Is Being an OFW Still the Filipino Dream? We Talked to Filipino Professors Abroad

Once, there was a trend of OFWs coming home, but now, we’re seeing more of OFWs bringing their families with them.
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For the average Filipino, the dream is to go abroad and make as much as they can with first-world salaries in hopes of sending money home to family. Overseas Filipino workers are heroes and martyrs, often tasked with difficult jobs on oil rigs or as helpers, or as migrant licensed engineers, teachers, and nurses. It’s been called the brain drain as more and more skilled workers find better opportunities abroad, but it’s now developing into a heart drain, one that has OFWs aspiring to reunite with their families—by bringing them out of the Philippines.

In the second episode of Esquire Philippines’ Lonely Hearts podcast, host and Editor-at-Large Sarge Lacuesta talked to historian Dr. Leloy Claudio and sociologist Dr. Nicole Curato, both of whom are leading academics and now newly-minted OFWs who have found teaching positions in universities abroad. The OFW experience, as discussed in the show, is one that’s often told not from the mouths or pens of OFWs. And in this episode, we let OFWs take the mic to tell us their experiences going through customs, missing the motherland, and hoping for a brighter future in the Philippines.

Once, there was a trend of OFWs coming home, but now, we’re seeing more of OFWs bringing their families with them.

“There's a hierarchy of dream destinations for OFWs, right? Some studies would actually suggest that the first destination is the Middle East, because it's easier to migrate there, with a hope of using the Middle East as a springboard to go to Canada or Australia, or some Anglo country where it's easier to adjust and where their kids can get an Anglo education,” said Curato, who’s now working at the University of Canberra.


“It's also aspirational: family reunification as an aspiration. So we, I can't remember which project I was working on, but we interviewed working class young millennial men, I think, in CALABARZON Region. And we're training in an Export Processing Zone, with that in mind, of reuniting the family by applying for a visa in Middle East to reunite with them in Canada. It's not so atypical to think of this as a pathway to life. It's not [really] an aspiration, [because] there's actually a concrete road map already available.” 

Meanwhile, for Claudio, it’s about time that we told more stories about the OFW: “This [is] the class that's, I think, least depicted and must be depicted more in literature. [It’s] the kind of new middle-class or lower middle-class.”

While many seek to permanently move abroad, Claudio is in the group of OFWs who still plans to return home.

“People have been asking me to like, save up money for a down payment on a house, etc, here in the Bay Area. There's this ideology of home ownership here in the United States, which, you know, makes me chafe. If ever I were to invest in property, it would be in the Philippines because I want to retire in the Philippines,” shared Claudio.

Listen to more about the OFW experience, missing the Philippines, and the phenomenon of Kpop and fandoms in Episode 2 of Lonely Hearts, hosted by Sarge Lacuesta, availableon SpotifyApple PodcastsAnchor, and wherever you get your podcasts.

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Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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