Ang Tunay na Katas ng Saudi

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ang Tunay na Katas ng Saudi

Hindi salapi, bahay, lupa, o jeepney. Kaming mga anak ng Overseas Filipino Workers ang tunay na katas ng Saudi.

There's no easy way to open up to the public the lives we've led as children of Overseas Filipino Workers but we will because we owe it to the men who made us possible, who made our lives breathing and thriving in this desert possible.

The main force that binds the Pink Tarha Ladies is not our love for shopping and eating but the fact that we are the second generation of overseas Filipino workers in our families. We have almost the same story. Our fathers were part of the early wave of migration during the 80s. We were the children left behind, the children who grew up in a different kind of home, where absence reverberates in every corner of our houses and echoes in every hollow of our hearts. What we have become are the fruits of labor of these brave, selfless family men. We owe it to them to tell our story.

What became of us, those little girls who only have vague memories of that day when the pillars of our homes left to seek a greener pasture? Shoegarfreeruby, Maryhadalittlehump, and Sundrenched grew up in the Philippines while Eyecandy was raised in Saudi Arabia. Was there ever a difference to OFW children who grew up in the motherland and in the Kingdom? What kind of fruits did our fathers' diaspora bear?

Raised in the Republic

1984: R with her mom, dad, and younger sister

I was only three when dad decided to work in Riyadh. I vividly remember that time when we took our family picture the day he left (above). My sister was two, and my mom pregnant with our youngest. Facing the ordeal of having a father away was something my mother bore for 22 years. We owe it to her that she was able to raise us all up with love. We never questioned why our father had to be away because she made us understand. Growing up, I remember that our yearly trips to the airport waiting patiently for our father to arrive were the happiest memories of my childhood. There were tears we needed to hold back when his vacation was over but the promise of seeing him again after a year comforted us. Who would have thought that I would be following my father's footsteps? - Shoegarfreeruby
1989: M and her sister missing their dad

It was in 1987 when daddy went to Saudi Arabia to work. I was two years old, too young to remember, and my sister was one. Our youngest wasn't even born yet. My mommy told me how I refused to approach my father whenever he was home for vacation. I was a stubborn kid, crying and very shy around this "stranger" who leaves and returns home and leaves again. And then I finally understood the setup. It wasn't difficult for my sisters and I because of mom and her relentless explanation why our father needed to go abroad. We cry when his vacations were over. And when he was back in the desert for the nth time, we resumed studying hard and asking the Lord to guide him because during those years, those were the only things we can do to repay my father's sacrifices. - Maryhadalittlehump

1996: S with her papa and siblings

The army green luggage now stashed in our attic never fails to remind me of the day my father first went to Saudi Arabia. That moment was framed in my brain, never mind if I don't remember exactly when. All I knew is, it was the longest summer of my childhood. Two of my siblings and I were whisked to the province and raised by our grandparents while my other two sibs were raised by mom in Makati. Two different worlds brought upon by an absence, a distance bridged only by cassette tapes we recorded for him, letters sent, and calls only made possible through an aging static landline. How can I forget the graduation days missed, the holidays celebrated on a five-hour difference, the long airport waits and the vacations spent like stolen moments? But just as the saying goes, "distance is nothing; it is only the first step that is difficult," everything eventually fell into place. - Sundrenched
Growing up, the three of us (R,M,S) grappled with the reality that we were missing a part of our family. We felt like we never knew our fathers at all, and that they never knew us. We were aware though that our fathers were away to provide for us and there were some instances wherein we felt wealthy, one of the few middle-class families in our neighborhoods back then. We had the newest toys and we were happy but there was an indescribable empty feeling. We were well provided but we were incomplete.

We grew up knowing that every grain we put inside our mouth, every shirt we wear, and every penny we spent in school equate to every tear our fathers shed, every sweat in their brow, and every chilly night spent alone. Though at first, we weren't aware. Like most OFW children, we were spared the gruesome realities of our fathers' OFW lives. So when our eyes were opened to their hardships, we learned the value of hard work and perseverance. Their long absence has taught us patience; that there will always be times of waiting for someone, or no one. Their being away gave us freedom and the chance to explore that freedom to our heart's content. We felt the silent trust they gave while we were facing the world with both eagerness and caution. We became street smart, out to tend on our own. Yes, we were alone but never lonely because we also have our mothers and relatives who love us and somehow prevented us from rebelling. Our fathers' love was channeled through these wonderful people. Love, after all, knows no bounds.

