‘People see me as a walking bank’
MANILA, Philippines—Some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) don’t want to come home to the Philippines for the Christmas holidays because they are viewed as “walking banks,” an OFW in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) told INQUIRER.net.
“Going home to the Philippines has pros and cons. Pros: I get to be with loved ones and spend time with them. Cons: Going back home is expensive because when you return during the holidays, people see you as a walking bank,” an OFW who asked to be named only as “Reynald” said in an online interview.
“Your relatives and neighbors will mob you and ask you how you are. But when you were there in the Philippines before, you would not see even their shadow,” he said.
Reynald, 27, who has been working as a web designer in Dubai for two years, said that he felt like he was just being milked and when he would not give them anything “they will feel bad and say ugly things about you.”
He is currently living in Dubai with his sister. Their father was once an engineer in Dubai but has recently returned to the Philippines after his contract ended.
“My sister really does not want to go home during Christmas,” Reynald said. Asked why, he said simply: “Expenses. That’s it.”
“A friend of mine went home during the Christmas holidays last 2013. He spent almost 50k in two days of staying in the Philippines. That’s Christmas in the Philippines,” he said.
Despite the expensive Christmas shopping spree that drains the pockets, Reynald will still be heading home for the holidays this year because “it’s worth it.”
“Here in the UAE there is no presence of Christmas, unlike in the Philippines where there are Christmas lights decorating the houses everywhere you go. Here, one small Christmas tree in a Filipino home is enough,” Reynald said.
“There are also no holidays during the Christmas season here. Of course I want the essence of Christmas which is being with my family and of course my pet dogs that I really miss,” he said.
The UAE is among the countries with the highest population of OFWs, according to records of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).
As of December 2012, there are 931,000 Filipinos in UAE; most of them, around 722,000, are temporary workers. More than 207,000 are undocumented workers while only 1,700 are migrants.
There are more than 10 million OFWs worldwide. The most are in the United States (around 3.5 million) and in Saudi Arabia (1.2 million).
Remittances from OFWs worldwide have been widely credited for the growth of the Philippine economy.
According to the records of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), around $23 billion was remitted by OFWs to the Philippines through banks in 2013. The month with the highest amount of remittances was December, with $2.17 billion.
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