For years, I watched them—in whatever foreign land I was in. Bent, sad figures that toiled hard and without let up. And when I listened to their stories, a significant portion of those stories were stories of abuse and injustice suffered in the hands of their employers. I saw too the loneliness that was so palpable I could hold it in the palm of my hands.
And if there was anything that enraged me, it was this: that by the greed and indifference and incompetence of those who sat in power, millions of Filipinos have suffered and to the extent where they’ve had to leave all that was dear and familiar to them, risking life and limb, just so they could provide decently for their families. We aren’t even talking mansions or vacations abroad but just a simple roof over their heads, food on their table and decent education for their children.
And the government that called them ‘heroes/heroines’, treated them even worse than their abusive employers did, turning a blind eye not only to the abuses heaped on them but to the unjust incarcerations they suffered.
And when the parade of coffins arrived at our airports, all they could manage to do was sniff in the air and shrug like this was something we all had to accept as inevitable—the price to be paid for being the world’s whipping boy/second class citizens/Filipinos.
The government that cared nothing for them could be counted on to do nothing for them.
All they were were bodies that produced the dollars that held our country’s rickety boat together. And when, for some reason, they lost the capacity to produce those dollars, the very second they lost that capacity, they ceased to exist as far as the powers-that-be were concerned.
Rodrigo Duterte isn’t the first president to bring home OFWs, this is true. But he is the most relentless.
And I do think that a most decisive corner has been turned with just the manner in which the most powerful man of this country regards them—the way he talks about them (with a sad gentleness and a catch in his voice and too, with a sense of urgency I have never sensed in past presidents), the policies he crafts with them in mind (for instance, cleaning of windows in high rises for domestic helpers in HK is now illegal—and that it was the President who pushed for this), what he aches to do for them (create jobs and bring them home, bring them home, bring them home) how he forges agreements with Kings and Rulers on their behalf– so they release their death grip on our kababayan and set them free and then if necessary, he will, himself fetch them.
It seems so over-the-top how he wants so badly to hop on a plane and fetch them himself—fly the plane himself if it gets to that. And I would laugh if I didn’t share his rage—a rage I feel at how past presidents have held the most vulnerable in our midst hostage in the altar of their insatiable greed and indifference and monumental incompetence.
And now, this simple truth is ours: finally, our President is what comes between our OFWs and abusive countries who treat our kababayans as less than human.
And he will do all he can so they see the better days they so deserve for being on the frontlines for so long so our country hasn’t completely folded up as it should have given the dirty rotten scoundrels who governed us in the past.
My dear friends, the new chapter in our country’s history is well under way. I know that much will be asked of each of us. But I hold my face to the sun and just before I get back to doing my share in the rebuilding of our country, I take a moment to bask in this new day.
I am hopeful like I haven’t been in a long time. And I am unafraid.
A Man who is fearless and honorable and compassionate beyond belief has our back and we have his.
Together, we have become Formidable.