While we honor our beloved overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as the country’s modern day heroes, helping not only the entire economy flourish but also supporting the sustenance and future of their Filipino families, it can’t be denied the terrible ordeals they experience while working. In the October 10 episode of Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, we would see the heartbreaking yet inspiring stories of four OFW women, who helped each other in overcoming the worst.
Working abroad as an OFW entails a lot of rigorous preparations and strict requirements including educational attainment, set of skills, to name a few. But Alaysa Guiamad, a former OFW, did not meet any of these but, because of utter desperation, she found a way to land a job in the Middle East. Alaysa’s father worked as a fisherman. And there were times when their income wouldn’t be enough to sustain their daily household needs. That’s why at the age of 15, she already decided to work abroad, specifically in Saudi Arabia.
She thought that by working as an OFW will give her family the chance to live a more comfortable life. Alaysa applied as a domestic helper in the said country and was treated properly by her employer, who is actually the parent of her childhood friend. At first, she found it hard to adjust but was able to get along with the people there. Because of her work, Alaysa was able to provide electricity in their place by sending his father money, which was used to buy solar panels, a reliable and dependable energy source. Because of her earnings, Alaysa was able to build a more comfortable house for her family.
But Alaysa felt she was missing a lot in her teenage years. That’s why after five years in Saudi Arabia, she decided to continue her studies here in the Philippines. She would then meet the man, who would become her boyfriend, and eventually her husband. She then got pregnant while she was still a student. Her partner supported her but the situation was still financially difficult for them. At this time, Alaysa met Sarah Alinsub on social media. They would exchange stories and become friends. When Sarah learned about Alaysa’s situation, she offered financial help. Now, Alaysa’s child is already one year old, and she’s continuing her studies as a nursing student. Alysa said that she felt the love of a sister from Sarah as she was there when she needed help the most. Alysa gave her a watch and a bracelet to show her appreciation to all the help that Sarah has extended to her.
Sarah, meanwhile, also worked as an OFW in Saudi Arabia, but her stay there was a nightmare. She was forced to participate in the fixed marriage that her father wanted for her. Sarah did not get to fulfill her goals, especially finishing her studies because her father thought it would be better for her to just marry a man whom he thought could provide a good future for her. However, Sarah didn’t expect to be married to an abusive man, who made her life a living hell. He even threatened to kill her when she tried to leave with their children. Sarah was able to escape but failed to bring their children with her.
That’s when she decided to work for another employer in Saudi Arabia, hoping that she could get her children back once she saved enough money. However, the employer had not been treating her well, and this led to plans to return to the Philippines. She would seek assistance from the Saudi police, but instead of alleviating her from her plight, they maltreated and molested her. Up to four police officers abused Sarah, who admitted wanting to give up at that time due to the abuse but fought on for her children. In order to get out, Sarah pretended being poisoned by ingesting a bleach and cleaning liquid so she would be brought somewhere else. And her plan succeeded as she was brought to a women’s shelter. That’s where she met Carol Tadeo, a former Pinay janitress in Saudi. Sarah asked Carol if she could help her contact her family. Aware of the consequences that she would face once the authorities find out that she’s helping Sarah, Carol still chose to help her kababayan. And because of her, Sarah was able to reach out to her family, and even file a case against the four police officers which she won eventually. Sarah was able to go home and get her children back. Now, she’s working as a lady guard in Manila and still works hard to provide a good future for her children. She gave Carol a tissue holder which can make her how she once wiped someone’s tears through her help.
Even though it breaks her heart to leave her family, Carol decided to work abroad just to provide for them since her husband couldn’t find a job after working for nine years abroad. She worked as a patient attendant in a rehabilitation center in Saudi Arabia and eventually worked as a cleaner in a women’s shelter. She felt guilty when she was able to take care of other people while not getting to take care of her own children. Until she found out that her husband was becoming physically abusive to their gay son because he couldn’t accept his sexuality. Carol felt that her son gradually became distant.
Little did she know that her family problems wouldn’t end there. One day, her eldest son called her and told her a heart-rending news - her husband got into an accident and was shot dead. Carol couldn’t believe it. As much as she wanted to go home, she really couldn’t do so because of her work contract. Carol couldn’t think properly – she couldn’t even eat or work properly. It broke her heart when she couldn't go home to go to her husband’s funeral.
Carol wasn’t able to take good care of herself, especially of her health during that difficult phase of her life. She was diagnosed with myoma and had to undergo an operation in Saudi. She worried so much of what could happen to her that time - the only thing she thought to do was to ask the Lord to take care of her. And during those challenging times, her roommate Lourina took care of her. And because of Lourina’s help, Carol was able to recover and go home to her family. Carol decided not to leave the Philippines anymore so she could stay with her children. She gave Lourina a knit sweater which will remind her that she’ll always be there as her Nanay Carol.
Lourin, on the other hand, experienced being looked down at by her own relatives because of the social status of her family. Her relatives would always tell her family that they would never succeed in life and would forever stay underprivileged. And that’s what motivated her even more to give her family a better life. After high school, Lourina already started working. Until she was offered to work in Saudi. She grabbed the opportunity and got to work as a patient attendant in the said country. Lourina shared that it was also difficult to take care of the patients as she sometimes couldn’t really control their actions.
But because she was working so hard, her boss promoted her to become a technical assistant. But she wasn’t expecting that her fellow Filipinos would be the ones who would try to bring her down. When her kababayans envied her promotion, they made up stories about her. They accused her of stealing the files of a patient. But it was later on proven that Lourina did not do what was accused of her. And that’s when her bosses trusted her even more.
Later on, she helped her sister work in Dubai. She even spent her savings just to help her sister. However, Lourina felt so disappointed when her sister got pregnant. She felt like her dreams for her sister to also help their family vanished in just one snap. But after four years of working abroad, Lourina decided to go back to the Philippines to continue her studies. She succeeded in finishing her schooling, and now, she is living the life she dreamt for herself and for her family. She is now a mushroom business owner, which has helped her sustain the needs of her family.
Lourina’s generosity and selflessness inspired an ill Carol to pay such kindness forward and help a distressed fellow OFW, Sarah, reach out to her family and seek justice for the abuse she experienced. She would offer this same support to a financially deprived former OFW social media friend Alaysa, who is now able to provide for her one-year-old child and continue her nursing studies.
This link of incredible kindness and bigheartedness is what we recognize each week on Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, hosted by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo, every Saturday at 6:15 pm on the Kapamilya Channel and Kapamilya Online Live