Filipinos need to rethink how they value their overseas contract workers

Overseas Filipinos, whether they be migrants or overseas contract workers (OCW’s), are a valuable resource to their home country. Obviously, they pump money to the homeland and to their families, which props up the economy, to the tune of about 10-14% of its GDP. Second, the skills they learned from their jobs overseas could and should be put to good use in order to improve what we have here. There is always something to be learned from what our foreign counterparts are doing, whether it be what to do or not to do, and most especially what works.

The sad part of that story, however, is that Filipinos migrate and become OCW’s to seek a better life for themselves and their families, particularly because conditions in the Philippines have either become unbearable or unsustainable with what they currently have. For many Filipinos, it is the inevitable choice: to escape from a place from which they have no chance of getting along better in life. Many of our countrymen simply have given up any hope of the Philippines getting better, or have realized that in the long run, it is simply not worth it to keep dealing with a culture and society that is severely limiting and irreversibly resistant to change.

prison breakout

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

It happens enough times that those who migrate try to get away or disassociate themselves from the homeland as much as possible, although family ties with those left back home remain strong. Yet, as a friend of mine has pointed out, it is this familial bond which is the reason Filipino migrants will always have a stake in the Philippines. Each of these migrants has his/her relatives who suffer from a mediocre Philippine society and it affects them in more ways than one.

As I mentioned earlier, Filipino migrants and OCW’s are a valuable economic and knowledge resource. Unfortunately, as Manila Times writer Ben Kritz has pointed out, it is a resource that is being wasted.

In an article I wrote last June 2015, I noted that for all the exposure Filipinos have to foreign habits and customs and methods of doing things, they ironically learned very little from it. There is no doubt that migrants and OCW’s who have tried to share what they learned during their stays in other countries have met with resistance. They would get typical responses such as the ones listed below. Feel free to add more if you have heard more not listed here.

“Nag-abroad ka lang, akala mo kung sino ka na. (Who do you think you are, you just went overseas? )”
“Wala ka na sa Pilipinas, huwag ka nang makialam. (You are not in the Philippines anymore, do not meddle with our affairs.)”
Kung gusto mo makatulong, bumalik ka dito! (If you want to help, come back to the Philippines! )”
Ah basta, padalan mo na lang kami ng pera. Tumahimik ka na lang! ! (Just keep giving us money, and shut up!)”

It’s like talking to a brick wall. It paints a picture of a Filipino society being rather disdainful of foreign ideas and influences (but not consumer goods), and utterly lacking in imagination.


In the end, is Filipino society capable of more than just lip service? Are they merely going to label migrants and OCW’s as heroes but keep regarding them as something to leech money from?

Eventually, the well will dry up. What will happen when the Filipino overseas population, along with the resources they represent, simply stops caring, or will stop being able to help those stuck at home, for one reason or another?

The Philippines is hopelessly dependent on foreign goods, validation, and masters to prop up their population and their economy. Quite simply, the economy would crash.

[Photo courtesy: and]

14 Replies to “Filipinos need to rethink how they value their overseas contract workers”

  1. Obviously, most Filipino relatives in the Philippines only want their OCW relatives to be their ATMs, so they can enjoy all the luho and good time without educating themselves and improve any thinking. If the OCW relative stops sending or says, you’d better do something with your lives, the other relatives will just get mad and say, “just keep sending money!” With that, our Juan Tamad logo remains relevant, showing the very thing that needs to be changed with Filipino society. But a society where so many have a false sense of entitlement would hate to “rethink” things.

  2. Great article. The current treatment of OFW’s or OCW’s is horrendous. The government literally creates ways to chop whatever they can get out of them before they leave and then mercilessly tax the shit out of them after they leave.They just make shit up, like the class one must attend and pay for the stamp of the exit visa ,OR YOU CAN’T LEAVE THE COUNTRY !!!! HA HA HA HA HA!!!
    You can ask Manny ‘excuses excuses’ Paquiao about that. Pac-boy has had to fight in China, as there are less taxes involved when he fights there, recently. At least two of his most recent fights have been in Macau,China. It is all due to taxation. Paquiao will have to box into his 40’s to keep what he has.Unfortunately he could not box Floyd outside of the Champs home country and the Pac-boy got taxed mercilessly again. Paquiao’s tax’s are paid twice as he pays the IRS in the USA and then the BIR in his home country. IDK how many are in this situation……. but it sucks.

    Any Filipino that leaves the country should NEVER return.
    The Republic of the Philippines is a dead economy,slave wages, electricity rates that are the highest in the world,import tarriffs that are trade-prohibitive….and the nature of the government that taxes the OFW/OCW’s is just a parasitic POS that is an opportunistic middle-man that gouges all it touches. YUCK-FOO !!!

