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featuring Cholo

I was not around when my son graduated from primary school or when my mother had a series of surgeries.

I was not around when my Lola (grandmother in Tagalog) almost died. I recall receiving the news while I was doing a project in Drew and Napier. Fortunately, Ms. Ong was not with me when I took the call. I actually had to lock myself inside their data centre for a while.

I was not around when my police officer cousin was ambushed and killed near our house. I wanted to fly home but it was too late. I could only say a prayer for the eternal peace of his soul, but it was not the same as holding his hand and saying, “Thank you for all the good things you have done for our family and for our country.”

I have not been around in the good and the bad times for the past five years that I have been here in Singapore (all the while in CHASSasia).

Why, you ask? Like many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), I am caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Do I stay in my home country where this is economic degradation and a lack of employment opportunities or do I leave my loved ones and venture to greener pastures so that my family does not have to suffer or endure the pangs of poverty?

We do this because we have lofty dreams of a better life for our families – to have our own home, to give our children the best education, to help our siblings finish college, to provide the best medical treatment to ailing family members and ultimately to ensure a comfortable life after one retires and grows old.

Thankfully, it appears that there is light at the end of the tunnel because of the grand plans that President Rodrigo Duterte has for the country. He has vowed to change an economic model that has created one of Asia’s biggest rich-poor divides and I, for one, am looking forward to the future.

Even though nothing and no amount of money can bring back some of the missed occasions with my family, I do have something to look forward to… I look forward to going home, to the Philippines. I look forward to the day that I can be in the same room with my boy (daily) and to be able to hug him whenever I want to instead of seeing him over a Skype video call.

And so, it looks like I might be able to go back when I hit the big 4-0, to celebrate this milestone birthday with my family and friends, to enjoy all that I’ve worked to give my loved ones and myself – the house that I’ve built and to continue to make memories with my loved ones to last a lifetime.

“I truly believe that it is so important not to lose sight of the shore and of what is right, or our lives will be meaningless, and we will never enjoy the fruits of what we have worked for.”