MANILA – One need not look further to find someone who can say he can relate to what most OFW children are feeling when their parents go away to work overseas.
As head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said he meets OFWs and their families, as well as stakeholders in overseas employment, who share stories of trials and tribulations of life and work abroad.
"I hear joyful narratives and downright tragedies, and most of all, I hear about that bountiful source of truth and meaning in this world. I hear about hope," he said during the awarding ceremony of the Bank of the Philippine Islands 2013 Ten Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children earlier this week.
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He recalled meeting a 12-year old girl, the eldest among two children of an OFW beautician in Dubai. He said the girl was hurt after learning about her mother's plan just two nights before her departure.
"But believing as she did that her mother was her anchor, she gathered herself and took on the role of helping her sister with adjusting to life without a mother. Making her mother happy, makes Janice hopeful," he said.
But meeting OFW families and stakeholders are not Cacdac's only connection with the migration phenomenon.
"My father was an early OFW having been sent as a third country national (TCN) to the Voice of America (VOA) relay station in Vietnam in the mid-1960s as a radio technician at the height of the Vietnam war," said Cacdac.
Cacdac said his father was again sent on another TCN mission by the VOA in the early 1980s to Mongolia, Liberia in West Africa.
His father passed away five years ago. "He was my hero. A World War II veteran. Our warrior and breadwinner. A loving husband and a father".
And like many OFWs, his farther worked hard too, bringing the entire family to the United States.
"All of us attaining our permanent resident status by the late 1980s. Yet, when it was my time for me to decide on returning to the Philippines and make my home here as a lawyer, he and my mother offered no resistance," he said.
He got the support of his parents to practice law in the Philippines as lawyer for labor unions and urban poor, later on taking on a role as a government official in the labor department and the POEA.
"When I asked my father why he allowed me to renounce my US green card and return to our country, he simply said, 'Ikaw ang remittance ko.' Not for the money, not for anything, but the pride in giving back," Cacdac said.
He said, "The blood, sweat and tears of our expatriate parents need not be Bangko Sentral's statistics to make a difference".
As an example, he cited the popular novel about finding the Holy Grail which turned out to be a person and not an object.
"It would be a tremendous waste of time and effort to focus merely on dollars and cents coming through our banking system. The real solution to harnessing the gains of the OFW miracle are the hearts and minds and the blood flowing through the veins of millions of expat kids who are out there, surviving as we speak, finding their way through life and trying their best to make a difference for themselves and for their families," he said.
He cited OFW families for having clear goals and knowing where they are headed. He also lauded Filipinos overseas for always heeding the call for help of people affected by calamities and by considering it as their "sacred civic and moral responsibility to plan and share the task of nation building".
"To my fellow expat kids, one small word to the wise: No matter what happens, no matter how lonely you may sometimes feel, please do not stray from the righteous path. Your mother or father did not disappear nor move far away but only went far ahead of you carrying a torch so that you could be guided by their light and move forward on your own until you meet again."
"And please, let your parents know that you love them while they are still alive. Be it by Skype or FaceTime or SMS or snail mail--tell them they mean more to you than anything else in the world. The gift of remembrance, I know, is yet another special gift we expat kids truly share," he said.
The BPI's annual search for Ten Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children honors exemplary children of Overseas Filipinos and upholds the importance of education, culture of excellence, nationalist pride and value of family.
The winners for this year are:
Ibang Klaseng Talino:
Allison D. Galian (De La Salle University-Manila), Nel Jason Haw (Ateneo De Manila University), Raoul Danniel Manuel (University of the Philippines-Visayas), Emir Deogene Mendoza (University of the Philippines-Diliman), Louise Anne Florelle Pasadilla (Lyceum of the Philippines University), Cloie Anne Rabinetas (University of Sto. Tomas), Joezelle Salunga (University of the Philippines-Manila), and Joseph Kennedy Tabor Jr. (De La Salle-College of St. Benilde)
Ibang Klaseng Community Leader:
Christine Joyce Agapito (Far Eastern University)
Ibang Klaseng Artist:
Andrei Karoly Hernandez (University of San Carlos)