    How about the relative that tries to sell all of his possesions to the returning OFW, before he/she sits down? LOL !
    “Where is my gift?” “That is all you got me?” “You are rich now, you are an European/American.”, some of the more respectful relatives say:”It is soooo nice to see you, come in, have something to eat….”, and at least have the courtesy to wait until after dinner is served to get down to the nitty-griity of whatever sob story has been rehearsed in advance so as to connive some Peso’s out of the victimized OFW. The funniest one is:”Lola died again !”. Poor Grandma.

    ‘Momma-mia thatssa spicey Meat-a-ball.’,sickening just to think about.

    1. Lola Died Again!!! LOL! How many lolas can you possibly have? Could be the lola of a third 3rd degree cousin, the lola of my dog, and the lola of my new facebook friend…

      Yea its true. Pinoys never run out of sad stories that need funding.

      Here’s a suggestion for returning OFW’s. Print out the Zaxxun Creed in a small sheet of paper the size of a dollar bill and place it in an envelope. Then tell that poor soul relative of yours “in here is something worth more than a thousand bucks”.

  3. OFW are the Heroes in our times. They sacrifice to work abroad. They remit part of their earnings to the Philippines. And , prevent the country, from sinking financially.

    Most of the OFW do not want to return to the Philippines. If we return, we will only find a country, that does not want to change. Our talents, work experinces, skills and education will be wasted.

    The country cannot offer us anything, except to pick our pockets…

  4. I, myself is an Filipino OCW (OFW). I don’t want to return anymore, to the Philippines. I don’t want to waste my: work experiences; skills; education; talents; and what I have acquired by working abroad.

    Besides, the: pay; benefits; possible promotion; perks; etc…are very good. The Philippines cannot offer us, these things. And, the work I do is challenging. I enjoy my work very much…

  5. People really have no idea of the many sacrifices & hardship of an OFW or OCW.

    And nobody should be proud of long term/distance separation just to have a decent living for his/her family. We should really be ashame of our role to world – to supply talents or a source of skilled labor (OFW & OCW modern day Hero or a form of slavery).

    Instead of using our best people to improve our nation, Government would rather sell (as Export commodity), ask them to sign contracts, to shine/excel elsewhere and just let others benefit it.

    @ >$26billion annual remitance, Philippines main Export commodity are OFW & OCW – modern day hero or a form of slavery? Philippines rank 103 in the 2014 Global Slavery Index

    Is there a proof that RH Bill or other Population control measure are being implemented? Is it just for show in order not to disrupt steady supply of cheap/quality labor? organ donor? and source of stem cell.

    Philippine Peso is backed by the Remitances (U.S. $) our OFW bring. Without it – our Peso is basically worthless and trading will be difficult or impossible. But the negative effects of Exporting our Best People are:

    1. “Brain Drain” – our OFW & OCW are hard-working, productive, highly skilled & intellectual.

    2. Government forever relying on their dollar remittances to fuel our economy. Those left behind (lazy & AMPAW) who are tasked or voted to lead our nation and others are appointed to vital positions in the government.

    “It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and master, and intends to be the master” – Ayn Randolph

    The martyr sacrifices themselves entirely in vain. Or rather not in vain; for they make the selfish more selfish, the lazy more lazy, the narrow narrower.” Florence Nightingale

  6. Jose Rizal is the Philippine national hero, right? His travels abroad were documented and it’s obvious that being a intelligent guy, it was during those times when he was struck by epiphanies, which inspired him to write his excellent analysis about the dysfunctional behaviour of Filipinos.

    So I do not understand why a lot of Filipinos today – those who still consider Rizal as a hero – are averse to criticism from their compatriots who come from abroad. I can only blame it on the Filipino people’s inability to accept or recognise they have a problem.

