MABALACAT CITY—Alvin Valenton has been single-handedly rearing his five children, aged 5 to 14, for over a year now, as his wife Erna works in Macau.
“It’s difficult being a mother and father at the same time,” Valenton, 36, told his village mates in Sitio Macabacle in Barangay (village) Sapang Biabas here on Thursday.
The likes of Valenton are many, but they rarely get help, said Dr. Lourdes Carandang, a clinical psychologist.
Carandang said more men are taking on child-rearing and household duties as more women leave for work abroad.
In Barangay Sapang Biabas, there are 18 other men who share the same plight as Valenton. At least 25 more are in two nearby villages.
For them, Carandang’s MLAC Psychosocial Services for Well-Being launched here on Thursday the Ama na Magaling Mag-aruga sa Anak (Amma). It is the corporate social responsibility program of Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC), a government entity overseeing the development of Clark International Airport (CRK) near this Pampanga city.
Among the 90 airports in the country, CRK is the first to have a program focused on families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), said Victor Jose Luciano, CIAC president and chief executive officer.
“This is our way of helping families of OFWs stay together,” Luciano said.
Sen. Grace Poe joined the launch and supported Amma, which she said was needed to help keep the families of OFWs intact.
They number over 10 million, propping the economy through their remittances that reach $16 billion a year, Poe said.
Carandang said Amma would be carried out in three Mabalacat communities for six months through workshops for men, their children and village leaders.
She said the Mabalacat villages would serve as models for other Pampanga barangays with OFW mothers.
Emmeline Verzosa, executive director of the Philippine Commission on Women, found Amma to be unique because it helped men who are involved in shared parenting.
Valenton said more than the chores—cleaning the house, cooking, bathing the children, bringing them to school, doing laundry, helping them with their homework, putting them to sleep—it is the emotional demands of parenting that he finds to be more challenging.
On his free time, he drives a tricycle to earn money.
“I worked in Saudi [Arabia], so I know how it is to be eking out a living abroad. If not for my poor vision, I would still be working,” said the former aluminum technician.
“We need to be strong for our wives and children. We need to love our families, give attention to our children and instill in them discipline,” he told his fellow fathers.
Carandang said Amma is among the results of case studies published in the book, “Nawala ang Ilaw ng Tahanan,” that she, Beatrix Aileen Sison and Christopher Carandang authored in 2007.
“We developed programs assisting fathers, but these were of shorter periods. We chose to do it on a longer duration in Mabalacat because local leaders are very receptive,” she said.
Carandang said aside from starting Amma centers, men whose wives work overseas need to develop support groups, be encouraged to play and be with their children, and have family rituals that strengthen togetherness.
They should also do regular physical activities to cope with loneliness, strengthen the marital relationship despite the distance and foster and build the man’s belief in himself and in his ability.
More women leaving
In a fact sheet on OFWs released in May last year, the Senate Economic Planning Office said government data showed a changing pattern of the profile of OFWs over time based on their skills, occupation and country of deployment, as indicated by the change in demand for overseas workers.
“Employment of women in household service, nursing and waiting [tables] or bartending is now largely more prominent than manual or skilled industrial work. This is a major shift away from the 1970s, when mostly agricultural workers were sent to Hawaii and construction-related professionals were deployed to oil-rich Middle Eastern countries,” said the report.
The National Statistics Office (NSO), citing results of the Survey on Overseas Filipinos in 2009, said the number of OFWs that year reached about 1.9 million.
“Of this total, 47.2 percent, or approximately 900,000, were women… Compared to male OFWs, female OFWs in 2009 were younger, in general. More than half (50.7 percent) of the female OFWs were in the age group 25 to 34. The age group 25 to 29 made up 27.2 percent of all female OFWs while the age group 30 to 34, 23.5 percent,” the NSO report said.
It said more than half of female OFWs (56.1 percent) were “unskilled workers, mostly domestic helpers and cleaners.”
“Those who worked as service workers and shop and market sales workers made up 18.1 percent and professionals, 10.5 percent,” it added.
The NSO said the total remittance sent by OFWs from April to September 2009 reached P138.5 billion.
“Of this amount, the total remittance sent by female OFWs comprised 30.8 percent, or approximately P42.7 billion, which placed the average remittance per female OFW at P56,000,” it said. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon