MANILA, Philippines – While others blame their pasts as justification for what little they have accomplished in life, this Pinay is attributing her hard work, dedication and small feat to her family’s humble beginnings back in the province of Capiz.
Poverty was something that Raquel Delfin Padilla and her family had to endure in the past.
“Lumaki akong salat sa lahat sa maraming bagay. Ang alam ko lamang, naging daan ang mga ito upang maabot ko ang aking mga pangarap,” Padilla wrote on her Facebook account.
Going to school was also difficult. She and her siblings had to walk eight kilometers every day from their homes to school.
But when her father died due to cancer, the family had no other choice but to move to Bulacan. It was at this point when she witnessed the many sacrifices that her mother did for the family.
“Naging tindera sa sidewalk ng Commonwealth na nakikipagkarerahan sa mga pulis kapag nagkahulihan. Nagtrabaho sa pabrika ng mga bihon, damit, naging janitress, nagtinda ng balut, mais at maging tagapag-alaga ng baboy ng kapitbahay. Ganyan kasipag ang nanay ko. Kahit ano na lang ay ginagawa nya upang matustusan kami,” she said.
Her siblings also strived hard to help the family. One worked as construction worker, another as a maid, and the third became a working student to finance his education.
“Ako naman ay naging Study Now, Pay Later Scholar ng lungsod ng San Jose del Monte Bulacan. Nakatapos ako sa college sa kursong Bachelor of Science in Mathematics for Teachers sa tulong ng munisipyo ng San Jose del Monte at ng auntie ko na nagpatira sa akin sa Malabon at sya ring nagbibigay sa akin ng baon araw araw,” she said.
Padilla had the chance to teach in the Philippines but opportunity knocked on her door after one of the resumes she sent online got an answer from a potential employer abroad.
In 2006, then 22-year-old Padilla embarked on a life-changing journey overseas. Her first stint abroad was as a tutor in Morocco.
“Napakagaan ng aking trabaho. Hindi rin ako nagtatrabaho ng gawaing bahay. Kapag hindi ako nagtuturo, pinapayagan akong gawin ang nais ko. Malaya ako noon ngunit naghangad ako ng sobra,” she said.
But she felt there was something better waiting for her. So after working for three years with her employer, she decided it was time to move on and try her luck elsewhere.
“Hindi ako nakuntento sa aking sahod na tinatanggap dahil naniniwala akong may naghihintay sa aking mas maganda pa roon sa aking trabaho,” Padilla said.
But luck wasn’t at her side then. She couldn’t find work in any of the American Schools in Morroco because she didn’t possess a Master’s degree and wasn’t a graduate of an American university.
“Naubos ipon ko at nawalan ako ng choice kung di pumasok bilang kasambahay,” she revealed.
That, too, did not work for her.
“Sa unang araw pa lang sumuko na ako. Malaki ang bahay, maraming utos ang amo at ipinagkatiwala sa akin ang malaking responsibilidad ng kanyang anak. Umalis ako kinabukasan,” she said.
She was without a permanent job for almost a year and had to rely on good hearted Filipinos for help. It was during this time that she met a friend who helped her land a job in Canada.
Padilla arrived in Canada in 2010 and was lucky enough to be under the employ of a good boss. But, Padilla admitted that it takes a lot of self discipline to stay focused.
“Kung hindi ko dinisiplina ang sarili ko, malamang ay wala pa rin akong naipupundar sa ngayon. Hindi ako bumibili ng luho, hindi ako kumakain ng mga mamahaling pagkain at tiniis ko ang pagpasyal kung saan saan, makaipon lamang ng halaga para maihulog ko sa bahay na napili ko,” she said.
Padilla is proud to say that she is making progress in Canada. In fact, she is slowly reaping the fruits of her hard work with the purchase of a house and lot for her mother back home.
“Unti-unti ko na natupad ang mga pangarap ko at nakakapag-abot pa ako sa mga nangangailangan ng tulong. Ibinabalik ko lamang ang mga biyayang natatamo ko noon dahil noong ako'y nangailangan, marami rin ang tumulong sa akin,” she said.
She hopes to be able to bring her mother to Canada one day.
“Sana makasama ko ang nanay ko rito o kaya ay maranasan rin niya ang sarap ng buhay bilang reward ko sa lahat ng hirap niya. For me, kulang pa ang nagawa ko para sa kanya,” she said.
She urged OFWs like her to be open with their families and to always remain humble.
“Mayroong hirap na hirap sa abroad pero kung makaporma sa Pinas ay akala mo namumulot ng pera sa ibang bansa kaya marami nag-aakala sa Pinas na mayaman ang OFWs. Dapat din, isa-isip ang dahilan kung bakit nasa abroad. Hindi ba para sa pamilya? So dapat huwag gumawa ng kalokohan at ilagay sa isip na ang pag-aabroad ay hindi panghabambuhay.
There have been many ups and downs in all her years as an overseas Filipino worker. It was through this experience that she got to really appreciate other OFWs.
It was in 2011 when she realized that the problem she then faced was petty compared to the predicament that other OFWs were in.
“Naghanap ako ng place para ilabas ang sama ng loob ko kaysa magmukmok sa tabi. Then,napunta ako sa OFW pages sa Facebook. When I was reading them, na-realize ko na ang pinagdadaanan ko pala ay walang-wala kumpara sa nararanasan ng ilang OFWs," Padilla said.
Based from their stories, many were not able to eat on time, were often subjected to physical abuse, were paid very little but had to work for more than 16 hours and others were also raped.
“Sa halip na ako iyong humihingi ng advice, ako na ang nagbibigay at kalaunan, nakagawa ako ng mga istorya mula sa kanilang karanasan at doon ko napagtanto na marami sa ating kababayan ang nangangailangan ng inspirasyon upang maipagpatuloy ang pakikipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa,” she said.
She takes delight from the feedbacks that she's been receiving from readers. She also feels honored to be able to serve fellow OFWs through her articles.
“Ang feedback ng readers ko, sinasabi na sa articles ko, nararamdaman nilang may kakampi sila, may nakakaunawa sa kanila at mayroon silang inspirasyon,” she said.
Now 28, Padilla has already published her own book and is co-author of another book, both about stories based from the experiences of Pinoy migrant workers around the world.
Her first book "Tiis, Sipag at Tiyaga" was published last year and has been recognized as "Best Book" by the Migration Advocacy Media Awards organized by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.
But Padilla doesn't want to claim the recognition just for herself. After all, the book was born out of the experiences shared by fellow OFWs around the world.
This is the kind of service that gives her further purpose.
“Ang isang gusto ko talagang gawin ay maging advocate para sa maraming OFWs. Gusto kong maging maganda ang paglalakbay ko rito sa mundo kaya gusto kong mag-iwan ng marka sa puso ng nakararami. Sana, OFW pa rin ako pero this time kapwa OFW ko pinaglilingkuran ko,” she said.
Over the years, she learned that there is really no shortcut to success.
“Lahat ng ating pinagdadaanan ay gawing inspirasyon upang mas matuto tayo sa buhay".