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The Impact of Overseas Migration on the Filipino Family

Pinoys Abroad Thread, The Impact of Overseas Migration on the Filipino Family in Working or Living Abroad; While this is a more than 10 year old article, the potential social repercussion of OFW phenomenon revealed and warned ...
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Old 01-16-2010, 08:47 AM
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Default The Impact of Overseas Migration on the Filipino Family

While this is a more than 10 year old article, the potential social repercussion of OFW phenomenon revealed and warned in this paper is still there, and actually get worse. Did our government officials ever read this? If they did, they would have done more for the OFWs:

Papers from the Filipino Migrant Conference in Athens, Greece in November 1997

Separated by Opportunity: The Impact of Overseas Migration on the Filipino Family

by Maria Fe Nicodemus, chairperson, Kakammpi

Greetings to everyone. Thank you for inviting Kakammpi to this conference. We are optimistic that our gathering can help in forging closer unity in the migrant sector, especially between the families and Filipino migrants working overseas.
Kakammpi is an organization of families of migrant workers and returnees. Our two main concerns are:
  1. organizing to fight for the rights and welfare of the migrant sector, and
  2. to help families cope with the impact of migration. Our objective is to empower the migrant sector, instead of being perpetually dependent on overseas employment.
Migration and Social Crisis

It is so easy to say this. But in fact, it is very difficult to confront the myriad problems of both the OCW and his/her family. From many studies and Kakammpi's own experiences, overseas migration has precipitated a social crisis, affecting most especially the family. There are marital conflicts and breakdown of marital relations due to prolonged separation and lack of communication. Incidents of separation and abandonment are increasing. Intense loneliness, anxiety and pressure of child-rearing and domestic chores, are factors which contribute to emotional stress that affects the entire family.

Among children of migrant workers, incidents of drug abuse, delinquency, early pregnancies or marriages and child abuse are increasing. Children also manifest strong materialistic values as they become overly dependent on money and gifts from overseas. Sometimes, they become extravagant especially when opportunities are good. A strong motivation to go overseas is developed among children in the belief that overseas employment is the only solution to improve their lives.

Likewise, relations within the family and among relatives are affected. Thinking that migrant families are well-off, relatives turn to them for almost any financial need, whether for hospitalization of a relative, graduation of a cousin, wedding or even birthday of a neighbor. In the community, migrant families are often the topic of gossips concerning relationships and affairs of the separated spouses. Community conflicts arise as a result of jealousy. This is especially true where the neighborhood is not organized.
Yet, in the face of the problems caused by migration, Filipinos continue to go overseas in droves. Many times, we ask our members why they or their spouses decided to seek overseas employment. The usual reply is "to keep the family" and improve our lives. This response is truly admirable. But the separation of the family, especially when prolonged and reunification is uncertain, has become the very reason for breakdown of marital relations and disintegration of the family.
Family relations under threat

Sadly, the solution sought to improve and keep the family becomes the cause of its disintegration, its dissolution.

We are all aware of the increasing incidents of extra-marital affairs and maintaining two families. UGAT Foundation, an NGO based in the Ateneo University, said - 'Happiness cannot be postponed'. While Kakammpi does not agree with this view, this is a reality which we cannot deny. We cannot be judgemental in these cases because there are varying factors that may have led to marital breakdowns and infidelity.
It has been noted that the Filipino family is not ready for overseas migration. This is partly because Filipinos are more used to verbal communication rather than written. In fact, Filipino couples are used to sign and body language to communicate with each other. Facial expressions, body movements and the tone of voice are often enough to understand one's inner feelings.

These forms of communications no longer apply as a result of physical separation. Letters dried down, especially with the passage of time. Because couples do not want to burden the other with each other's problems and concerns, contents of letters then become limited to financial matters and requests. Children are likewise cautioned not to write about their problems so that letters focus only on what gifts they want.
In a radio program From Saudi with Love, it was noted that almost 80% of the contents of free calls between couples and relatives deal on money matters - whether the remittance has been sent or the child is sick and needs money for hospitalization or somebody died or a relative's wedding. It is only during the last seconds of the conversation do they ask about each other's situation. And the perfunctory reply is usually 'Okay lang'.

Written communications can also differ much from when the same is simply done verbally, one reason for miscommunication between family members. Once I wrote my husband in Saudi about recent price hikes. 'It seems you no longer want me to come home' was his reply. And when quarrels or conflicts arise, it becomes difficult to resolve them through the mails. While waiting for the next letter, so many thoughts play in the mind.

Impact on children and youth

Most OCWs come from young families, barely starting family life. Marital relations have not yet taken deep roots when fate already separates the young couple. Because the relationship has not yet matured, marital integrity becomes vulnerable especially during difficult times or crises situations. It is also sad to think that young children are separated from the parent, especially if the migrant is the mother.

In the Kakammpi Youth Summer Camp held last May, we asked our youth members whether they would rather prefer that their fathers come home for good. Their answers surprised us and almost made me cry. Most said that they prefer their fathers to continue working overseas. When they are here, they are always invited to drinking sessions and they prohibit boyfriends. Their fathers also appear like strangers in the house. And when they stay here for long, that can mean belt-tightening for the family, drastic cuts in allowances and, possibly, a stop to their studies.