  7. I think the saddest thing I heard from an OFW/OCW (also immigrants) when they return home for a two-week or at most a month-long work break is “Gano’n pa rin ang Pinas. Walang pagbabago.” But also there’s already this estrange connection towards the country. Sometimes I would hear them say, “bansa n’yo” and then brag about the place where they now live or work. Well, how can anyone expect the country to change if those who were “enlightened” will just smirk and shake their head at its sad state and then leave it the way it is before they left and after they arrived? Leave it to the people who cause it to rot then expect some progress when you return? This estrangement I think is the reason that after all of their learning experiences and achievements, they think there’s no hope for the country and living here will only hinder their progress. Then they became simply appalled by Pinoy’s crappy behavior and mediocre living condition when they should also educate them kasi galing din sila sa gano’n hindi ba? So alam na nila kung paano magbago at ano ang dapat baguhin. Also, what makes me wonder is if they made it outside the country, why can’t they make it here in our country afterwards? I thought the real potential for progress are the people’s own qualities so what’s hindering them to make it here? Dahil ba kapag sa Pilipinas tamad pero kapag nasa ibang bansa masipag, kapag nasa Pilipinas he lack the skills pero kapag nasa ibang bansa ang galing, kapag nasa Pilipinas walang work ethics kapag nasa ibang bansa punctual and diligent, kapag nasa Pilipinas he don’t follow the law kapag nasa ibang bansa he embrace the rule of law, kapag nasa Pilipinas he lack the ideas kapag nasa ibang bansa he is hailed for his bright ideas? Why does OFW need a foreign employer for them to give it their best? Why does a person’s effort depend on the initial rewards or income? Hindi ba it follows na uunlad ka if you are using and improving your skills and consistent in working diligently? Why does it have to be in another country to be an achiever? Why does it take them to live in another country to be a role model citizen? I guess these are my questions to the OFWs and immigrants who are saying “Wala ng pagbabago sa bansa n’yo.”

    On topic, yes, overseas Filipino workers are one of the strongest workforces that will keep us from going to the same direction as Greece. Although there are Pinoys who lack the skills or high education that will lead the country to greatness, we have people here that are hardworking and will work pa nga despite being swindled or earning little, not missing overtime, no restdays and even work during holidays. Sa totoo lang sanay talaga ang mga Filipino sa hirap at manual labor so magtatrabaho sila as long as they can to earn enough. Ang siste ay nagtatrabaho sila sa foreign owned company, sa loob o labas man ng bansa. Now, it would be good for our country and its people kung marami tayong local businessman and Filipino-owned manufacturing companies and there are more local produce circulating locally and being exported. If only the leaders would see the potential the Filipino hard workers have to offer and would capitalize on our resources and support our local businessmen. And hopefully, too, our enlightened OFWs will apply here what they learned working from another country. Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Most of the time, the change can be felt if the person concerned is working on the change he or she wants or expects to see. For OFWs, they can start with their family and in raising their children as productive members of the society. Sabihin nila sa iniwan nila what changed them and what ought to change para magbago at umunlad din ang buhay ng mga iyon. Kung ano sila sa labas ng bansa, sana ganoon din sila dito at i-apply nila dito ang natutunan nila. The value of Filipino overseas contract workers or migrants is not only because of their remittances but more on the good change in them that can change the outdated and narrow-minded culture of our society.

    1. It’s not that SIMPLE, You have to be one to know one.

      From being Best workers & Why OFW or OCW returning home can’t or won’t excel

      I’ll try to answer or explain by using my observation/experiencing
      can’t be

    2. @LVM Malana

      “You have to be OFW or OCW to know OFW or OCW”.

      Sorry to disagree but it’s not really the case. I’ll try to answer or explain it since I’m an OFW before (5yrs in Yokohama + 3 yrs in K.L).

      1. Returning OFW or OCW can’t help talk about or compare people, government, transportation, et. al or life in general in countries they’ve lived for a long period. For me it’s not really BRAGGING or being MAYABANG, or HATE and be ESTRANGE from the rest of Filipinos. He/she is merely sharing his/her experiences & observations abroad. And maybe just show FRUSTRATIONS on why our nation can’t progress just like other countries.

      “Gano’n pa rin ang Pinas. Walang pagbabago.”
      “bansa n’yo”

      2. Why an OFW or OCW once they return, won’t or can’t continue to be excellent individuals, best workers or role models in their own country.

      a. Nothing GOOD is really happening for Philippines.

      – NO job/employment oppurtunities to offer OFW or OCW.
      – No government program or support to showcase OFW or OCW expertise and a way to share, contribute or appreciation of what learned, gained or achieve working overseas.

      I just back from Japan and my family was a victim of Typhoon Ondoy (I almost died trying to rescue my wife & 2 kids)

      Because I wanted to share or contribute my specialization and experiences with typhoon ONDOY – I joined a global DAtE (Design Against the Element) competition on housing projects well adapted to or designed for Climate Change & Disaster Risk Reduction. I did not expect my entry to be early favorite during preliminary judging at QC Cityhall. And after studying other entries in the finals I was very confident of an easy win, but to my surprise all was won by foreigners and not even one award was given to me? maybe due to politics/incompetence of judges (Architect), organizers, sponsors and media?

      Government and private sector ignored or simply did not care understand my proposals, suggestions and recommendstion. But after experiencing numerous disaster every year with increasing no. of death/casualties & damages (Ondoy, Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda) – recently our Government (Dinky Soliman & Napoleon Nazareno) is now slowly implementing and copying all things I said in my Competition entry 5 years ago.

