Monday, March 21, 2011

Glittering Hopes at Midnight (a story of an OFW)

I left the Philippines in high hopes that I would find a job in a foreign land. My destination: Singapore.

Singapore is an open city and anyone can get in without worrying about VISA. I tried my luck. The country is a haven to jobseekers. I prodded my parents to borrow money from a relative with the parcel of land we owned as the collateral.

I came to Singapore a few years back. All I had were my diploma, employment certificates, guts, prayers and dreams. Dreams of giving my family a better life. My mom, my dad, my siblings.

I came here as a tourist. It was not easy to get past the Philippine Immigration. The government was already tightening the policies for Filipinos leaving the country as some tourists would end up doing illegal things overseas just to survive. I gathered all the courage I could have just to look so smart and pretend that I would only be touring SG. I booked a 3-night stay at a backpacker's hostel just to make my 'tourist-in-SG' drama even more convincing. I succeeded... and arrived in Singapore with no difficulties. I was given a 30-day visit pass.

I used the hostel reservation I made. I rebooked my return ticket to another date, almost a month later. While in the hostel, I went through Pinoy forum websites in Singapore. I looked for a place where I could stay at a much lesser price. Cost of living in Singapore is quite high. I had to consider the most economical way of living that I could have.

I was able to find a bedspace for SGD250. It was already a good price. I had to skip meals. I would just make it a point that I would have one rice meal everyday. I would spend everyday going online, sending my resume to prospective companies. But usually, they would reply to me that they needed PRs and Citizens. I did not lose hope. I persisted.

The 30-day visit pass was nearing expiration. I had to go to Johor Bahru, the capital city of Johor in southern Malaysia. Just a few minutes from Singapore. I just spent a few hours in JB and came back to SG. This time, my drama was I just visited JB before going back to Manila. And yes, I outwitted them. The SG immigration officer believed my story and gave me another 30-day stay in the country.

Again I stayed in Singapore for another 30 days, looking for possible job I could get. Still, I could not find a job. I was determined not to go home as a failure. I had to find a job. A few days before the second 30-day visit pass would expire, I applied for extension. I did it online. Luckily, it was approved.

For more than two months that I had been applying for a job and still could not find one, I was already giving up. But still, the thoughts of going home as a failure scared me. It would be a shame to my family. I wouldn’t want that to happen. I wouldn’t want my family to live in debt and in embarrassment. We all know how judgmental people are.
I could not give up. I could not quit. I would not go home empty handed. I would not go home without achieving anything.

I mingled with other Pinoys, from all walks of life, trying to get tips and help in finding a job.

Until I met this group of Filipina, young ladies of my age. All professionals, earning big bucks. They became my friends. They work somewhere in Tanjong Pagar… at a night club.

Hopeless as I was, I asked them to help me. Hard, but I had to swallow all my pride. My family wouldn’t know, anyway. I told my self, just for the meantime… just for me to survive. I would find a decent job.

Days, weeks, months passed. I earned dollars. I was able to send home money. I was able to pay our debts. I was able to give my parents a better life. They commend me. They would tell other relatives how good a daughter I am. If only they know the truth… If only they know about my fate… sad fate of an OFW.

I have already gotten the thought that I would be getting a decent job here in Singapore out of my head. This is what I got. I did not have any choice. I hated it but I had to live by it. Live being an overseas Filipino whore.

It has been years. I know there is still hope. Not for myself but for my siblings. With every dancing light that glitters at night. With every dollar that I earn and send to them, I know I give them hope. With the story about my made-up-work, I tell them, I know I inspire them.

Soon, I will go home to the Philippines. I will try to start a new life. I know it is never too late.

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