Keeping the love alive for couples living continents apart is one of the trials overseas Filipino workers and their families in the Philippines must have to hurdle.
Stories of broken families and failed long distance relationships are no longer new among migrant Filipinos. The pain of the absence of a lovedone has become unbearable to some and has even caused broken hearts and homes to many.
This is the common fear of those who, for the first time, would have to live without the comforting arms of their relatives and friends in a foreign soil where culture and traditions are vastly different from where they come from.
Erlinda (surname withheld upon request), 34, and mother of two, said she and her husband got separated when she found out that her husband had impregnated his housemate in Dubai. Erlinda only learned about her husband’s infidelity when her friend saw him in a province in the Philippines where his supposed “other woman” lives.
Shock overtook her when she discovered that her husband went home in the Philippines because his lover would give birth to their first child. When she confronted him, he confessed that he and her lover got married in Dubai. The two separated with nothing left for Erlinda but the broken promises of a brighter future for her family.
A need for strong relationship
Manny Garcia, famous author of Kapeng Arabo, a book about life in the Middle East, said there could be truth to the saying that “distance makes the heart forget.”
“If the relationship is not that strong, it is doomed to fail,” he said.
He added that in his years of stay in Saudi, he has seen the collapse of many relationships because of extreme loneliness on the side of the migrant worker.
This, he said, is one of the reasons why Filipino workers opt to look for companionship that often ends up in an illicit affair.
“Maraming tukso kapag wala ka sa tabi ng minamahal mo,” he said. He said this is one of the sacrifices an OFW has to face.
“Pero kahit naman ang mga naiiwan sa Pilipinas ganun din. Marami dito ang nagpapakamatay sa kakatrabaho, to the extent of sacrificing their own happiness para sa pamilya, nila pero ’yung mga iniiwan nila naman ang hindi makatiis at nagkakaroon din ng mga affairs,” he said.
“Kapag nasa abroad ka, you have to spend the rest of the day killing time. Let’s say you work only for eight hours; you still have 16 hours to kill. Kapag nag-iisa ka sa apartment o kapag magkakasama kayo sa iisang apartment o compound, kayu-kayo na lang ang nagpapalitan ng sama ng loob na madalas na-dedevelop into something deeper than friendship,” he said.
“But this is not always the case, meron naman tayong mga kababayan na talagang wala nang inisip kundi ang kapakanan ng pamilya nila. Hayun, madalas nasa harap ng internet at kausap ang pamilya,” he said.
He said the advent of the internet has somehow lowered the number of broken Filipino families. He said the internet has huge advantage for both the OFWs and their loved ones.
“Mas madali na ngayon ang communication between two parties,” he said.
He said families of OFWs must invest in computers. “Letting your love ones know you care for them is just one click away,” he said.
Derek & Cynthia: For the love of Cynrick
Frederick Bonifacio, an artist and photographer, said when his wife Cynthia had decided to go to Italy to work, he prepared himself for the prospect of living alone and by playing a mom and a dad in raising their only daughter Cynrick, 8.
He said it was hard at the beginning but now that the internet is available, he finds it easy to make her feel closer to home.
He said he always makes sure that he would send message of love to his wife “to make her feel that she is important in my life.”
“When we talk, I always assure her that everything is alright and that I and our daughter miss her and always pray for her,” he said. He said he always sends her photographs of their daughter and always makes sure that she would get the latest news about the progress of their child in school and that she is always in good health.
“Masakit nang umalis siya, pero I know that she also needs to grow at alam ko rin naman na para sa pamilya namin ang ginagawa naming sakripisyo. Napag-usapan namin na one day, baka sumunod kaming mag-ama sa Italy para magkasama na kami doon,” he said.
He said his wife will come home for a vacation. He expressed his and his daughter ‘s excitement over his wife’s homecoming.
Nestor & Leila: Always the 1st time
Nestor Faustino met her wife, Leila, a nurse at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when they were both new in the Middle East.
They eventually got married and are now celebrating their 25th anniversary. They were blessed with three beautiful daughters – Lanie, 23; Anna Coritha, 20; and Neslie, 17.
Nestor said it was love at first sight ina land where you find happiness by meeting fellow Filipinos.
“I was madly in love with my beautiful wife and until today, the light in our hearts continues to shine for each other,” he said.
He said, they went back home for good in 1996, but Leila returned to the same company in Saudi Arabia in 1998.
He said Leila comes home every six months “as if there are always special occasions in the house.”
“We make sure that everytime she goes home for a vacation, she is always warmly welcomed. And for the two of us, it is always a honeymoon,” he said.
And how does he keep the music playing?
“We both have trust on each other. We love each other very much,” he said.
Joseph & Marieta: Communication is key
Marieta Prenda, whose husband has been working for seven years as a seaman, said they too had a hard time adjusting to living alone oceans apart. She said she too had a night of longing which always ended up in tears. However, she knows that her husband left to give their two children – Vince and Kyla – the best education they could have.
She said: “Binubuhos ko sa mga anak ko ang pagmamahal ko sa husband ko.” She said before her husband decided to work on a foreign ship, they discussed the situation intensely.
“We agreed to stick to our marriage vows; that everything we would do is for the future of our children. We know that we have a moral obligation to raise our children,” she said.
While she, too, has her own work, she said it is not enough to sustain the family. Her husband’s sacrifices are now bearing fruit as they have already built their own dream house.
After this, she said, “mag-iipon na kami ng pampuhunan kahit sa maliit na business lang muna. Kaya nga bago siya umalis alam na niya where the money should go. Gusto kong malaman niya na ang lahat ng pinaghihirapan niya ay may patutunguhan. Ayokong isipin niya na napupunta sa wala ang perang ipinapadala niya sa aming pamilya niya,” she said.
She regrets that there are many families who suddenly feel they are rich just because they have relatives working abroad.
“They spend unabashedly without thinking of their loved ones na nagpapakahirap sa abroad. this will never happen to me,” she said.
She gives these tips to couples who are worlds apart to keep the good music playing.
1. Always open the line of communication – She said it is important that couples must find ways to communicate to each other.
2. Make her or him feel mportant -- When you talk to your loved one make sure that they are important. “When I talk to my husband, I always give him the best news as possible. Ayoko nang nag-aalala siya. I always make sure na puro magagandang balita ang natatanggap niya.”
3. Make everyday a brand new day – She said everyday must always be a new day. “Always look at the brighter side of life.
4. Pray to God – She said everytime she feels lonely, she talks to God and prays to Him for guidance.