Being raised in the homeland has also done wonders for us. We were never deprived of playgrounds, friends, and Filipino cuisine. We knew our culture, history and geography. We were never left without our national identity. We've been parts of historic events and we've experienced how it is to become a Filipino. Of course, these too much freedom and exposure have also given us reasons to take them for granted and abuse them in various ways. We were never the perfect OFW children and citizens. We committed mistakes and caused problems but in our hearts we knew that we have become half of what our fathers and motherland have envisioned their children to be. The rest is now being spent in proving ourselves to our selves.

Raised in the Kingdom
1989: E and her dad

Six years old was just about the time that I was beginning to develop my long-term memory and ever since I could remember, I’ve always considered Riyadh as my home. My father was fortunate enough to bring me and my mother to Saudi Arabia right after the Gulf War had subsided. Thrilled at the idea of riding a plane to be with my father, little did I know that ten years would pass before I would ride another one again. - Eyecandy
I grew up (up to my teens) as an only child, fed and bred in the best way my parents could afford. Despite not growing up in a “normal” environment…such as never learning how to ride a bike, climb a tree or play on the streets…I’d like to think that I grew up “normal” nevertheless. Back in the day, TFC was not yet around to give me an idea of what kids my age back in the Philippines were like. For me, what I had around me was the norm. I considered it the norm to wear an abaya every time I went out, to not have malls and cinemas and theme parks, to be escorted everywhere by my father, and to just have a “school-bahay-school-bahay” routine-type of existence. This happened because my family never went home for vacations, so my formative years were purely spent on Saudi soil. I didn’t mind the apparent “restrictions” of Saudi life because it’s all I ever knew. Besides, my parents never let me feel deprived of anything. In fact, I knew I was a very lucky girl. Too lucky sometimes, I guess.

One of the things that I realized about my growing up abroad is that kids like me were raised with a terribly abundant lifestyle. We are showered with anything and everything that our hearts desired because we are in a country that allows our parents to give them to us. But this sense of “giving us a better life or a life they never had” can be a double-edged sword. I can’t help but notice that most children who grew up abroad develop a sense of entitlement without a cause. We’ve never experienced a sense of hardship to get what we want/have. I’m referring to the idea that we are not surrounded by poverty and challenging living conditions. Unlike the children who did grow up in the Philippines, they know firsthand what it’s like to hold on to every penny and use it wisely, they know what it’s like to live through a flood, a blackout or a theft in the streets. They know that if they don’t study hard enough and finish school, they won’t get a shot at a better life. Unfortunately for most of the children raised in Riyadh, we have this notion that our parents will provide for us no matter what. We know that we won’t run out of money, food and clothing. I see it to our disadvantage that somehow, we were not immersed in an environment that innately motivates us to be more determined, street smart and/or thriftier. I say all this based from my own experience. It is not that I am ungrateful for everything that my parents have worked hard for me to have and enjoy. But if I want to be able to give my own children someday the same privileges that I have had, then I must be given the opportunity to realize the value of trials and tribulations.

It is a blessing indeed to be with our families here abroad. I am sure that it warms our parents’ hearts that during dinnertime, we are all complete at the kitchen table. I may have grown up to have both my OFW parents by my side, but I suppose the kind of absence that I endured is that of a deeper sense of what it means to be a Filipino. It is the nurturing that only a nation can yield. I lived on my own in the Philippines for more than four years and despite it not being the "better" kind of life that I was used to, I believe that despite of that, I became a better person and even a better citizen of my own country.

As children raised abroad, I can only hope that we find it in ourselves to realize what it really means to be a Filipino. Yes, we are all extremely blessed and abundant in all our neccessities. Heck, we're probably even set by parents to not worry about a thing when we grow older. But that shouldn't keep us oblivious to what our culture and nation is, and it's expectation from US--the next generation OFWs--and what are we going to do about it. We should also keep in mind what our parents have done and gone through to be able to bring us all together in that kitchen table along with the food that we eat. And should we be so lucky, someday, we will be strong and hardworking enough to do the same for our own families.

