EDITORIAL| Listening to OFWs

THE DEPARTMENT of Foreign Affairs pegs the number of Filipino household service workers in Hong Kong to be about 196,000. A conservative estimate of 50 percent need legal advice and services, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Davao City Chapter said.

Fresh from their legal aid mission in Hong Kong where they joined lawyers from other cities, the IBP volunteers shared yesterday how the real situation of the overseas workers, most of them domestic helpers, are glossed over. Most of those who sought legal assistance and advice were burdened by family and marriage woes, financial scams, non-payment of contract wages, difficult working conditions and even psychological torture.

It is the disintegration of the family, the basic unit of society, which haunts our overseas workers. Most of those who sought legal advice were mothers who have found their husbands to be entangled in another relationship and whose children are deprived of proper parental guidance. It was estimated that 90 percent suffered from alienation of affection between mothers and their children. With the mothers absent from their lives for long periods of time or in their crucial formative years, familial bonding is reduced to the mothers’ provision of material and financial needs to the children.

Overcoming language barriers and discrimination are only some of the issues OFWs have to hurdle. Sundays find the parks close to the Central Station teeming with domestic helpers who fashion their own space out of boxes. In that small makeshift room, some catch up on sleep, meet friends, eat Filipino food and do what they can to keep their sanity as they move on to another week of work.

We call them modern heroes for the sacrifice they bear for their family and the contribution by way of remittance to the economy. But at what cost to their own lives?

Posted in Opinion