How do OFWs really follow simple rules abroad?

Generally OFWs, a few days before their flight, go through a POEA-sponsored seminar known as PDOS (Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar). In it, I recall, we were briefed of the dos and don’ts of the countries we were going to. Mine then was Doha, Qatar, a Gulf country. One of the advise given us was that, though Qatar is not that strict as most Arab counties like Saudi Arabia or Kuwait are, there are still some prohibitions that need to be observed on account of their religion. Among those is eating or cooking pork, public display of affection between partners, illicit relationships, women wearing skimpy clothes, and noisy celebrations like birthdays, Christmas, etc. All of those that I mentioned were also the ones I noticed that are frequently violated by some Filipinos.

1. Pork

Everybody knows that Arab countries prohibit the consumption of pork. Even an open country like the United Arab Emirates specifically in Dubai, though I saw one store there that openly sells pork products, Arabs are still not ready to eat or even just smell pork. Question is why do Filipinos still stubbornly violate this? I am talking about cooking pork not minding if its aroma will be smelled by other people.

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2. Illicit affairs

All foreign couples in an Arab country needs to have proof of marriage ready every time they are walking out in the street. Arab police are quite sensitive seeing a male and female walking together.

I know a few Filipinos who bring their lovers in their accommodation. The trouble with that is there are other Filipinos (and other nationalities) living in the same building. I heard it only takes one complaint and, without verifying further, the police will immediately raid the building and arrest the subject couple. I also heard that the other occupants of the building will be treated as accomplices for a time.

Just imagine the trouble one Filipino will be causing other people simply because they can’t hold their libido.

3. Women wearing skimpy clothes

All OFWs are aware that the Gulf area is a conservative region when it comes to women. They even require their own women to wear Abaya, a long black traditional clothe for Arab women where the only part of their bodies that is visible is their eyes, at times the whole face, hands and their shoes. I know wearing the Abaya  is not a Filipino tradition in the same way that we do not practice Seppuku when we’re defeated or humiliated but then shouldn’t Filipino women at least dress appropriately to conform to some extent with the ways of the Arab women? To be as conservative as they are? Perhaps it may be true that Filipino women’s preferred attire is seen to be a means to attract foreign suitors. If that is the case then I guess that is a cheap way to do that.

4. Noisy celebrations

Most Filipinos still celebrate holidays associated with Christianity even in a Gulf country. Though Arab countries tolerate it, as long as it is done indoors, I can’t help but be disappointed whenever some Filipinos do this loudly even in the middle of the night. When I was in Doha, I went out of our accommodation during a Christmas celebration when I saw an Arab lady coming out of her house trying to check where the noise is coming from. I can tell she and her family were already sleeping. She looked at me but all I could do is look back at her and try telling her through my stare that  “Yeah it’s us. You want to call the police? Go ahead. I don’t care.

I have one question I want to ask fellow OFWs: “Kung may nakikitira ba sa bahay ninyo, ‘di ba’t hinihingi (o inaasahan) n’yo din na makisama sila sa kung anong nadatnan nila?

A sign at Al Zabeel Park in Dubai, UAE.

A sign at Al Zabeel Park in Dubai, UAE.

One OFW friend of mine told me that they grilled pork in a park in Dubai despite the sign there that says pork is not allowed. If caught, park guards will only throw the pork in the garbage bin. But let me ask this, what if a Filipino takes an Indian as a house servant in the Philippines and that Indian cooks his meal in his Filipino master’s kitchen. I know, no offense meant, how Filipinos hate the smell of a heavily-curried Indian dish. How would the master feel? Isn’t it insulting? How would Arab authorities feel whenever they see pork openly consumed in their country by… foreigners? The penalty may not be that severe but I think any person who is in the right frame of mind will feel guilty and regret what he did. Wait! I think a Filipino who is in the right frame of mind will not even think about doing that out of respect for the authorities of the country he is in.

As visitors in another land, aren’t we supposed to submit ourselves to the laws of the country we’re in? It may be absurd or weird to us but it’s their rules. We don’t live there. They imposed it for a reason and even if that reason does not fit what we are used to, we still need to abide to it because we’re not citizens of their.

