Middle Class OFWs

Middle Class OFWs

Ma. Luisa "Louie" P. Sebastianhttp://contributor
Ma. Luisa “Louie” Sebastian is Senior Adviser for Strategic Communications of Page One Group News/Media. She loves to write, dance, and watch movies. She is currently Vice President-Internal of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines.


7 Commandments To Revitalize The Country Safely

Medical experts recommend strict health protocols for public transportation.

Alibaba Cloud Launches New Digital Ecosystem Strategy In The Philippines

This will help local businesses adapt further to the new normal!

EDC Donates PCR Machines To Enhance Negros Oriental’s COVID-19 Resiliency

Energy Development Corporation donates equipment worth P8.5-million to Negros Oriental.

CeMAP, PISI Express Full Support For Bayanihan To Recover As One Act

The Cement Manufacturers Association of the Philippines and Philippine Iron and Steel Institute announce full support to the recently signed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act.

It pains to see thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) trapped in quarantine facilities, many of them have stayed for almost two months in isolation hubs with no definite time for release due to the delay in their COVID-19 results. Their situation is so unfortunate that mental stress has taken a toll on a 42-year old OFW from Kuwait who committed suicide last April 26 in a quarantine facility in Metro Manila.

As of May 21, about 27,000 repatriated OFWs were in different isolation hubs in Metro Manila. Another 42,000 is expected to arrive until June.

But worse than this mandatory quarantine is a grimmer scenario for OFWs once they go home to their families. With no end in sight to this pandemic, how long can they return to work abroad?

A different crisis

Our status as a middle class family was a product of 12 years of hard work, resilience, and industry of my father, a former OFW in Saudi Arabia. He left the Philippines in 1986 when our economy suffered from an economic crisis.

I could still recall the Gulf War in 1991. I was in first year high school at that time so watching news with my mother was a regular activity. While hundreds of OFWs were repatriated, my father was not allowed to go home because his work with a cargo company was essential. He said that many Filipinos suffered from nervous breakdown due to the incessant sounds of sirens, gunfire, and even bombs. The war lasted for only six months so OFWs eventually returned to work.

The next meltdown after the Gulf War was the global financial in 2008. At that time, my only sibling was employed in Singapore as a university professor. Our family was not affected in any way by the financial crisis.

After two generations of OFWs in my immediate family, all of us are now employed locally. But I have first cousins who work abroad until now, three are nurses while one is a seafarer who is still in a quarantine facility. We can only pray for their safety.
When the recession hit the country in the early ‘80s, OFW remittances kept the economy afloat. The Gulf war only lasted for half a year and only affected OFWs in the Middle East.

During the global financial crisis in 2008, affected OFWs like engineers deskilled themselves to become electricians so they continued earning. Eventually, the US and other countries affected by the financial meltdown, bounced back after three years.
COVID-19 is a different crisis that immediately paralyzed economies worldwide forcing OFWs to return home, many of them like seafarers, do not have any idea when they will board ships again.


Similar to middle class families working locally, OFWs also belong to different income tiers – lower middle income, middle middle class, and upper middle income. But of course, there are rich OFW families. But let’s focus on our friends and families who are devastated by this pandemic.

Overseas remittances contribute to domestic spending in education, household necessities primarily food, real estate investments, savings and other investments, medical expenses, and emergencies.

In this pandemic, some of the badly-hit industries worldwide are OFW havens like tourism, retail, leisure and hospitality.

My dance fitness friend Yesha based in Qatar has not been paid salary since her gym closed last March but she is still thankful to her employer who gives her 250 Dirhams or about P3,000 for food every month. Yesha is determined not to go home believing that the situation here is worse. But she is worried that she has not been able to send money for her two kids at home.

My cousin Dingdong, a luxury cruise ship staff, was on vacation when the lockdown was implemented. He was supposed to board last April 20. With five kids to support and dwindling funds, Dingdong is thinking of cashing-in his mutual fund investments. I advised him that this may not be a good time since the market is down. Instead, he should take-out a loan from SSS, OWWA and Pag-Ibig to benefit from his more than 20 years of contributions. Dingdong has always been prudent in his finances that he has never taken out a loan before. This will be his first time.

My other cousin Grace, also a luxury cruise crew, failed to board her ship in April. A single mother with a two-year old, Grace used her savings as capital for selling fruits and vegetables. We admire her resiliency and courage in these difficult times. She also applied for government subsidy in April but until now has not received any cash aid.

Some of my cousins, mostly frontliners, are not allowed to return home. Winston continues to battle COVID-19 with other nurses in his hospital in Saudi Arabia. In his facebook posts, we could sense his loneliness and stress and his wife and kids could only comfort him thru virtual hugs and kisses.

As of this writing, government has stepped up efforts to fast-track the release of results of COVID-19 tests among OFWs in isolation hubs, and transport them to their homes or provinces. Every hour away from their families is heartbreaking. So near and yet so far.

Lorenzana: No Need To Place GenSan Under ECQ

The National Task Force against COVID-19 says there is no need to place the city under enhanced community quarantine despite the increasing locally transmitted infections.

Sept. 18, Special Non-Working Holiday In Naga City

Here's why September 18 is declared as a Special Non-Working Holiday in Naga City:

Pasig Blood Donors To Get Free Antibody Testing

Interested blood donors under the Pasig city government's blood-letting drive will get free enhanced chemiluminescence immunoassay testing.

Centenarians Receive Cash Incentives In Legazpi City

Three centenarians receive additional cash grant from their respective LGU.

BDO Wins At The Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards

BDO Unibank, Inc. receives the Bronze Award in the First Time Reporter category at the prestigious 5th Asia Sustainability Reporting Awards, becoming the only awarded Philippine bank this year.

DOH Set To Conduct Pilot Trial Of Antigen Testing For COVID-19

DOH, to perform a pilot test on the use of antigen tests as new tools in identifying coronavirus infections.

VP Leni Lauds AFP Contribution To Anti-COVID-19 Drive

"She commended the AFP in its efforts to fight the pandemic and noted how the organization has cared for its personnel which allowed it to continue in supporting government efforts."

E. Visayas Records Drop In New COVID-19 Cases

DOH confirms a decrease of new COVID-19 cases in Eastern Visayas this week.

Economist: PH Still Economic Powerhouse In Asean

A Kuala Lumpur-based economist says the Philippines remains an economic powerhouse in Southeast Asia amid the challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Palace: Duterte Might Sign EO To Regulate Prices Of COVID-19 Tests

Check out the medical facilities that offer low-priced RT-PCR tests here: