2 hours and 16 minutes, the time travel between Philippines to Hong Kong. Six days of work and one day off. It's been two years and nine months since I came here. Back in 2019, I was standing at the Manila airport holding my plane ticket, passport and luggage. Waving goodbye to my husband and to my daughter while I'm holding back my tears. I told myself that once I step inside, there's no way for me to back out. I'm going to wait for two years to finish my contract before I come back home again. While staring at the blank faces of our kababayan inside the airport, I can see the most sincere hugs and kisses as they said goodbye to their family. I have no idea what Hong Kong looks like, imagine an ordinary twenty six years old housewife who just came from a small city in the Philippines trying to find her luck in other country. I can still remember the feeling of riding in MTR for the first time, believe me, I got a funny experience. I keep on bumping all the passengers beside me everytime the train stops in each station. I'm not really used of standing inside a public transportion specially that I'm carrying a heavy luggage and a big traveling bag. I know some of the first time OFWs in Hong Kong can also relate to that scenario. I was also amazed when I first used the octopus card. Oh that feels, tap here, tap there, tap everywhere, I was enjoying tapping around until one time I cannot exit in the MTR anymore. I checked my card balance and Wow, just Wow! Negative balance, in short [ naubos ].
Before my employer took me in their house, the agency already told me that the building where I am going to stay for two years is a Police Quarters. So most of the employers who lives there are Police or works at the Immigration. My first six months in that house was a rocky road. I really find it difficult to adjust. First, the language barrier, it's hard for me to adopt the language that they use because they have their own english standards. Then followed by home sick attack, long hours, tired nights, head aches, lonely days and sleepless nights. There is always an ups and downs moment in that house. Sometimes we’re not in good terms with my employers. I was thinking that maybe I’m not just good enough or maybe they just don't like me at all. Sometimes their words are sharp that cuts like scissors too, of course I got offended specially when they started to raise their voice at me. There was this time wherein I was really tired and upset, so I went straight in the bath tub and turned on the shower. I did not even bother to take off my clothes, I was just there sitting and crying, then suddenly I just realized that my clothes are already soaked and wet. I was trying to fight my stress battles at that time and those are just the sweetest downfalls that I’ve experienced in that house. Despite all of that I still considered myself as the lucky ones, because I have finished my two years contract with them.
Because of the pandemic and cancellation of flights, I decided not to go home yet, so I tried to find a new employer. Luckily, a retired lady Professor signed my contract. I never asked for an easy job. I just told myself that I will do better as long as they treat me in a nice way. This time, I feel blessed to have a kind employer. She asked me at the agency if what are my hobbies, I told her that I do love reading books, sketching, painting and writing on my journal, it's what I do in the Philippines before. She told me that she has a lot of books, I can borrow it whenever I want to read them. During my first month of staying in her house, she always invites me to watch a Korean drama with her every night, she considered it as our bonding together. It's what we used do until now. She always ask me a heart-warming questions such as, "How's your family in the Philippines? How's your daughter? How's your parents?". You know that feels when someone also cares for your family, I just find it very cute. Everytime that she gives my salary, she always say "thank you for your help". Having a sweet employer is like having a friend, a grandmother and a teacher at the same time. She even allows me to do my paintings and drawings in her house during my free time, and the rest was history.
One thing that I realized when you're working far away from your family is the essence of sacrifice. Imagine taking good care of someone’s child while you cannot see your own children growing up. Being present in your employers birthday, but cannot go home to take care of your sick parents. Celebrating occasions with our fellow kababayan while we miss the funerals of our relatives and loved ones back in our hometown. Enduring all those things just to give a better life to your family. I had known some OFWs who went home for good but ended up returning again in Hong Kong because they are the only bread winner of their family. Some are also planning to settle down in our country but ended up signing again for a new contract.
To all the OFWs who is having a hard time, just keep the faith and keep hustling. Think of those days when you deprive yourself of buying the food or things that you like for the sake of sending money. Those times when you borrowed money from the loan banks for some personal reasons. Those days when you wake up every morning to fight the challenges that left you so tired the night before. Those days when you’re putting thoughts inside your coffee thinking about those broken dreams that you need to fix again for yourself and for your family. Always remember that behind those beautiful house that you have started to build in the Philippines, behind those tuition fees that you send for bunso, for your children, or for your siblings, behind those small capitals that you add to your Sari-Sari store, behind those tricycle that you bought for your husband’s extra income, behind those small business that you have, behind that piece of land that you planned to convert into a farm, behind those savings for your parents medical maintenance, behind all those little things is a great sacrifice from a brave hardworking OFW. It’s okay to care too much for your loved ones. But never ever loose yourself in the process of learning. Always make a space for yourself to grow and improve. Always make yourself healthy and happy. Cherish every moment of your stay here in abroad because Hong Kong is just temporary. We won’t stay here forever, we will always go back to a place where we call “home”. And last but not the least, “love yourself”.