A common excuse that I hear is that it’s an outlet against homesickness. I’m sorry I can’t help but compare Filipinos again to other nationalities. I’ve seen Americans, Australians and other nationalities that can be compared to OFWs but you know what, they don’t seem to be bothered so much by their distance from home. They miss their families of course, they’re human beings too and long for their loved ones every now and then, but they’re just too prepared for it or too busy to acknowledge the sadness. And when they want an outlet, they’ll just go out for a drink in a bar. A few sips of liquor (in a place where it can be legally bought) and life goes on after. If homesickness is the excuse, then what is it about our attachment to our families we left behind that when we feel we miss them we tend to do outrageous things? I thought we’re supposed to set our minds for this as OFWs the very day that we accepted the job offer (not even the day we left the Philippines).

This is just an expression of frustration from what I saw now that I’m back in a Gulf country. In the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen Filipino women wearing “perfect” shorts, sleeveless shirts and other clothes that are quite revealing. In a grocery, I saw one Filipina wearing short shorts standing beside an Arab lady wearing the traditional Abaya. I’m sorry if I will sound too judgmental but I think I was given a quick comparison of who has a better outlook in life between those ladies. It’s not even education; it’s just outlook.  I can only shake my head and sigh. I know I can also see other nationalities doing the same but I don’t care about them. I only care about Filipinos.

These OFWs I am talking about just validated GRP writer Ilda when she said in her article “Filipinos cannot progress if they cannot follow even simple guidelines“:

What is with Filipinos and following the rule of law?

There is very little evidence that Filipinos are capable of living by the “rule of law”. The society is quite extraordinary in the sense that simple rules and regulations whether on the road or in the work place are for the most part ignored. This is because each individual has this baseless sense of being more important than everybody else. […] In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.

In other words, Filipinos in general tend to put their own interest first before other people.” – “Homesick ako e so I want to get a taste and feel of home that’s why I’ll cook pork even if it’s outdoors and not allowed or if the Arab police smells it.” – Am I right with this?

I guess the belief that Filipinos transform into law-abiding people upon leaving the Philippines is not really accurate. On the contrary, it seems that the attitude of believing we could get away with anything is still carried by some Filipinos wherever they go and ready to invoke the John Apacible in them.

Enough said. My keyboard is already hurting.

28 Replies to “How do OFWs really follow simple rules abroad?”

  1. even outside our country cannot be followed & use discipline by our “ignorant” Pinoys. That’s sad and it shows how Filipino cultures are becoming “uncivilized” ever than before! If Duterte didn’t backed out on his decision to run for president by next year, this should never happen in the future. 🙁

  2. Perwisyo – to cause trouble or inconvenience for others

    Filipinos are like manure – they stink (nakakaperwisyo) when they congregate together.

    Kept away from each other they become like fertilizer – more productive in society. So a lone OFW will likely be more law abiding and disciplined in their host country.

    If you’re an OFW, stay away from your own kind so you can make the most in adopting first-world values, which you can bring back home someday.

    My genuine concern: the common good

    Note: Illustration borrowed from Francis Chan (on Christians)

    1. This is true and it is actually one of our main problems.

      Another analogy I’ve heard from an employer about Filipinos is they are like sticks when it comes to many things. Alone, Filipinos are very flexible. Throw them anywhere, they do it in a cinch. But when bundled into a group? Well, they become very hard if not impossible to bend.

      Just to share my experience earlier, as I was about to get to a bus near Shaw boulevard, I was surprised to see something unexpected: A line for boarding the bus. Though they were only 5-6 people, that made me smile as it really caught me off guard. Seldom will you see that in this country. I joined them. A while later, another person with his friend came and tried to cut through the line. One uttered that there was a line so those people backed off. but then, more people came… So of course, the line disappeared to my dismay. As we were boarding the bus, I heard the person earlier who tried to cut the line tell his friend in a sarcastic tone: “May pila daw kanina. Wala naman pala. Buysit” Well shit. Siya pa na-buysit. Meron naman talaga pila bago nun eh. Pasaway lang talaga tao. And I know what your thinking: Bakit hindi sinita yung mga sumingit? Well, may kalbo kasi na malaki na mukhang siga na dumire-diretso kahit kitang-kita naman na may pila na. Tapos marami na rin sumunod sa kanya. Masmarami sila sa amin na naka-pila. And lastly, on my experience in correcting people of doing the right thing: Ikaw yung magmumukhang tanga tapos, ikaw yung magmumukhang masama tapos, baka mapaaway ka pa.