All Grown Up

The country benefiting from the Filipino diaspora is just a by-product, it wasn't the primary reason why parents leave the homeland. First and foremost, it's for their families. Our families. To pack up and go doesn't speak of our father's identity as a nationalistic Filipino. It speaks a lot about our fathers being courageous men whose priority in life is their family. Lucky are those whose parents do not need to go abroad to provide for their families. For OFW children like us, we should feel luckier because we have parents who are willing to sacrifice their happiness for us. Admire their courage and turn their absence into something constructive rather than destructive. Distance should never be seen as a hindrance to grow up to our best potentials as persons. After all, our parents are only providing for our present. Our future entirely depends on us.

Filipino children raised in other countries, always remember whom and where you came from. Open your eyes to the hard work and sacrifices made by your parents to bring you to a new land. Do not forget your Filipino identity. After all, being born and raised in another country doesn't limit your capacity to love your nationality. You are living in a world with no borders, with limitless possibilities where everyone is an extension of a particular race. One day, like your parents, you will come HOME and that's probably one of the most wonderful feeling in this world.

OFW children have different stories to tell. But whatever our stories tell about us and our families, what became of us is the main part of the story our fathers will tell to the whole world. We are the outcome of their sacrifice twenty years ago. We are the fruits of our fathers' labor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Kaming mga anak ng Saudi OFWs ang tunay na katas ng Saudi... and we hope that how we turned out was well-worth the sacrifice.

*If you liked our article, do vote for us at the Pinoy Expats Blog Awards 2009. Simply click the link, go to #28 PINK TARHA GIRLS on the nominees list, tick off the box and Submit Vote. Thank you! :)

batang bata ka pa - apo hiking society

20 had something to say:

Mr. Thoughtskoto said...

Sobrang nakarelate ako that lead me eventually to shed ng konting tears, konti lang. hehehe, pero nacarried away ako, maganda.

Honestly, is it a coincidence that you are ofw daughters, and now ofw yourselves. What a wonderful story!

Thanks for joining PEBA! Thanks for inspiring us!

Yellow Bells said...

hi girls, nice story in here. may baby girl ako at dito sa dubai ko cya ipinanganak. Ano kaya ang kwento nya pag laki nya? :)You're an inspiration to your parents. Cheers!

The Pope said...

We are an OFW Family, me, my wife and my son. My daughter was raised here in the Gulf and is now taking her University degree in Manila, that's why I know how you feel being a real "katas ng Saudi"

Very moving stories, a-must-read entry by both OFWs and OFW children.

Welcome to PEBA you entry give more colors to the event.

Life is Beautiful, keep on believing.

Nebz said...

Whew! Wow! What can I say? I'm awe!

Your narratives are moving, especially those paragraphs in small fonts and with accompanying sepia photos. Somehow, even if I'm not a 'tunay na katas ng Saudi', I felt your stories.

To be able to write a piece like this -- heartful and moving -- I think is a testament as to how worthy you are to the sacrifices of your fathers. Congratulations girls! A hands down winning entry for me.

Niqabi said...

wow!... i will definitely be adding this on my support list.. it is very inspirational.

I as well is a "katas ng saudi". I can relate to R,M and S. My mom left when I was barely 6. As a child I didn't have any idea were riyadh was. All i knew is it was very far from home.
Imagine growing up without the guidance of a mother? It was very difficult. She wasn't there when i was very scared seeing blood on my first menstruation, when I go up the stage every school year ends and in every vital events that a girl passes through.

Children of OFW's should or must not view the absence of their parents as a hindrance and as an excuse of being rebellious. They must realize the hardship and the sacrifices that their parents have to deal with just to give them the greener pasture. I always get disappointed hearing stories about a child who's going to the wrong path and putting the blame into their OFW parents. It is a very lousy alibi.

Your post is truly an eye-opener. I hope every OFW's child would have an ideology as yours. Great job ladies.. :)

Anonymous said...

My father was a victim of an illegal recruiter. Thank the lord that he was. Because if he had left the country my mother would have married a different man and I wouldn't be able to write this comment.

