- by Beth Sabado (RP12)
One evening a friend invited me out for a walk and drink in one of the shopping places in Pasig. The structural design, the different artistic expressions, the ambiance and other features of the place is surprisingly and overwhelmingly beautiful for someone like me who personally declare art as an expression of the soul. Exploring the place for the first time made my brain cells do ‘multi-tasking’. While exploring the place, my eyes spotted a giant chess board situated in the middle of the park. Walking closer, both of us agreed to play a casual game, thinking that it would be exciting. The last time I played chess was on the summer of 1981 with my brother Patboone. Soon after his death on December 1981, the family chess board was kept together with his other stuff in our underground storage. Since then, I never had the chance to play chess again.
I can still recall the basics of playing chess though my friend had to remind me every time I make a wrong move, “you can’t do that”, “be careful with that move”… his patience was commendable. Trying to concentrate on my moves, I also enjoyed the distractions from people passing wanting to take photos of the giant chess board. I had enough reason not to play a blitz. Every move I made brings back memories of my brother but surprisingly, the enjoyment of winning wasn’t there anymore. Every move I made was purely mechanical, just minimal analysis, no strategy but mainly a memory refresher. After a while, I took the courage to say, I’m tired, let us stop playing. The unfinished game was left under the brightly lit grounds.
Reflecting on this experience I can’t help but compare playing chess with the different roles played in the family. I wonder how the families of migrant workers play their roles when after several years of absence, would go back, to be reunited with their families. I can’t help but wonder how a man play the role of a husband and father, a woman play the role of a wife and mother, to play the same familiar role they left several years ago. Would they still be willed to play the same role? Like playing chess after many years of not touching the chessboard, will the enthusiasm of winning and ending a game be there?
To work abroad seems to be the trend for survival for most Filipinos. A highlighted report from the Institute of Migration recorded an estimate of 8.7 million Filipinos in 239 host countries with an average of 3,377 daily deployments. This means that mothers and wife, husband and fathers would suspend their present roles, physical presence in search for greener pastures. The children left behind will be turned over to a trusted relative or friend or the eldest child taking the role of a ‘parent’. Will the suspension and taking over of roles in the family be temporary? The answer could be yes and no. Each one plays a gambit, however the result is still unpredictable.
Out of the 3,377 migrant workers leaving every day, how many leave the country in their own will. How many of them are pushed by their families to leave the country, forced to fulfil a parents’ role or because of a family project? One of the children of OFWs said “Waking up one morning, I noticed a luggage in the room, my mom started giving me instructions to wake up early so I could prepare breakfast for my siblings…confused but managed to ask why, mom said she is leaving to work abroad… I wish I was part of that decision” (Jane, not her real name, is 14 years old with 3 siblings, ages 12,10,8).
Still vivid in my memory is an experience where a 6 year old patient expired on my shift due to complications of Dengue fever. The mother in grief cried out “you have a nice voice, you can sing and dance well, and I dream that you work in Japan, but now you’re gone”… Hearing the mother uttered those words while weeping made me walk out of the room disturbed and angry. I believe to work abroad is a family decision. Each member of the family must be consulted before making a decision. When a family member starts packing her luggage, she packs as well the dreams of her family. Each member of the family has the responsibility to keep their focus in achieving their goal – the fulfilment of that dream.
It cannot be denied that people have the right to move, yet statistics show how this movement is affecting the basic unit of the society, the family. While thousands of people leave the country for better future, a question that needs honest answer should be asked -Is leaving the present to live in the future the only choice we have? Would there be a bright, secure future for the families of OFWs? What about the ethical challenge of migration? These questions arise from the vast scope of migration. Migration as a phenomenon itself is unfathomable, even a mystery. However, families are directly affected by the impact of migration. I firmly believe that the church plays a very important role both from the sending country and the host country. The 6 months I spent here in the Philippines to explore on the possibilities of the local church to be involved in the pastoral care of migrant families is not that affirming. I cannot help but wonder, like the unfinished chess game left under the brightly lit grounds, the issues, concerns, problems associated with migration are already exposed in the open; seen in brightly lit grounds, yet another series of questions would arise. Would there be willing players? Will the next players decide to continue the unfinished game? Will they decide to start a new?
God, keep us from redefining your home in the society - the family.
Beth Sabado (RP12) arrived in Taiwan on July 28, 2003. After a year of full time Mandarin language studies, she worked in the migrant ministry based at the Catholic Hope Workers' Center (HWC). She returned to Taiwan for her second term in 2006. After 4 months of language refresher course, she returned to work as the Vice Director of the center, and in 2008 as Director until she finished her term in July 2009. In December 2009, she started doing field studies based in Pagadian City and Zamboanga del Sur exploring the possibilities of the local church to establish a support group for the families of migrants. During this time, she also conducted seminars and workshops in relation to migration issues to graduating students in schools and colleges in the focus areas in Mindanao. She is returning to Taiwan on the first week of July 2010.