      In this country, it just takes one asshole to ruin a good thing. But to start a good thing, we need a collective. Or is it? Dahil sa totoo lang, masmarami kasi asshole sa atin eh. Kaya in my opinion, though alam ko marami nag-aadvocate ng rational self-interest dito sa GRP, na simulan sa sarili ang pagbabago. Yes, Oo. Totoo. Pero ang problema, it only works if everyone will be rational. Kung gagawin mo mag-isa wala mangyayari eh. Kapag ginawa mo yung tama sa atin, ikaw yung mapeperwisyo at mamomroblema. At yung gumawa nung mali? Nagantimplaan pa dahil naging masmadali yung buhay niya.

      Pero siguro kung may impluwensya ka, pwede eh. Kaya sa akin, I’m trying to game the system I’m in and work my way inside. Maybe try to change it from there? More plausible? Siguro. Ewan.

  3. Not really surprised. I mean here in our country? I lost count on how many times i had been with a crowd about to cross the street, the traffic light says red, it obviously means stOp. What happens next? The crowd or a number of people would still crossed the street. That’s just one example out of a thousand list of obvious wrongs here. Bow.

    1. Not me. I only cross when the light is green (alone if I have to). I guess, in a way, I’m not like my first name.

  4. “When in Rome…”

    I won’t be even surprised if one would ask da common Pinoy what/where Rome is and the usual reply would be “Ano yun? Nakakain ba yun?”.

    1. When in the Philippines, do what the Filipinos do… be an ignorant, weak, dumb & arrogant. Except in Davao City when you go there, it looks like it really wasn’t been part of a Philippine territory thanks to Mayor Duterte’s iron fist leadership & political will.

  5. don’t piss in public.

    don’t piss on the street,

    no littering,

    no parking,

    no beating the red light,

    no spitting,

    form a line,

    no blowing of horns,

    signal properly when maneuvering a vehicle,

    keep silent.

    aparently, these normal acts of respect and courtesy are too difficult for the ordinary pinoy.

  6. Just two comments.

    1. On Illicit Affairs, Police are not sensitive to heterosexual couples walking. It is because illicit affairs are illegal in most of the gulf countries. For example, here in Saudi Arabia, you could not check in to a hotel with a woman (if you’re a man) unless you present your proof of marriage. For OFWs, walking or being with someone of the opposite sex is usually not a problem, but this depends on the context or situation (e.g. in the mall versus in an accomodation).

    2. On the abaya. The abaya is just a black robe worn by women over their clothes. Yes, women do wear normal clothes underneath and the abaya is just a cover to obscure their figures. The hijab is the cloth used to cover the hair and wrap around the head. And the niqab is the one that covers the face. For OFWs, only the abaya is required. Some OFWs, however, also choose to use the hijab (especially the muslim OFWs). The niqab and hand gloves are used by only the most conservative arab women. A typical arab woman usually uses the abaya and hijab only, with the hijab covering the hair and revealing only the face (which is the proper way to wear it in contrast to expats who wear hijabs but show their hair, however what is “proper” is still debatable).

  7. This is actually an emerging menace in our society.

    Many if not most of them coming from dark corners, with little or no education on ethics and values, no code, suddenly awash cash and overpriced things from SM and flaunting them around with a lot of noise, getting in the way and making a fool of themselves.

    Naka hawak lang ng dollar mga akala mo kung sino na.

  8. @ Mr.Marius, good point. ‘When in Rome, do as Romans do..’…,tis a simple practice and a great way to avoid trouble.

    Most OFW’s, and the ones I have encountered personally, are lovely people who abide by the rules of the country they are in, BUT, there are always a few ‘rule breakers’ & douchebags.

  9. It is in the Filipino culture and mindset: that they have to go against everything. “Kung makalusot, sikat sila”. Filipinos bring their Bad Attitudes , even when they work abroad.

    There are many Filipinos , serving times in Arabic country jails; because of the violation of their host country’s laws.

    “While in Rome, do as the Romans do…” Filipinos are too hardheaded to follow rules and laws. This is the reason we cannot progress.