Sadly, these youths look at their migrant fathers or parents as mere financier or provider of the family. Because the migrant parent also tries to make up for lost time, they tend to compensate this with material blessings. This further emphasizes their role as providers.

Some of our youth members have also left for work abroad. Some are Kakammpi scholars. We have a member, a 17 year old girl and one of our scholars at St.

Scholastica, who stopped studying. She was persuaded by her sister working in Japan to marry a Japanese she has not yet met. This is very sad, especially since she has become aware of some of the issues related to overseas migration. It is very difficult for us in Kakammpi to oppose such a decision to leave for overseas. That is because we are aware about the difficult life in our country. And we ourselves are former migrants or are spouses and relatives of overseas workers.

Challenge to Migrant Families

We believe that the unity of the entire family is crucial to effectively confront the problems spawned by overseas migration. If we differ in our views, this can only lead to the weakening of our ranks. I remember in 1989, Kakammpi was invited to a conference in Hong Kong. In that gathering, relatinos between the migrant workers and their families became a point of heated discussion. It turned into a session of complaints and criticisms from each side.
On the side of the families, they complained about delayed or dwindling remittances, neglect of family responsibilities, infrequent letters and extramarital affairs. When they come home, they are always out of the house, drinking and merry-making. The migrants, on the other hand, complained about the overspending by the families and failure to discipline the children. They mentioned that requests always come with each letter.

The conference ended without any clear resolution of the issues raised. I went back to the Philippines still thinking about the discussion. Looking back, I think both sides were correct, and both were wrong. Correct, because these weaknesses and shortcomings do happen. Wrong, becuase I think that the migrant worker and the family are both victims of circumstances. We have been separated by poverty and joblessness. Now, we are being forced by the situation to fight each other and blamed for the problems spawned by overseas migration.
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Old 01-16-2010, 08:48 AM
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Default Re: The Impact of Overseas Migration on the Filipino Family

Continued -

Programme of Kakammpi

Empowerment of the Filipino Migrant Family

Kakammpi is aware that the problems confronted by migrant families are enormous and multi-faceted. The situation has been cruel and alienating owing to defective and unfair migration policies, discrimination of Filipinos abroad and unabated abuses against migrants. The situation is quite overwhelming even to think about and certainly much more difficult to confront. But we have been placed in this situation. We cannot simply cry nor forget all about it.

Kakammpi believes in the strength of the Filipino family. This has been proven many times, especially during crisis events. The Filipino family is naturally helpful and creative in confronting situations, especially during difficult times. Bayanihan or collective action is deeply rooted among Filipinos. Others say that Filipinos are non-verbal. Yet, when approached in the right way, Filipinos can go on talking. Neighborhood gossips, if rid of its negative aspects, can be transformed into forums for sharing and counselling. The Filipino family is naturally silent, but is ready to fight for their rights when necessary. These are some of the positive characteristics of the family from where Kakammpi takes off and builds its work. Earlier, I mentioned Kakammpi's primary concern and objectives. I will just focus on our work in relation to developing and empowering the migrant family.

Kakammpi organizes, educates and does counseling among families and relatives of migrant workers. Our objective is to strengthen our ranks and collective voice to effectively respond and overcome our problems and difficulties. Understanding the situation of migrant workers and our situation is one step towards building the unity of the family. During counseling, we help each other understand the situation and come up with possible solutions.

Family development projects

But these are not sufficient. Thus, Kakammpi implements projects that are critical to the development and empowerment of the family. Based on our experience and perceived needs of our members, we have identified some of the most visible needs or concerns of the families - livelihood, education, health, food, child-care and youth development. Kakammpi facilitates medical missions and health education in the community. The direction is towards establishing area-based health programs. We facilitate scholarships to help the youth, particularly those who cannot afford to continue their studies. We set up a pilot day care center in Tondo and plan similar centers in other areas to help migrant families, especially solo parents. Kakammpi is engaged in rice and food trading to ensure accessible and fair-priced commodities for the family. On a still limited scale, we have started a savings-and-loans cooperative to help the family and the migrant returnees improve their livelihood. We also facilitate livelihood and skills training for our members.

Responding to our migrant children and youth

Organizing the children of migrant workers has become an important component of our work among families. By doing so, the youth are able to appreciate the issues related to overseas migration and become conscious of their role in helping strengthen the family. Their participation in worthy undertakings draw them away from social vices and transform them into productive actors in the family and the community. At present, Kakammpi's Youth Sector is the one of the most active branches of our organization.

Responding to our migrant women

In many activities and projects of Kakammpi, women take an important and distinct role. Thus, we launch continuing training on women's issues and ensure their active participation in all undertakings of the organization. These are the activities and concerns of our organization which respond to some of the most important needs of migrant families. Over the long term, we intend to develop an integrated family support and development program. Through our joint efforts, we are hopeful that we can succeed in this undertaking. And we hope that the day will come when we will no longer be separated by circumstances, if only to survive and keep the family.

Before I end, allow me to greet all Filipino migrants here in Greece and other parts of Europe. I know you have suffered much, especially those who have been away for so long and separated from their loved ones. I am optimistic that we can all work together to improve our situation and rebuild our families.
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