By Maya Flaminda J. Vandenbroeck
for Mindanews .
(Third of four parts)
When the money’s gone, the fights begin and that’s a sign the seafarer needs to leave again,” Erwin says. This one-day millionaire mentality prevents seafarers from saving up enough for their own training and leaves them at the beck and call of the shipping company – until they retire. Their children grow up estranged and indifferent because the seafarers are hardly ever home.
Theresa and Erwin are determined this will not happen to their family. They have set realistic goals for Erwin’s permanent return which they discuss over and over. It includes spending only on needs, not wants – no matter how tempting it is to own the latest home appliance or communication gadget. As a result, they are able to conscientiously save up Erwin’s hard earned money. Theresa says, “Erwin sends me an ‘allotment’ every month and no matter how difficult it sometimes is to stretch this money, I never ask for more.”
It helps that Theresa was also once an OFW. After she graduated from college with a degree in Agriculture, she left for Hong Kong to work as a domestic worker. Theresa shares, “I earned 24,000 pesos a month cleaning the home of my employer yet even if he didn’t physically abuse me, he gave me so much work I usually went to bed past midnight, even on weekends.” During her days off Theresa listened to other OFWs share about their woes: teenage children getting pregnant or taking drugs, husbands cheating, mismanaging remittances, and mistreating children. Theresa says, “That’s when I realized that although the pay abroad is much better, life isn’t necessarily happier. I decided that if i can earn just Php 12,000 a month in the Philippines, I’ll stay.”
Yet for the first five years of their marriage, Erwin and Theresa were barely able to save because a bulk of the money went to paying debts, to helping relatives wanting to work abroad, to paying for important family celebrations – basically to meeting everyone’s expectations. (to be cont’d)