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Who are These OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) and Why are They the Modern Heroes of the Philippines

After the turn of the millennium, the Philippine government launches this campaign program calling the overseas Filipino workers or OFWs as “Mga Bagong Bayani ng Bayan” (Modern Heroes of the Nation). From then onwards, different organizations established programs giving awards and recognitions to selected OFWs who did a remarkable contribution or action to their family, friends, work or in general, to the country.

Q1: OFW ka ba? Q2: Bakit? A1: Eh kasi dating mo pa lang, mayaman ka na. Boom!
(Q1: Are you an OFW? Q2: Why? A1: Because with just the way look, it seems that you’re rich. Boom!)



My Cousin Dado as an OFW in South Korea

At present, OFWs around the world are estimated to be around 12 – 14 million. This is approximately 10 – 12 percent of the Philippines total population. These OFWs are distributed to many countries all over the globe majority of whom are in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Singapore, Hongkong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Italy. Immigrant workers in the United States, Australia and Europe are also considered OFWs although many of them already happen to acquire their permanent residency or citizenship there.

The above question and answer introduction is a “pick up line” that is currently very popular in the Philippines as a way of sharing jokes and humours on talks. This originates from a comedy program aired on the television known as “Bubble Gang” and later on becomes the word-of-mouth of many Filipinos whenever they gather during social activities in schools, offices and streets. The pickup line illustrates how common Filipinos treat or talk with OFWs whenever they arrive in the country from their long years of working abroad. That is because literally, OFWs have these new and more likely expensive-than-usual clothes, shoes, jewelries, gadgets, vehicles and many other things that are noticeably others don’t have or cannot afford to buy. The level of appreciation is different, as well as the level of respect to the OFWs. They call them “Balikbayan”, an OFW who just returned to the Philippines after 2 – 3 years of hardwork and sacrifices.

OFWs are Heroes in Many Ways
Heroism, on the case of Philippine national heroes, is an act of patriotism to one’s nation. Jose Rizal is Philippines’ national hero. He became a hero when he liberated Filipinos from the opportunist Spaniards during the 1900’s. He was executed in Manila for this heroic act. Philippines have many heroes, like any other nations. During the Japanese and American colonization of the country, different names emerge and are now contents of the books used by students on public and private schools. And so why an OFW is a hero at these modern times? Do they have love and devotion to the Philippines? Are they patriotic? The explanation below will give us some enlightenment.

“Tinaguriang mga bagong bayani ang mga OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) dahil sa kanilang pagsasakripisyong magtrabaho sa ibang bansa para matulungan at mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang kanilang pamilya gayon din ang kanilang bansa.”


(OFWs or Overseas Filipino Workers are considered modern heroes because of their sacrifices in working abroad in order to help and provide good future for their family and also to their country.)

With the Philippines economy now climbing towards the top of the rank of most progressive nations, the USD 20 billion worth of remittances of OFWs each year is undeniably a huge contribution. And with regard to patriotism, remitting money to your country in order for its economy to become better is definitely within its scope. OFWs are therefore heroes, no doubt. Some people call OFWs as the “Mga Buhay na Bayani” (living heroes). But are all OFWs heroes? The next stories below can probably answer this question.

How to Become an OFW
OFWs, despite of being well-known to the world for their big population and their heroic acts, have another side of the story. This blog will reveal that story as it aims to emphasize why they are really called heroes. For one to become an OFW, he or she has to undergo an application process – a long, expensive and complex one.


Although there are OFWs who are applying directly to employers abroad, they also need undergo the same process like of those who apply thru private or public employment agencies. The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) is the main government body in charge of OFW for their employment matters. Illegal recruitment once upon a time becomes rampant in the Philippines. Filipinos who happened to be employed abroad thru these unlicensed agencies are still OFWs, however.

An application process can be as short as one month, provided documents are ready or complete, up to about a year and sometimes even more. Recruitment agencies call it “placement fee”, a big amount of money OFWs are paying for their final employment documents to be processed and released weeks before their flight abroad. It can range from 20,000 pesos up to about 200,000 pesos depending on the country, category and nature of employment. The complexity always comes in because of the long queue of applicants, miscellaneous fees and resources requested by some recruitment agencies, and the difficulty for an applicant to produce the placement fee in time. The truth is that many aspiring OFWs get this placement fee the hard and painful ways. This hard and painful story continues on the next paragraph.

Different Stories Behind Becoming an OFW
Domestic helpers, as the international community calls it, are the OFWs who work as helpers on the homes of a foreign employer. And by wage standards of almost all countries, they fall under the lowest paid OFWs. A big percentage of OFWs are actually domestic helpers. Factory workers, mechanics, technicians, engineers, nurses, and other professions compose the long list of OFWs.


Different people, different stories, and sad stories for many; these are the truth behind becoming an OFW. Getting the money for placement, to many OFWs, is oftentimes equivalent to being in a bad debt, selling of homeland, and putting on hold of their kids’ education. You will hear stories that for one to complete the 100,000 pesos placement fee, he needs to please all his brothers and sisters to sell the land they inherit from their parents. There are some who were tempted to do evil things just to collect the money they need. On some cases, an OFW-to-be happens to be engaged on serious family conflicts only because of this ultimate objective of producing the money out of sacrificing things with high sentimental value to them. The sad story for an OFW happens even before they become one. If you will go deeper, you will likely become uncomfortable reading the stories of others, for example the OFWs whose real work upon discovery is related to sex and other illegal duties.

