It was hot sunny mid-day in April 1994; an ice cream man passed by in front of our house, my children ages 3, 2 and 1 hearing the sound of cling, cling, and cling! They knew that was an ice cream, they started to cry when I told them that we had no money to buy one which cost 1peso only at that time. As I couldn’t stop them from crying, I cried hugging them. How painful it was when I couldn’t even afford to buy an ice cream and I always had this worst fear that one day they would be starve.
Walking along the high way of metro Manila were street children everywhere begging, selling flowers in the most dangerous place for their own survival and worst these innocent lives are being victims of sex and drugs traffic, “How could these children be the hope of a nation?” I asked myself. It frightened me more upon looking at my own children to be in the situation like these. I would always tell myself they will never be street children that they have a mother to protect and take care of them.
In a corrupt country like Philippines there were no jobs that will give us a salary that could be enough to give a family to live decently which means, enough food that we don’t have to worry we have food to eat tomorrow, proper education to ensure the future of our children, clothing, hospitalization for everyone to be treated in accurate time and be given the right medicine and care; a decent house not made of cardboard, not pieces of woods but bricks, a comfortable bed to sleep not sleeping on the floor with a piece of cloth or mat. We have to find our own way out to escape poverty.
Determine to give my children the decent living which they deserved, I came upon to choose between family and a job that will provide my children a better life and a better future. It was the most difficult and painful decision to leave my family behind in search for a decent job in a foreign land where I was even unsure of what kind of life awaits me but this was the only way I could think of.
I could hear my children cried as I walked away from them, I shut my ears, with tears in my eyes I open my heart filled with love and hope for my children that they will never be starve and they will never suffer the way I did. Living in a foreign land was far difficult than I expected, I could hardly swallow the food; it was very hard living without my children. At first I wasn’t even sure if I would be safe behind this close door but the only thing I knew at that time I need to survive no matter how difficult, lonely and frightening the life could be, I had to survive. Days, months and years passed by, no one and nothing could fill the emptiness in me of living away from my family but again I left with no choice. Life was tough and can be cruel with the rise of unemployment and low wages continue to strike the people back home, the rise of exporting manpower instead of goods and materials continue as well, settling back home seems I could find no answer.
This is a migrant life, I may able to give my children whatever they may need and ask for but the sacrifices in exchange of all these is far cruel, I was not there to take care of them when they were sick, I never see them grow, I couldn’t help them with their homework and worst I could only show my love through materials things but I hope they do understand that everything I do is for them. How I long for one day we will all be together but I know someday in this cruel world we will be.
Migrant or second class citizen I may be, I am one of the migrants who cry for any injustices and abuse in job, labour law and fellow mankind; these injustices we continue to suffer and struggle knowing we have the rights to fight and win. Migrants play a very important role in the society, together within a different culture, language, race and stories; we embrace, help and unite one another to make this place a better and happy place to live for everyone for a brighter tomorrow for the new generation.
The author of this essay on ‘life as a migrant’ won first prize at a Trades Union festival organised by the union UNITE.
On winning the prize the author wrote:
“Within my heart, I know I can do something to help my country and my fellow migrant domestic workers so I decided to write that story of mine which is actually not just my story but a story of all migrant workers, the leaflet said it will be published. At least I am doing something to help through my writing, winning the 1st never came up in my head, all I want is to publish it. Philippine Government will not be happy of the reality of pushing out its citizen out of the country and left with no other option but to leave our children. The unfair treatment to migrant workers of our host country is the truth”.