OFWs on money spending: Learn to say ‘no’ to extended family

Dwight de Leon

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OFWs on money spending: Learn to say ‘no’ to extended family
Why should overseas Filipinos workers learn to manage and limit the remittances they send to their extended families back home? Two migrants share their stories

MANILA, Philippines – Challenging the country’s family norms, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Emerjon Regala and Marieta Gonzales believe that migrant workers should learn how to manage and limit the remittances they send to their extended families back home in order to achieve financial independence.

“OFWs tend to use their soft heart and their pride when it comes to helping members of extended families and friends in the Philippines. It is very difficult to say no even if you are the one who is suffering,” Regala shared in Filipino.

Both Regala and Gonzales learned this from the Financial Literacy, Leadership, and Social Entrepreneurship (FLSE) workshop conducted by the Social Enterprise Development Partnerships Inc (SEDPI), a private organization committed to providing financial education to OFWs.

“The first thing I learned from LSE is love yourself. Because back in the days, before I took LSE, I would spend my rest days working just to be able to send money to my extended families,” Gonzales said.

The 51-year old OFW added that because she was the one working abroad, she assumed the breadwinner status in the family.

“In our culture, whoever is earning more money should be the one to pay the debts or reacquire the land that was put into mortgage,” she added.

Separating wants from needs

Gonzales, a single parent of 3 kids, was 31 years old when she started working in Rome, Italy in 1994. Before that, she was a security guard in the Philippines working at colleges and airports. (READ: What they don’t tell you about the OFW life)

She recalled how overwhelmed she was with the lifestyle abroad.

“I experienced going to different places. I also traveled across Italy before I sent my kids to college. But that didn’t happen again,” Gonzales said.

In the changes brought about by new lifestyle in a foreign land, Gonzales noted that it is important to know the difference between what you want and what you need.

“Sometimes you will be tempted to spend on things that you do not really need. The priority should always be food and the education of the children. Because there were times I would buy luxury for the kids like the latest mobile phone,” Gonzales said.

‘Focus on the goals’

Regala, on the other hand, was only 19 in 2000 when he left the Philippines to work abroad. He was then a college student in Pampanga.

The 36-year old OFW reflected on his mistakes on the past before he took up the FLSE, including almost building a big house that he does not really need.

“The tendency of OFWs is to build big houses by loaning in the banks, when we do not really need big houses. That sank in to me because we almost built a big house,” he recalled.

When asked what he learned from FLSE, Regala said it is important to rethink the reasons why OFWs worked abroad.

“Look back to the reason why you left the Philippines. From that reason, evaluate where you are now financially and whatever goal you have. And when you’re not there yet, what will you do?” Regala said.

Stories of success

Regala, from being a college dropout in 2001, is now a year away from finishing his bachelor’s degree in multimedia arts in University of the Philippines Open University, a distance learning institution where students can take courses online.

He is also married for 12 years and has one kid. They have settled in Turin, Italy.

FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE. Emerjon Regala pose for a photo with his wife and son in Italy. Photo courtesy of Emerjon Regala

Gonzales, on the other hand, said she has gotten out of her debts and made all three of her children finish college.

Asked what her goal is in 10 years when she retires, Marieta shared the advocacy she learned from working as a domestic helper in Italy.

“I want to build a center for malnourished children back home because we are a third world country. It’s not difficult to feed malnourished children. Just plant vegetables and be equipped with the necessary knowledge and we’re set,” she said.

Social Enterprise Development Partnerships Inc, the organization responsible for the FLSE workshops, was established in 2004. They have been conducting financial trainings to various migrant groups since 2007. – Rappler.com 

Dwight Angelo De Leon is the president of DZUP Radio Circle, the official student organization arm of UP Diliman’s official AM radio station, DZUP 1602. He is also currently an intern for Rappler.

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers the House of Representatives and the Commission on Elections for Rappler. Previously, he wrote stories on local government units.