      1. @Dale,

        You said, “You have to be OFW or OCW to know OFW or OCW”. This made me feel unfortunate not to be one. I’m already comfortable without working abroad. I guess I’m lucky or I simply don’t want to work overseas so I try my best not to have a reason to. Anyway, I just based my observation to some emigrants and OFWs that I know. As you can see I did not generalize I only forced my questions and observations to those bragging and estranged. And Dale, I don’t see you as mayabang and estrange from the rest of the Filipino, basing on your own answer that maybe mirrors your own character. You said it’s “merely sharing his/her experiences & observations abroad. And maybe just show FRUSTRATIONS on why our nation can’t progress just like other countries.” I also don’t see you merely smirking and shaking your head on issues that needed to be discussed. You also shared your expertise for Filipinos’ benefits it’s just regrettable it didn’t win. This is what I’m saying when the migrants or OFWs values is not just because of their remittances. Standing together to apply here the good change that you all acquire it can bring change to the outdated and narrow-minded culture of our society. Unti-unti, when you apply your improved ways here, extended it to your family and children, napapalitan ang nagpapabulok sa sistema. Also, like I said, if you left the country to those who cause it to rot, it’s hard to expect progress when you return. I have faith in our OFWs as a strong force to bring change in our culture. I understand change for the better is not an overnight endeavor and success. Like the Chinese, we may have to inch our way to meet that change. But when people are divided, estranged or doing things on their own, that would be difficult. Either one bring something to the table that’s so good no one can ignore it or have the support of like minds to unseat the dumb and useless authorities that ignore brilliant and useful ideas.

        I know for a fact that we have OFWs who keep on coming back abroad to work, they have more days away from the family than with them (which may cause dysfunction in the family), and we have many Filipinos settling down in another country in the long run taking the whole family with them if not starting their own family there that we now have Filipino communities abroad. There are Filipinos who after they have the taste of first world country, it’ll be goodbye Philippines na for them, some no longer want to have anything to do with the country. That’s fine it’s just that maganda pa rin naman ang Pilipinas at iba pa rin kapag nasa sariling bansa at iba pa rin kung ‘yong natatamasa mo sa ibang bansa ay sa sariling bansa mo tinatamasa but that can’t happen if we have brain drain here and the experts and the dignified people are all getting away from the country. To enhance and correct our culture, we also need our emigrants or OFWs to work side by side with us here. At present we have over 2.3 OFWs. Each may have a family of 3-5 members here (husband-wife/children, parents/siblings). If they can teach their family to be wise in spending and they would decide on starting a business here or there’ll be a program for them to be local investors or active players in the industry of their expertise, it can cause a big change in the society. If their good qualities outside the country is applied locally and will be adapted by their family here, that again can cause a positive change. And finally, if our expats/OFWs come together and be quite vocal to demand proper support and change in the government, that will create a stir. They’re the reason for the notable rise in GDP anyway.

        “But after experiencing numerous disaster every year with increasing no. of death/casualties & damages (Ondoy, Sendong, Pablo, Yolanda) – recently our Government (Dinky Soliman & Napoleon Nazareno) is now slowly implementing and copying all things I said in my Competition entry 5 years ago.”

        It’s good to know that they are implementing your proposals. You must’ve pilot an innovative means to reduce natural hazards that they can’t ignore it anymore. It’s also about time that they put the safety of our kababayans first among other things. However, they better be working with you if it’s your ideas since you’re more familiar with it. If they are just copying it, won’t it fall under intellectual property code? But I hope both parties can agree on something since it’s for disaster risk reduction.

  8. The Political and Economic system in the Philippines is Dysfunctional. Our government is a Feudal Oligarchy. And, the leaders, who are Feudal Oligarchs do not want that to be changed.
    Look at Aquino, with his Hacienda Luisita.

    Those who work in the Technical field in advanced industrialized countries; cannot work in the Philippines, that is a CENTURY behind in Science and Technology. Companies in the Philippines, cannot offer, what companies abroad can offer.

    You cannot change people, who do not want to change…so on and on, we go. The Philippines is like a Dog chasing its own Tail…

  9. The Philippines is definitely our version of “Vault 101”. A decaying wreck of an installation, infested with vermin that serves as our home until we have to leave lest its decay gets to us. And like the dweller who had to leave, the only thing that ties us back to that place is that it was our former home and we have loved ones there.

    Such is the case today. I have read enough OFW and expat horror stories where OFWs return home to find the people they grew up with or the children they’ve left behind have become so alien to them that some have given up returning to the Philippines while others struggle to find a place in the decaying society.

    Such is the curse of bonds.

  10. Every human being has a work to carry on within, duties to perform abroad, influence to exert, which are peculiarly his, and which no conscience but his own can teach.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.