Wednesday, December 2, 2009

OFW, Expats, Whatever

Dito palang sa titles nagkakatalo-talo na. OFW or Expats. Yung “o” sa pagitan ng dalawang titles na ito ang boundary line ng tila separation of classes o caste system defined by the job nature of Filipinos working overseas. Kung blue collar ka employed in a construction company as a carpenter, plumber, mason, etc OFW ka. Kung ikaw naman ay nasa senior management level ung tipong nakasuot ng kurbata pag nasa office at naka-casual shirt wearing a safety helmet pag nasa field Expat ka. Best example nito yung isang political ad noon sa TV showing Pinoys working overseas at different levels. Narun ung mga construction workers sweating it out under the scorching heat of the sun pero nakangiti pa rin - OFW. Then ung isang Pinoy supervisor naman with beetling brow na naka-casual golf shirt at safety helmet reading a blueprint to his crew - Expat.

Funny pero nakataas ang isang kilay.

But the truth is OFW or Expat they have the same definition and therefore are the same equal titles. A Filipino who is working on a foreign assignment. But I have met some people who strongly object being addressed as OFW. They seem to connote that OFWs are the domestic helpers, construction crew, caregivers, chauffeurs, cooks, orderlies, etc. On the other hand, Expats are those who are in the managerial or consultant levels. But strictly by definition, they are all the same. Pinoys who work overseas are all expatriates (ex – out, patria – country) no matter what the jobs are. Perhaps we were only used to associating the title Expat to white people which local companies in Pinas hire. And generally they hold the top level management positions. Therefore the misperception stuck. I would call it simply corporate myth as they can also be categorized as Overseas Foreign Wimps err.. I mean Workers, sorry. So going back to the “o” that separates the OFW and Expats mentioned earlier, there seems to be a shadow of discrimination looming among Pinoys separated by these two titles. And sometimes one is promoted from “OFW” to “Expat” because of seniority.

Napansin ko na agad ito nung first time ako magwork abroad. Hindi komportable yung mga fellow Pinoy colleagues ko na matagal na sa company na matawag o ma-address silang OFW. Immediately they cut the conversation and correct the speaker that they are indeed Expats not OFW. “Mga expats tayo dito at hindi mga OFW” they profess. Wha…? Ok the speaker stands corrected. Pero what’s the big fuss? Sadly there IS a big fuss. It creates a caste system among Pinoy employees belonging to different levels of job positions. It spawns jealousy and eventually devolves into disunity. Once again highlighting the notorious perception that the crab mentality lurks in every Pinoy migrant worker.

My present thoughts tell me that every Pinoy who works overseas share a common cause. Family. And because of that feeling of love and belongingness towards that small but vital unit of society the Lord has blessed us all, we chase our dreams wherever they go to provide the best to all our beloved. And in our journey we build new families with Pinoy colleagues in host countries that adopted us. The moment I decided to be an OFW or Expatriate, I long omitted the “o” that separates them.


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