With over 26% of the Filipinos falling below the poverty line, millions will go to great lengths to better their economic situation. If they’re lucky, they land stable jobs and put up businesses lucrative and sustainable enough to provide for their families. But, in a third world country like ours, that’s not always the case.
The popular alternative has been, and still is, offering their might and mind to employers in around Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and more. In a 2015 ABS-CBN News report, ICAEW economic advisor and Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) director Charles Davis noted that, "In terms of labor force, the Philippines is faced with a brain drain issue, which is depriving the labor pool of much of its greatest talent...with the country having lost an estimated 10% of its population to work abroad."
To add, Workabroad.ph revealed last year that around 40,000 average overseas jobs are posted by POEA-licensed agencies everyday. They apply for anything from white to whie collar jobs, most especially in the fields of engineering, hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing, and maintenance. Nevertheless, the gravity of this decision weighs heavily on anyone, whether you’re related the one leaving or you yourself are the OFW.
On the one hand, their pay is often used to provide for their loved ones’ household bills, medical needs, schooling, groceries, clothes, and so on. They may even save enough to consider investing. But their salaries come not without their own set of payoffs, especially on the emotional.
[related: The Six Fix: Things an OFW Inevitably Deals with When Working Abroad]
In celebration of the OFW, we’d like to salute our moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and friends who chose to take on life outside the Philippines to help earn for their loved ones' keep. How else to pay them tribute than by remembering these iconic films that have taken their stories and transformed them into timeless, resonating art?
1. Sana Maulit Muli (1995). This is essentially a love story, but one contextualized within the Filipinos’ everlasting pursuit of the American dream. Agnes (Lea Salonga) moves to the land of opportunity after being petitioned by her mother to do so. But this takes a toll on her relationship with boyfriend Jimmy (Aga Mulach), who gets left behind. In attempt to fix things, Jimmy quits his flourishing job as an advertising executive in the Philippines and follows her there. This meant, taking on more menial work in some foreign land. All the while, Agnes goes through a career rise to the expense of widening her gap with the estranged Jimmy. The film captures twofold realities that Filipinos face upon making home thousands miles away from home.
2. Anak (2000). After years away from her family, Josie (Vilma Santos) comes home to reunite with her three kids and start a business with the money she saved working as a domestic helper. While her two youngest learn to warm up to their mother, the same can't be said for her eldest, Clara (Claudine Barretto) who exhibits stubborn, destructive, and rebellious behavior. Always a tear-jerker with a theme song sung of the same title by Freddie Aguilar, this classic tells the story of forgiveness and new beginnings.
3. Caregiver (2008). Sarah Gonzalez (Sharon Cuneta) leaves her job as a grade school teacher and hops across the pond to become a caregiver in London. While the film is an ode to many OFWs seeking greener pastures abroad, it also paints a picture of self-discovery, homesickness, and the mistreatment women deal with on a regular basis.
4. Milan (2004). Lino (Piolo Pascual) is an illegal immigrant who travels to Italy in search for his missing wife. There, he meets Jenny (Claudine Barretto) who takes him in her apartment that she shares with other illegal Filipino immigrants. Although the movie focuses mainly on the romantic, turbulent love between Lino and Jenny, it also touches on the many problems they and other Filipinos face as OFWs in different fields.
[related: Daily Diaries: When OFWs Endure Long Lines for Terminal Fee Refund]
5. Dubai (2005). Raffy (Aga Mulach) makes a living as a freight employee in Dubai, only to lose his savings to womanizing and utang. He’s initially happy to have convinced his brother Andrew (John Lloyd Cruz) to migrate to the City of Gold, but things get messier when they fall for the same girl, Faye (Claudine) Barretto. The latter herself is an OFW and Andrew’s ex. If there’s one takeaway from this film, it’s to make the most out of your life, even if that life isn’t what you envisioned.
6. In My Life (2009). When Dang (Dimples Romana) decides to migrate to Australia, her mother Shirley Templo (Vilma Santos-Recto) reacts by paying a visit to (read: permanently migrate and live with) her gay son Mark Salvacion (Luis Manzano) in New York. There she meets his boyfriend, Noel (John Lloyd Cruz), who is an illegal immigrant. The film is highly regarded for it’s portrayal of family and romantic conflict, while giving audiences a glimpse of what life is like for illegal immigrants like Noel, and in Shirley’s case, the struggle to adapt to new work.
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Photograph from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qF1pOscxB1k