Features

There are About 9 Million OFW 'Orphans' Left Behind

For Labor Day, let's give a thought to the children left behind when parents go off to work abroad.
ILLUSTRATOR Jasrelle Serrano
Comments

(GULF NEWS, Dubai)

Maryknoll Gunio was old enough to remember when her mother left to work in Malaysia and old enough to heed her mother’s instructions to take care of her younger brothers and father. “I get up at 5.35 every morning to cook. Then I wake up my brothers, feed them and bathe them before school starts at 7.30am,” said the 15-year-old, the responsibility evident on her frail shoulders.

In the evening, it’s the same routine, with the addition of cleaning the house and washing clothes. “I get so tired. When I put my brothers to sleep, I fall asleep, too,” said Maryknoll.

On some days, she is too tired to go to school and stays home where there are enough chores to keep her busy. “The girls in the family take on a lot of the responsibility,” said Mai Añonuevo, executive director of Atikha, an NGO that helps migrant families with financial planning.

“It doesn’t matter if the girl is the eldest or the youngest in the family. As the girl, it is her who will be expected to care for the family and manage the home — to take on the responsibilities of the mother,” added Añonuevo.

In the 1970s, when the Philippines began a labour migration policy to address the growing unemployment in the country, it was the Filipino men who packed their bags and set off for the Middle East. The women stayed behind and held the family together, acting as both father and mother.

In the 1990s, the labor market demands changed. The demographic winter of developed countries called for more caregivers and the increasing number of women entering the workforce needed nannies to look after their children. The tides of labour migration changed, carrying over women to fill in vacancies in child and elderly care.

ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW

Boys are not immune to feeling the absence of their mother. Mark Gitlong, 16, has already planned to study Hotel Restaurant Management when he finishes high school. This way, he can get a job in Dubai to be with his mother who works as a nanny. “I miss her. Even those times when she shouts at me and gets mad at me for not doing what she says—I especially miss those times,” said Mark.

There are no hard statistics on the number of children orphaned by migration. Employment applications do not require stating the number of children and even if they did, updating of information is sporadic and irregular.

However, non-government agencies estimate that there are more than 9 million Filipino children who have one or both parents working abroad as labor migrants.

This article was first published by Gulf News, Dubai on July 27, 2015. Ana Santos' reporting for this story was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center under the Persephone Miel Fellowship.

 

Comments
View More Articles About:
About The Author
Ana P. Santos
An independent journalist based in Manila, Philippines. Her work focuses mainly on gender issues, HIV/AIDS and reproductive health.
View Other Articles From Ana Santos
Comments
Latest Feed
 
Share
The draft federal Constitution proposes a lot of changes that have nothing to do with federalism.
 
Share
A whole lot has changed, not least their paychecks.
 
Share
A study picked through data from 47,000 films to work out which titles and actors cast the longest shadow
 
Share
Co-founders Mike Concepcion and Omar Quiambao share a candid account of the collaborative process with the Three Stripes.
 
Share
You deserve an award if you've seen them all
 
Share
Actress Angel Aquino set fire to the internet this year with a clip from her latest movie, 'Glorious'. She isn't online enough to enjoy it, but that's fine.
 
Share
This comes after a string of gender-related violence against women in campuses in recent months.
 
Share
Congressmen have been filing bills for the regulation of motorcycles for hire for over a decade.
 
Share
In the meantime, GrabRewards users can book (almost) free jeepney and P2P rides.
Load More Articles
Connect With Us