MULTIMEDIA

How families say goodbyes

Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 12 2017 10:54 PM | Updated as of Jan 13 2018 08:07 AM

Merlita Cam'agay stands with her daughter at the departure area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as she looks at photographs from her mobile phone. In a few minutes, she will leave her for another 10 months to go back to her job as a medical technologist in Saudi Arabia.

In January, the airports are full of tearful goodbyes. Cam'agay is just one of the 2.4 million Filipinos working abroad. Today, she is leaving again. It is a familiar scene for her family of four who has to endure farewells every time they do this. And then, the long wait of 10 months starts again.

Cam'agay counts herself lucky she can do this every year, as some other OCWs or overseas contract workers as they are called today, do not have the luxury of coming home every year, much less for the holidays.

Thanks also to technology, the distance has become bearable. “Sanay na (ako) every 10 months umuuwi ako, may communication naman sa internet. Nag-Skype kami, bago matulog at saka bago pumasok sa trabaho, kaya parang normal na lang magkasama,” mused Cam’agay.

(I have grown used to it, I come home for vacation every 10 months. While I’m there, we communicate through Skype before I go to bed and before I go to work. It has become a normal thing, it's just like they are nearby.)

But her daughter Trixie thinks otherwise, “kapag anak ka, iba ang feeling na kasama magulang iba pa rin ang parenting kapag magkalayo, dahil sa hindi siya present lagi, may time na hindi nagkaka-intindihan.” 

(It's different for a child. Parenting is very different when a parent is far away. And because she cannot be with us in person, misunderstandings arise.)

From January to October in 2016, remittances from OFWs reached $22.12 billion, as unemployment and low wages still continue to push Filipinos to choose to leave their families to work abroad. This leads to family and social problems inherent in remote parenting.

Cam’agay's husband, Larry, talks about keeping busy while waiting for his wife’s return. He has a small taxi business in the Manila. 

“Habang gumagawa ako kausap ko siya,” he said. “Konting tiis lang, halos lahat ng nag a-abroad diyan naghihiwalay, pero kahit papaano nasa tibay ng loob, at tiwala lang sa isat isa.” 

(I try to keep busy while working. I talk to her while I work. it takes lots of guts, I know a lot of (OCW) families that eventually break-up. We just need to keep on trusting each other.)

More than 6,000 Filipinos leave the country to work abroad every day, and the numbers have not slowed down. For 2017, Filipinos will have more job offers from countries like Australia, New Zealand and Japan, meaning we will still see familiar scenes same time next year.

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A Filipino couple say their goodbyes at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) departure area. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A couple embraces at the NAIA departure area where thousands of overseas contract workers will be returning to the countries where they work after spending the holidays with their loved ones. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A woman embraces her loved one before he is sent off at the airport for work abroad. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Family members say their goodbyes to the head of the family at the NAIA departure area. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Overseas contract worker Merlita Cam'agay talks to her daughter at the NAIA departure area before leaving the country to go back to work in Saudi Arabia. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Couples spend their last minutes together at the NAIA departure area before their partner leaves for work abroad. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A couple takes their last photos together before her husband departs for work abroad. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A father receives a goodbye kiss from his daughter before leaving for work abroad. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Filipino families are known to spend several minutes saying their farewells to loved ones leaving for work abroad. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Filipinos bound for work abroad wait for their flights at the departure area of the NAIA. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A couple takes ones last selfie before parting. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A couple hold hands before finally saying their goodbyes at the NAIA departure area. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A woman lingers at the departure area before her flight out of the country. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

An elderly woman cries as she says goodbye to her husband at the departure area of the NAIA. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

A young girl looks out from a van that took a member of the family to the airport. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News