OFW, Overseas Filipino Workers, by this time, every well-meaning Pinoys must have known. OFWs, the government has even characterized them as living heroes.
Rightly so. Heroes often create the most impact posthumously. Rizal's worth in the Filipino consciousness rose exponentially after his death before the Spaniards' bullets. Nino Aquino, despite the political brouhaha after his death, and even until now, was generally recognized as the hero who was the precursor in the ouster of the two-decade old dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.
Like Bonifacio, Rizal and Ninoy Aquino died as heroes. Dead heroes they were.
But the OFW is another brand of hero. He is not just Juan dela Cruz nor Juanita Aguanta. OFW is the collective name of the living heroes who left the Philippines in search for greener pasture. They are the ones who bear the loathsome loneliness in a foreign land, suffer the physical agony of cruelty in the households of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and for many in North America and Europe, work three odd jobs a day, just so they can support a clan back home.
Yes, OFW, the Filipino diaspora, and ironically, the living hero.
The Philippines is not poor by any standards. But the endemic corruption has made us poor. If ours were a ship, the captain and his crew are cornering the bulk of the provisions while those in the cabin accommodation are hoarding the foods in the ship, in cahoots with the crewmen. Those in the economy accommodation are fighting for whatever ration is served on a daily basis.
Our presidents, in their SONAs would love to conjure the image of that ship. They do so in the vain attempt to sanitize their ill-governance, and in their futile efforts at curbing corruption.
Our ship would have sank already if it were not for the living heroes, the OFWs. The OFW is akin to Atlas of the Greek Mythology, a titan condemned to hold up the celestial heavens.
The OFW is our Atlas. It is OFW who prevented the sinking of MV Filipinas.
In 2017, the OFW dollar remittances made through the banking institution was $28.1 billion while the personal remittances reached $31.29 billion. Although the total 2018 remittance data is not yet available, still for a nine-month period from January to September of 2018, the bank remittances already reached $21.3 billion, up by 2.5 percent from $20.7 billion in the same period in 2017.
On record, we have 2.3 million documented OFWs, spread throughout the world. But this is only what appears in the surface. We do have more undocumented OFWs, those who are currently working in foreign lands without appropriate visas. The most vulnerable to all forms of abuse are these undocumented OFWs. They have no legal protection.
The harrowing stories of these undocumented OFWs are mostly kept in the secrecy of video calls and emails, without really surfacing in the mainstream media, and thus, in the national consciousness. The fear of exposure and apprehension is compelling. They would rather suffer in silence than risk losing the source of livelihood for them and their extended families back home.