Although the government is now improving the rules on OFW recruitment, there are still issues that make everything complicated. Applicants from remote provinces are sometimes being scammed. After producing the money, illegal recruiters never come back again to process their application. There are many reports of this kind in the past 20 years. Other applicants are being forced for bribes just to process their application immediately. The worst things is when an OFW got deported after only some months of working abroad due to technical problems on the contract they signed. Its a complete lost. These things happen, in reality. In Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), it is a daily scenario to see kids and wives crying whenever this OFW is about to enter the airport and fly to the Middle East. The situation is still the same whenever they arrive, there will be somebody who will cry out of joy, out of relief that they are now once again complete. Imagine these hardships and difficulties of OFWs. Its an extraordinary sacrifice.

During the days, weeks, months and years OFWs are away from their families, the situation even more becomes different, if not that worst. Relationship suffers and leads to broken families in the end. On the other side, when an OFW is already becoming financially stable, he forgets that he has a family back in the Philippines waiting for his financial support. Some OFWs lead to abandonment of their families in the Philippines for some personal reasons. There are weird, horrible and sometimes shocking stories that are maybe your first time to know they happens. OFWs caught on accidents while working, death of an OFW because of maltreatment from employers, death penalty imposed to an OFW who killed his employer, OFW took suicide due to loneliness , OFWs under hostage because of wars in the country where they are working, OFWs who became mentally distressed due to culture shock; these are some of them. But there are many reasons for an OFW to become happy, of course. Two or three photo albums containing happy moments of an OFW while abroad are typically what you will see on most of the OFWs’ home in the Philippines. Their parents, husband, wife, kids, friends, and relatives are happy as well to see these pictures two years after their heroic act. OFWs are happy because reaching a place where there is money, freedom, new friends, modern technologies, and personal satisfaction is in a time of their life an ambition fulfilled.

OFWs who are called professionals may seem to have better situation compare to domestic helpers. It is a fact that professionals have higher salaries, good working conditions, and therefore better living standard. They can travel two or thrice a year going back to the Philippines to visit their families. Others can manage to invite their families or love ones for a short vacation to the country where they work. But like any other OFWs, they also have sad stories and they are also heroes.

The after-work of an OFW is also part of the story. Some happen to earn enough and manage to invest their money wisely. Others are not. Others decided to return abroad for another term of 2 - 3 years. It's a good story for those who becomes citizens in the country they work. It's a sad story for those broken families that were no longer rebuilt. Somehow, the government are seeing these bad stories and they are launching programs that will likely prevent these from happening again.

You are an OFW - a Modern Hero of the Philippines
I am an OFW. Many years ago, I do not intend to become one because I already understand the hardships and difficulties. But out of needs, I convinced myself I need to. I consider myself a little bit lucky because I happen to belong in the list of OFWs who are professionals. But I am also a living witness to the stories of many OFWs, mainly of my own family and relatives. I actually belong to a clan of OFWs. And I therefore have sad stories too.


But the photo albums of my happy moments that I would like to show to my friends and families some years from now, I am trying to make them full of my real smiles and laughs. We are in the generation of Facebook, Skype, Yahoo and Gmail, unlike decades ago when letters from OFWs can only reach Philippines in one or two months-time. Those are the saddest times, today is a bit more different. Obviously, millions of OFWs are using the modern day technologies for communication, for talking to their love ones. I am one of them. It is my hope that these modern technologies will continue to do its purpose for the OFWs and may someday introduce more positive changes to the life of the modern heroes.


Thank You OFWs!
Mabuhay Kayo Mga Buhay na Bayani ng Pilipinas!

Heroes or not, born or made, OFWs are great people who built and are currently building the Philippines as a new nation. Yes, there are bad times in their lives. But if someday Philippines will become a nation of wealthy people, of good living standard, and of happy OFWs and their families, then we can say that we made it to the highest level of becoming a real hero for our country. To all OFWs, wherever are we, thank you for all your hardwork and sacrifices. They maybe calling us heroes, but let us not wait for them to give us medals or build our statues. Our country needs us, that if we happen to become a first-world country someday, the benefits will be for us, our families, and our future countrymen.

Here are some of the photos I would like to share with you. They are my close friends and relatives and so I would not bother to post their photos here because I am very proud of them. You too can request to post your photos. Tell me what country you are working and your nickname. You can then show it soon, thru this blog, to your friends and families.




On the Photos: OFW's All Over the World





Above: My cousin Dado and Darius and their workmates in South Korea






Above: My Friends Zaldy and Nhong with their friends in Saudi Arabia





Above: My Friend Manolo in Canada









Above: My brother Matt and his friends in Taiwan




Above: Me and my wife in Singapore on 2012


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About this Post
You've just read the story about OFWs. Thank you for reading this blog brought to you by Knowriel.com, a business and career knowledge and information source. If you’re an OFW aiming to establish a business someday, then we can help you on that. Visit our website, 
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