. I became very close to the Filipino community in Milan and they told me everything from how they managed to eat three times a day with the little money they've earned; how they can still send an xbox/playstation to their grandchildren even if the cost is far above their means and to how they could work long hours with just a few hours of sleep.
6. Pride in work
It doesn't matter if they’re a chambermaid in a big hotel in Dubai, a babysitter in Germany, or a nurse in Canada, they are never ashamed of what they do. They don’t say, “Driver lang ako ma’am” (I'm just a driver) instead they say, “Driver ako!” (I am a driver!) and I really love this attitude.
7. Filipinos can adapt to any environment
Three years ago, while we were having drinks in Milan, there was a sudden bus strike and we were not able to catch a ride home. Right in front of the bar we were drinking at was a park. Do you know what we did? Instead of going home, at the suggestion of one of our companions, we moved our party there.
We opened a champagne, sat, shared stories while shivering (it was December so the weather was awful) and never cared if people were looking at us laughing out loud. The next thing I knew, we were asleep at the park benches! Good thing no one robbed us!
8. They work with dignity
After all they’ve gone through their lives working abroad, you can talk bad behind their backs or say something awful about their jobs but they will handle conflicts with maturity. They choose their battles, know when to fight and when it's not worth fighting over.
Throw them a rock and they will catch it. Nothing can top the adversities and hardships OFWs have had to overcome. Ever since I was 20, I've looked up to them like they are superheroes! If you're trying to break the spirit of a Filipino, well, good luck.
9. That killer smile
No matter how hard it is to live abroad without their loved ones, and no matter how much they've sacrificed, they are always smiling. They won't cry over spilled milk. One of them even told me, “hindi yan problema, conflict lang. So, mahahanapan ng paraan.” (That's not a problem, just a conflict. We'll find a way to resolve it)
And they were right. They've changed the way I approached problems. From what I’ve learned from them, problems will help us become better people. I became a better me because of them.
10. They’re EVERYWHERE
No matter where you are, you will always find them. They're not that difficult to spot either. Look for their welcoming faces and that killer smile. After all, you can’t be called a global rockstar if you’re only in one place, right? Filipinos are conquering the globe! – Rappler.com
Trisha Velarmino is a road scholar who loves languages, burgers, cats, football, hot sauce and coffee. She is the author of the travel blog, P.S. I’m On My Way where she writes about her long-term travel adventures, volunteering, learning languages and encouraging women to travel solo. Follow her on Facebook.
Photo of Filipino lifting sack with one arm via Shutterstock
Photo of woman holding coffee tray via Shutterstock
Photo of woman picking lemons from a tree via Shutterstock
Photo of smiling Filipina nurse via Shutterstock
Photo of crowd of Filipinos via Shutterstock