My Mom Wants to Send Me to a Land Far Far Away.

imageGoing abroad is the dream for many Filipinos; it has been for quite some time. Success is equated with earning a lot of money, and one can only earn a lot of money by working abroad. This is understandable, as in general, any worker abroad can earn more than ten times as much money for the same amount of work as he would earn here in the Philippines.

The current model of the Filipino dream –- for the younger generation –- is as follows.

1. Education
People find and obtain the best education that they can afford, in the field that is most in demand* abroad. On the low end**, TESDA-accredited skills. On the high end, most go for the latest bachelor’s degree fad. In the 2000’s it was Nursing. These days, it’s IT-related skills. Often, individual preferences are ignored in favor of what people perceive as the fields that will provide the easiest way to gain entry to countries abroad, and those that will earn the most money.

2. Go abroad
Once a Filipino goes abroad for work purposes, they are officially called Overseas Filipino Workers, or OFWs. Most go abroad with the intention of supporting their families at home, sending money every month. These supported family members may include but are not limited to spouses, children, parents, siblings, nephews/nieces, and more. It is usually difficult and/or expensive to gain entry to various countries, but most believe that it is worth it, and it often is.

Often, people stay in other countries, parted from their loved ones, for possibly very long periods of time. Often, it is with the goal of “When my son is finished with school”*** or “When I have saved up enough”. This parting of families has been the subject of many a drama film, with good reason. Everyone knows at least one person who was parted from their family for financial reasons, and it is often extremely difficult for the family members involved.

3. Return home
Some return home and end up very financially capable, able to buy a house and cars; their families never go wanting. Some return with enough money saved up to start a business. Some return home to find that their family members spent all the money sent to them, for better or for worse. Some never return, opting to stay permanently in their chosen country, often bringing their families with them as soon as they could. Some never return, and not by their own choice.


I told my mother that I didn’t want to spend all of my life as a 9 to 6 worker, which I surely will be even if I relocate. I told her that my dreams were different from that. This is what she said:

“Well go abroad, then. When you come back, you’ll have enough money to start your own business!”

There are other ways to earn money. Times have changed. The internet lets us do things that were previously unthinkable. Remote working is getting easier and more popular. We shouldn’t have to constrain ourselves to this 1-2-3 path. We shouldn’t have to take up a college degree that we hate just because it’s “in demand”. We shouldn’t have to go abroad and, more importantly, we shouldn’t have to be parted from our loved ones if we don’t want to. Isn’t it time we rethink the Filipino dream?




For statistics on OFWs, go here.

Yesterday, an excellent documentary on OFWs was featured on Rappler. It shows the plight of a Filipino family, and how the mother had to go abroad to earn enough money. It’s only ten minutes long, and it’s a great eye-opener. You can find it here.


* “In demand” is a term thrown around with awe. Here is a sample conversation:
A: It’s been a long time since we last saw each other! What course did you take up in college?
B: I took up Electronics Engineering.
A: *gasp* That’s in demand abroad! You have a bright future ahead of you.
B: *ponders on this whole in demand thing and decides to write a blog post*

** I only mean low end in that in general, it costs less money to obtain this type of education

*** Finished with school usually means that he graduated from college. In Philippine culture, not graduating from college is looked down upon, regardless of subsequent success in life.


2 thoughts on “My Mom Wants to Send Me to a Land Far Far Away.

  1. Pingback: On the Difficulties of Being Happy as Yourself | Rhoda in Manila

  2. In the internet age it’s totally possible to make money remotely e.g. via an online business, writing, an influential blog. I do understand the mentality of going abroad and making money. Like the Philippines, it’s true in Asian cultures to some extent – parents are always urging their kids to study abroad, learn better English, work for international firms. So in a way, the ‘local’ aspects – local companies, Cantonese, local universities – are looked down upon in certain contexts, especially when it comes to jobs. I don’t think this is a good, or fair thing. But it’s partially the residual effects of over a hundred years of British colonisation. “Whiteness”, or the subconscious adoration of it at various levels, from physical to emotional, is still a very real thing in my city.
    Mabel discusses the physical aspect of “Whiteness” in her post too:
    I think your post opens up an important discussion about opportunities abroad and how cultural views play a role in nurturing emigration. Chinese people, for instance, have always been known to settle everywhere in the world.


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