    1. To be fair, picking Qatar for illustration doesn’t work well.

      Fact is, MOST expats in Arab countries try to work around the rules because they’re onerous and unreasonable. 80% of the planet thinks the Arab/Muslim world is culturally messed-up (they’re sort of the cultural opposite of the Philippines – utterly obsessed with rules, and still failing).

      I suspect the difference with Filipino OFWs is:

      1) Their government has a lot less political clout on the world stage, so Filipinos are more likely to wind up in jail.

      2) Filipinos are used to arbitrary, coercive, and immoral systems, but in the Philippines the State is weak and can be safely ignored. They get a nasty shock in the Middle East, where the state is both venal and strong.

      3) Westerners (on the average) are more well-traveled and more well-read. They know the score, they know how far they can push things, and they know how to keep things quiet. Arabs do exactly the same thing – do you think none of them drink or have illicit affairs?

      4) Westerners are usually in white-collar positions. It’s a lot harder to fire them and find a replacement. They therefore get slightly more slack on the leash.

      The problem with Filipinos is not exactly that they can’t follow laws. They’ve grown up without any good laws to follow, so they assume (correctly) that laws are made to hurt them. When they encounter laws that actually WORK, most of them (not all) seem to learn the difference.

      1. @ Marious, yeah, the Arabic countries are best avoided.I have never heard a single OFW that liked the way they were treated there.OOPS, one young lady that was in Kuwait was a nurse and liked making money she could not earn in the Fails. I never did get to ask about how she liked living under ‘Sharia’ law.
        On a different note.There are reports that Christians in Syria are having to abandon their religious icons in public or be fined/jailed as their city has been taken over by Muslims. I think I’d have to shoot as many of them as possible and go out in a blaze of glory than submit to these sub-human scumbags.A true-believer in REAL democratic freedoms: as log as you are not hurting/robbing anyone, do what you want to do….and enjoy is short and is to be enjoyed.

  10. Nice mythbusting. Indeed, there were a lot of Filipinos disobeying rules abroad even long before. I was even told of people who wanted to steal things on their trips abroad. This was in the 1970s. Anyone remember the maid in Singapore who posted pictures of herself wearing her owner’s clothes without permission? Or the intern who was slapping an elderly patient at a retirement home?

    So do OFWs really follow rules abroad? Many don’t.

  11. “Bawal ba? Baka naman hinde.”; “Bahala na…puede naman lusutan ito eh.” This seems to sum up the prevailing mind set of most Filipinos today.; because there was a time..some fifty years ago..when patience, obedience and hard work were common virtues in the country. To go through the reasons, the ‘whys’, the ‘wherefores’ of the change for the ‘worse’ is unnecessary. We simply have become avid advocates of ‘instant gratification’, at any and all cost. There are volumes written about this transition, and most, if not all would be right. The important thing to remember..and that we, as a people have been derailed, and, that we should exert all effort to come back. We can not.. We should a held to ridicule by the whole world.

    Sent from my iPad

  12. My usual gauge for doing things is that if it feels wrong, there is a good chance it probably is. Fortunately for me though I have a properly working moral compass. Your typical pinoy, on the other hand, will think of dozens of excuses to justify a wrong and how that wrong felt right at the time they were doing it.

  13. Question, what American’s are you talking about in this story. I have been in Kuwait and Qatar. The Americans do the same thing. I once had a friend arrested for having sex out in a public place with a arab woman. She got thrown in jail and punished; but and he got sent home. I am not even going to talk about the stuff that I saw with us western OFWs in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  14. I am an OFW (Dubai), sad to say its TRUE some Filipinos doesn’t follow rules and I hate to see KABAYAN wearing “PEKPEK Shorts / Boxer shorts” in the public, seems to be the public place is just an extension of their house. That’s why other national can generalize Filipinos are “POK-POK” because of those few KABAYAN.

    I am from Davao, and I follow rules implemented by the city. Having an amazing brave and honest local government.

    Davao just a simple place that you can not compare to the other cities in the Philippines. And I am proud DABAWENYO to say a law abiding citizen.

    1. I’ve been hearing stories of how good a city Davao is and most of the time it is attributed to Mayor Duterte.

      If that is the case, I really hope he can deliver to the country what he delivered in Davao especially now that it seems (at least from where I am) he is leading the presidential race. My other wish is that he somewhat improve his image. His rugged approach to things may not always be helpful especially if he is to reflect the image of the country he will be leading.

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