ILOILO CITY – A number of Filipinos who are working abroad have expressed appreciation for the government’s creation of a bank that makes overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) a priority in its list of clients.
Jen Equipado, 27, a native of Tapaz, Capiz, began working as a beautician in a parlor in Brunei three months ago. She left her two kids – ages six and four – with their father in Iloilo to try her luck abroad.
Before going to Brunei, Jen worked as a geriatric caregiver in Iloilo.
However, her income was barely enough for her children’s needs, especially since their father had no permanent work.
In an interview through Facebook, she narrated that she decided to work abroad, battling homesickness just so she could raise funds for her children’s education.
On the other hand, Arman Lucero first worked as a contract worker in Saudi Arabia for four years prior to his transfer to Australia. A native of Lambunao, Iloilo, Lucero has been in Australia for a decade. He became an Australian citizen three years ago.
Both acknowledged the difficulty of being away from their families.
Equipado said adjustment was initially difficult due to the language barrier. She also had to deal with her co-workers.
“I learned to love my work. I had to focus because I have my family waiting for me back in the Philippines,” she said.
“I’ve been there before and it’s hard working away from your family,” Lucero said.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Western Visayas has recorded 62,409 active members as of September 26. Of the figure, 50,174 were land-based workers, 11,683 were sea-based, and 552 did not state their work category.
President Rodrigo Duterte in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered last July stated that the government has “been hard at work in securing the rights and welfare of our OFWs”.
Part of the initiative of his administration would be the establishment of an Overseas Filipino Bank (OFB), which was realized when he signed Executive Order No. 44 last September 28.
The order allows the acquisition of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and its conversion into an OFB.
“There is a need to establish a policy bank dedicated to providing financial products and services tailored to the requirements of overseas Filipinos, and focused on delivering quality and efficient foreign remittance services,” the order stated.
Equipado said she appreciates the setting up of a bank that makes OFWs its priority.
“I will surely avail of the programs it would offer,” she said.
“If it benefits our OFWs, why not? It’s about time I guess that they give priority to OFWs,” Lucero said.
Lucero shared that he is “planning to apply for dual citizenship”.
“If there is a chance, I still would want to put up some businesses (in the Philippines),” he said, noting that life in the country is different, even though it faces many issues.
“Babalik ka rin (You will eventually return),” he said, quoting Filipino singer Gary Valenciano’s popular song.
Meanwhile, also in a Facebook chat, Leilanie Ostan, 45, a Filipino caregiver in Israel for eight years, expressed hope that the bank would make it easier for her to send money to her family in the Philippines.
“I hope the bank would offer a lower charge for our remittances and our families would claim it in a shorter time and easier way,” she said.
On the other hand, Precious Gono, 29, who has been working in Macau, China for almost three years now, also welcomed the creation of the OFB.
“I hope it would provide many benefits to us who are working away from our family,” she said, calling the bank’s creation as a “reward” for OFWs like her who have long been working abroad.
“I hope that what will be promised will really be granted,” she further said.
Both Ostan and Gono are from Bugasong, Antique. (By Perla Lena | With report from Cindy B. Ferrer/PNA)