M: MAYA wrote: “My mom works as a nurse in Dubai. My dad works at the City Hall. We live very comfortable lives because my mom is paid very well. I’m 19 now, the eldest of three, and I grew up without her by my side. My younger siblings barely even know her. Many times I wonder, why does she have to go to Dubai? I am okay with a simpler life as long as we’re all together.” This is heartbreaking to read, and I wonder if her mother knows what her daughter is thinking.
DJ: I learned that the Philippines is one of the largest exporters of warm bodies. Around 10 percent of our population lives outside the country, whether temporary or for keeps. About half of these are overseas contract workers. They contribute to our country’s economic growth. They also sacrifice the chance to be with their loved ones. Like Maya, millions of kids of these modern day heroes have to bear the reality of being separated from their fathers, mothers or both, during the most important years of their lives—before and during their adolescent years. They have to get used to having their folks miss some of the significant events in their lives like graduations or birthdays, or the so-called little things that make up a day—like eating dinner together or giving one another a kiss before bedtime.
M: I would like to think that the mother had the best interests of her family in mind, trading being with her husband and children, when she sought greener pastures abroad. But at what cost? The physical distance is difficult enough and added to that, the emotional distance. At 19, I believe this is the right time for the daughter to have an honest-to-goodness, heart-to-heart, no-holds barred talk with her mom. She doesn’t want her younger siblings to experience the way she feels or worse, have no emotional attachment to their mother. This is the best time to raise this concern to her mom. For all she knows, this is what her mother had been waiting for—to hear that her children need her presence more, than the presence of the luxuries in life.
DJ: This might just be the perfect time for Maya to share her thoughts about their situation. An honest-to-goodness talk with her dad can be a good start. Her parents have reasons but it’s understandable if things have not been that easy for her. We just don’t know the tears she keeps in her heart that bring tears to her eyes each night. I’m glad that Maya is making an effort to find meaning out of her mother’s sacrifices. Her success and her future are important to her too.
M: We should never waste the opportunities to spend time with our families—especially our ageing parents. And parents should also spend time with their children—even if they are already adults busy making a life for themselves. In short, whether we are children or parents, let us take and make the time to spend it with each other. Reach out today, reconnect, re-establish ties to strengthen our bond. At the end of the day, our presence in each other’s lives is the best present that we can give.
DJ: I pray for Maya to continue to nurture the love she has for her family. I hope her young heart will remain open for communication, and to understand her parents more. The situation they are in is far from ideal. But with love, communication and understanding, being away from each other won’t break them but will only make them better, wiser and even stronger.