I think that they are not just brave but also very lucky to have managed to provide for their family in this way.

I agree with the fact that most of the kids that are left in the Philippines feel like their parents don't know who they are. Once the illusion of innocence gets shattered, they feel the burden of abandonment when in fact the reason why their parents are working abroad is because they want a better life for themselves.

I was a peer counselor (PASTOL) for COWs or Children of Overseas Workers in my high school. I joined because although my parents are in the Philippines I have aunts and uncles abroad and I have seen how hard it was for their kids to grow up (especially in their teens) without a family that was like mine. My best friend was also a COW and I wanted to understand her world.

Just the idea of not having my jolly dad around to drive me to my school when I was in college would have taken all of my confidence in myself. Sure, he nods off during parent's meetings because as an engineer his job was draining. But he was here, he hugged me when I got hurt and he showed me that macho men can be loyal and mushy without loosing their mustache. ^^

I just think that the present generation is getting worse in the case that they have less appreciation for the efforts of their parents. OFW or not. We have to show people that the Filipino family, however the times may change, remains our pride and joy. And that the Filipino worker is still creme of the crop. Here and abroad.

So to the Pink Tarha ladies. Salute.

Life Moto said...

I love this article coz minsan din ako naging anak ng OFW, now I am an OFW. Masarap na mahirap ang maging anak ng OFW. Masaya kapag dumarating ang papa ko, but malungkot pag aalis na sya. nararamadaman ko ang feeling ng mga anak ko. I thank the Lord na nagkaroon ako ng mabuting asawa na nakakasama ng mga ank ko sa Pinas. She provides them with love and support na dapat ako ang gumagawa.

nICE Entry, Good luck!

sugarcoated - nice gesture sa pagsupport mo sa ma anak ng OFW kahit na di ka isa sa kanila.

Anonymous said...

@lifemoto : *curtsies* E's parents' helped me coz she was my roomie for college. ^^ they trusted me to be her bantay. hindi nila alam...B.I. ako kidding.

Anyway, I am in a way a OFW recipient so I figured I should help. My uncles gave me baon, shoes, clothes, supported my mom with our education and all that stuff. And the Italian spaghettis. I am not a Saudi recipient but a Romano one. ^^

Anonymous said...

My son John, Jethro, Juergen and Daugther Joan will definitely relate to your stories. They all experienced the life in Riyadh with Joan and Juergen being born there. Will share this Blog to them.

Youre doin Great Pink Tarha Ladies!

A-Z-E-L said...

im so late na pala to comment in here... though i've read this a day after you posted. sorry.

i really like the way you tell those stories... true and inspiring indeed. i congratulate you all in advance.

btw, i hope you like the badge from KaBLogs. bagay na bagay senyo. im running through your old posts para makahabol ako. kase i never visited this until you passed the entry for PEBA. hindi ko man lang ako naligaw dito noon.... (my bad!)

Kikay na Kikay ang badge... Congrats (again)! you all deserve it!

Francesca said...

THIS IS ONE GOOD TOPIC! pwede na pang MMK, lol

maraming nakaka relate.
CONGRATS, hirap na mga judges natin, hehehhehe.

The Pink Tarha Team said...

With much love, the Pink Tarha ladies thank all of you from the bottom of our throbbing pink hearts. Having these kind of comments already make us feel like winners. Shukran katir!

Also, congratulations to all PEBA nominees. Hindi man po kami nakaka-comment sa bawat entry, we've read each and every piece and we're awed at how much OFWs continue to inspire each other. Mabuhay! :)

Anonymous said...

GREAT READ! :D i so voted for you... i hope you find the time and the chance to get to know your families and make up for lost time... good luck! :D


Bitoy said...

So touchy.......
Keep it coming....

Anonymous said...

So touchy...

Anonymous said...

Yes, moving indeed...

BlogusVox said...

I was amused by your version of "katas ng saudi". I hope my daughter will grow up to be like you, girls.

Dex said...

Hi congratulations! I was so touched reading touching talaga

Pinky said...

Very touching and heartfelt post. I'm sure all your fathers are mighty proud for having daughters like yourselves who value all their sacrifice and hard work. Mabuhay kayo!

NoFeeOFW said...

NIce blog, :-)

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