Just as I was trying to finish the book Kapeng Arabo by Manny A. Garcia, I received a private message on my Facebook account from a dear friend and classmate in graduate school back in 1999. She was then a new teacher, single and was very idealistic about the teaching profession. In her message, she was asking for some advice on her present predicament. Her letter reads-
Dear Ate Saling,
Musta na po kau. Sencia ka na po, Ikaw ang naisip kong hingan ng advice. Kasi mukhang ang happy ng family mo based sa pictures na naka-post dito sa fb. Ate, nasa ____ pa rin ako at in charge sa third year. Konti lang students namin kaya hindi ako masyadong hirap. Saka pag non-sectarian hindi masyadong mahigpit ang admin. Kaso, super kunat sila sa sweldo. Di ba nasabi ko na po syo yung problema ko sa Tatay ko. Talagang pilit nya akong pinag-aabroad kasi daw walang mangyayari dito. Ako din kasi ang inaasahan nila. Saka yung mister ko po kasi naglalabas lang ng jeep na hindi sa amin. Meron na po akong kausap na tutulong sa akin makaalis para maging DH sa HK. Sabi po ni Tatay sila na ni Nanay ang bahala sa 5 years old kong daughter. Nahihirapan po ako magdecide. Yung mister ko po ako daw bahala. E kasi po hindi rin sila magkasundo ni tatay kasi driver lang daw po ang pinili ko. Ate, alam ko wala kang pakialam sa buhay ng iba pero kahit konting insights lang sana mabigyan mo ako. Thanks po sa abala.
Minda ( not her real name)
The letter made me smile. Since when have I become an Ate Charo or an Ate Helen or a Kuya Eddie? Haha! But I need to answer her asap. Instead of answering her through the message box of FB, I thought maybe I should blog about this. So here's my reply to your letter, Minda.
Your letter was so short and yet I have so many points to answer.
First, yes, I have a very happy family, BUT, we also have our own share of sorrows. Hindi mawawala yan sa kahit kaninong pamilya.
I am glad that you are still teaching. I told you then that you were good and good teachers are what our schools need right now. Math ka pa naman. Ang maganda sa profession natin, we can achieve excellence even on our own, independent of other people, but of course, with some help from institutions, like a graduate school, na mas makakaganda. If you will quit teaching with a low salary and become a DH with a higher compensation, do you think it is a sort of a promotion? The answer can be found in your heart. Nowhere else.
Whatever we do, whether we decide for ourselves or follow the dictates of others, is reflective of the hierarchy of values that we have. If your father's wishes are more important to you than the family you are building now, why did you get married, in the first place? And why are you still with your parents? Is there no way you could live independently? Masarap bumuo ng decision ang isang couple pag silang dalawa lang ang tumitingin sa buong picture. Hindi pwedeng isa lang sa inyo. Have you thought of how your father would look down upon your husband more if you go abroad and he stays here? What about your daughter? Kaya mo ba matulog sa gabi not knowing where she is and who she's with? Kung kaya mo yan, girl, you are made of steel. Let me tell you a brief anecdote. When my daughter and her boyfriend ( now her hubby, they kissed and made up after a few years) broke up after years of being together, my daughter was inconsolable. She slept in our room, in our bed, between me and my husband, for many nights. The tears dried in her eyes as she tried to catch some sleep. Believe me, my husband and I were so devastated. But at the same time, I was glad I was still alive then and was with her at her most trying times. Had I been an absentee mother at the time, I would perhaps have gone mad. Being a mother is a purely personal act. No substitutes, ever. If you've never watched Anak, buy a copy now and watch it seven times.
I have nothing against migrant workers, personally, but I have certain issues with mothers leaving their small children behind. Many lives have changed for the better because of the OFW phenomenon, but more were destroyed because of the same. I know of a mother who has had an affair in Dubai while her husband also kept a mistress around here. I know of another mother whose daughter died of malnutrition because no one took care of her and her siblings while the mother was abroad. I know of still another mother who thought her children were in school only to learn later that they were out-of-school, hanging out with their friends and use their allowances for vices. There are many other horror stories about the families of migrant working mothers but now I am not sure if you have heard of them. One thing I am sure of though is that statistics show there were more sad stories than the good ones. Along this line, be reminded that no amount of success in one's job ( financial success) can compensate for the failure in the family.
I heard someone said that the OFW phenomenon is the curse of our children's times. I tend to agree. For those older than my generation, war was their curse. Wars caused families to be broken, and societies to disintegrate. That's what migrant work does to most families now. As the book I am reading now states, our government, instead of providing more productive jobs here, encourage Filipinos to go out of the country. At para me consuelo de bobo, they labeled them heroes. Perhaps, if you were single, I would not have told you all these. Because then, you would have discovered what direction to take without any mental baggages left behind. But you have a family and more importantly, you have a child. A five-year old can't do things on her own without the guidance of a mother.
As I've said in the early part of this letter, your decision will reflect your values. Your Tatay or your husband? Toys for your daughter or good times with her? Your students or the children of your would-be amo? iPhone or unlitxt with your good old mobile phone? You are in a forced-choice situation now. Arm yourself so you can arrive at an informed decision.
All the best!
PS. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the country last year, she told Pres. Aquino to find ways by which Filipinos would not need to go out of the country to work. This was at the same time that she acknowledged how good the Pinoy OFW is. I love Hillary!