The Disappearing Filipino Worker

The letters OFW stand for Overseas Filipino Workers. Roughly ten percent of the country's 80 million people have gone abroad to work, earning much more than they could make here.

A whole bureaucracy is built around this migration. One agency processes more than a thousand applications of workers who want to work abroad.

Cherry de las Alas of POEA says, "Now we're deploying 2,900 to 3,000 a day."

Their remittances make up a major pillar of the Philippine economy and provide more than ample support for the needs of their families back home. Big houses in a small, poor provincial town are owned by Filipinos working in many countries.

But there is real worry here over the social cost of such migration, especially for children who are left behind.

Patricia Luna of the Social Welfare Department says, "It's not a guarantee with the remittance of monetary consideration, not a guarantee that the longing of the children for their parents would be resolved through monetary, material things."

The government allowed access to one of its welfare centers, and a girl whose mother went to work abroad - Grace - was tearful when she spoke to us. With no guidance at home, she said she started to hang out with friends, leave home early in the evening and return the following morning.

"At 15," she says, "I learned to use drugs and was smoking and drinking."

"they carry the trauma if the needs for the parents' presence is not addressed," says Luna.

The Social Welfare Department says it is strengthening its current services for children whose parents are absent from the home. Among other things, they are intensifying their training program, "on parenting, care-giving skills of those who are left in the Philippines," says Luna.

As for Grace? She was trying to reunite with her mother who had returned, but the girl didn't want to leave the center and go home. She added that she was still trying to change, in her words, to be a better person.
By Gaby Tabunar