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OFW: The Making of National Heroes (Philippine Style)

Volumes have been said and written why our OFWS are the modern heroes of our time. And I think, another word from this corner about their heroism would not make their heroism any clearer. Though OFWS are definitely heroes, they are a different lot from the rest. Hopefully, by the time we finish reading this article, we shall know why.

Working overseas or migrating to another country to work was not truly a novel choice for many Filipinos, then and now. Some of us had already taken that option to seek better lives in another country but only as a matter of free choice. However, the novelty behind the ascendancy of OFWS and their currency as national heroes lie not only in its “enforced nature” but also in its modern genesis and their role in our national survival.

Borne out of an ignominious policy under Martial Law, working outside the Philippines has evolved since but remains an imposed choice for a people and from a country, touted to be democratic and naturally blessed with rich talents and resources.

From this imposed choice, OFWS became heroes ,and victims no less, not of the hideous policy of a former oppressive regime, but by default this time, from our own collective failure in national leadership and the self-serving stewardship by a generally fortunate few of their vast fortune and the opportunities that go with them.

These failures ushered new problems for our national economy, exacerbating specifically our problems on local employment with catastrophic effects. They left in their wake, a new breed of penury and poverty with rapacious effects on the very social, political and moral values that provided so many of us before with reasonable measures of possibilities for decent lives within the country. Left with no recourse, either from our own government or from the very wealthy few among us, who own most of the opportunities outside public domain, many of our people sought greener pastures from across the sea. Those already outside, stayed and remained outside. Thus, the rebirth of Filipinos in Diaspora or the OFWS, “ang bagong bayani ng bayan” (new heroes of the nation).

Not surprisingly, the OFWS’ magic still holds even after their totalitarian origin had been dismantled more than two decades ago.The relative peace and tranquility that still reign over the country amidst the heavy imposition of poverty across the nation, the unfettered corruption in the government and lately, the depressing promise of an international economy gone awry, are testimonials to the calming effects of the OFWS’ multi-billion dollar annual remittances, which keep our national economy afloat, and continuously held together the sanity of most of our people.

The OFWS’ magic notwithstanding, it appears that in the Middle East, they only have their title -BAYANI NG BAYAN – to protect them. This merely confirms that OFWS’ heroism has not gone beyond the realm of public perception. At its best, perception could only provide our OFW with pandering titles and cautionary words by way of protection!

In these foreign countries , our OFWS’ are virtual food for the predators.


Thus, stories after stories about injustice to our OFWS still abound, particularly about inadequate or non-existent legal representations from our Consular office in Saudi Arabia, the predominant destination of our local labor outside America.

Some of these tragic stories include the more recent cases of OFW Jennifer Bedoya and OFW Reynaldo Cortez, both of whom were beheaded, after being found guilty by Saudi Arabian courts. Admittedly, both were provided ONLY interpreters because our consular office in Saudi Arabia do not have Legal Attaches!

OFW Eddie Javier, a lowly truck driver, who was ordered to pay the amount of US$56, 887.00 by a Saudi Arabian Court, to the family of the driver of a speeding vehicle, who died after that speeding vehicle rear-ended the parked truck of OFWS Eddie Javier. He was merely provided with an interpreter but not a lawyer, for the same reason. He currently languishes in jail for obvious lack of funds.

Or of OFW Ryan Anievas, who now stands accused before a Saudi Court for distributing counterfeit money, which was given to him as the change from a payment for the purchase of some goods from another store but which change included counterfeit money but which he failed to notice and which money he used to buy food in another store. Distribution of Counterfeit money under Saudi Arabian laws is punishable by decapitation. And if other tragic stories on OFWS are to be our bases, OFWS Eddie Javier’s name might be included in the honored roll of our national heroes but sans his head!

But these are old problems of our OFW!

Bakit para tayong nagtatanga-tangahan ?

Inadequate representations from our consular office because of absence of Legal Attaches is a problem as old as the Philippine republic.

Now, we should not EVEN try to pretend that the hellish situation of many of our OFWS do not exist if only to avoid the consequences of our own neglect and apathy to their current plight. This pretension could very well be the wellspring of our DEATH WISH for our OFWS, our so-called modern national heroes.

To my mind, these tragic stories of beheadings or undue incarcerations of our OFWS are eloquent expressions of our own ungratefulness to the sacrifices of these people!

These stories are constant reminders to us all about the tragic consequences of our shameful inability to reciprocate the sacrifices and important role of OFW in our national survival!

What these men and women are simply asking from a supposedly grateful nation and people is for our OFWS to have national laws and programs that would assure them fair treatment under the laws of their host country just as the citizens of their host country are treated fairly in the Philippines.

They are simply asking us something that we ourselves ought to do for our own kin or brethren under the same predicament.

And the OFWS are not really asking too much, after all, the OFWS’ yearly remittances assure us peace at home, and for these public officers: food on their dining tables every day of the year, without any of us having to endure the pain of an self-imposed banishment from loved ones.

To honor our OFW with pandering titles or with praises for the dead or with perfumed wreath on gilded caskets borne by somber faces, while we do nothing when they are still alive, is hypocrisy and ingratitude, in their purest forms.

But we could still mend our ways. However, only our FIRM action on this matter is the true measure of our devotion and respect for our OFWS, whether we are Filipinos or citizens now of other nations.

To all Filipino Citizens, let us get in touch with our own congressional leaders. Remind them of our modern heroes we call as the OFWS and what we owe them.

Let us push for the approval of House bill 5657 and let us tell our congressional leaders there to support House Bill 5657. Tell them that if they will not work to support the OFWS, we shall work and campaign against them.

To all OFWS, let us register at our nearest Philippine consulate so we could vote overseas and have a hand in the choice of our national leaders in the Philippines. Unbeknownst to us, many of them had actually survived their natural defect in birth and are now raking havoc among the people they ought to serve!

To all FILAMS, let us re-acquire our Filipino Citizenship from our nearest Philippine Consulate and have a hand in averting the choice of idiots, selfish and pseudo leaders in public office in the Philippines. Let us call our own congressional leaders here in America and tell them to put conditions in any support or aid to the Philippines if only to insure that the basic human rights of Filipinos in the country are reasonably respected by our national leadership from the Philippines.

TO ALL OF US: After all have been said and done, let us turn to GOD in bended knees.

Let us pray and hope that GOD, in HIS great mercy, would not bequeath upon us and those who came or would come from us, the same tragedy that bear upon our OFWS and their families, when we made them our national heroes!

Emerito F. Salud - A lawyer from the Ateneo law School ' 73, a member of the NY Bar since 1994, a FILAM community activist, a radio-commentator of RadioPinoy USA, he is currently the Director for Advocacy of NaFFAA REgion 1. He is also a member of the NJ Chapter-Movement for Free Philippines, founded by the late Senator Raul Manglapus, and a founding member of Kaibigan Inc., based at the Port of Newark, NJ, a support group for Filipino merchant mariners (seamen).

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