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An OFW's Letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Dear Mrs. President,

How I wish I were home when you had your 2009 State-of-the-Nation Address. I would have joined the millions of Filipinos excitedly awaiting for your yearly report over the broadsheet, radio and television stations. I would have been so vigilant in monitoring crowd formations near MalacaƱan Palace, EDSA-Ortigas, Paseo de Roxas, or near the House of Representatives in Commonwealth. Over the years I was an active spectator --- joining public opinions about the possibility of changing our nation's course of events through the strengths and opportunities that formed part of your SONAs.

This year, however, is the first time that I failed to have an access to the first-hand account surrounding your State-of-the-Nation Address. I will surely miss the blow-by-blow reports and analysis of top-rated journalists whose words charismatically provoke citizens, even in the margins, to speak and to take a stand, for or against our country's social issues.

I failed to join the public opinion this time because I am away from my country and my family. My decision to leave the Philippines is not simply for pleasure. I am working in great hardships to provide my family a decent living. The sacrifices are always underway. There had been countless sleepless nights since I came to the United States due to homesickness. The amount of tears poured was almost out of my number chart. My only child has not spoken with me for quite a while because of my failure to convince her that this separation will be "for the good of everyone."

I have made my decision to leave the country and my family, no matter how painful it may be, because our country has failed to provide people with ordinary lives a decent way to survive. The meager income that I received as an ordinary teacher, after earning a master's degree and advanced courses leading to a doctoral degree from leading universities in the country, coupled with more than a decade of experience in the field, has never alleviated us from poverty.

For several SONAs now, your administration has always uplifted the morale of my fellow Overseas Filipino Workers around the world as "partners in rebuilding a strong economy." The dollar remittances that OFWs earn are a powerful fuel in our economic growth, you have emphasized as a constant reminder. These words have been very encouraging, Mrs. President.

But has your administration ever asked why OFWs flee the country? Because of the national economy's failure to provide adequate jobs for the millions of skilled Filipinos. Your administration has statistically blurred us with tons and tons of jobs available in the market today. But what are these? Call center jobs that require high proficiency in a loaned language that has always been thought of as a culturally divisive factor? This can only be assumed by linguistically-trained and emotionally-hard graduates who could get through their erring foreign clients. Human Resources administration jobs whose required qualifications can only be met by a few? How about jobs for engineers, nurses, teachers, IT specialists, and the likes who spent painstaking years in school in order to acquire their much-needed title? How about jobs for the semi-skilled workers who are breadwinners in their respective households? Has your administration asked about jobs that are appropriate for the unskilled workers whose only fault was that their parents failed to send them to school due to poverty?

Has your administration ever thought what happens to the OFWs and their families after receiving that impressive title, "partners in rebuilding a strong economy"?

The fancy impression is that they are now living in plenty. But let me show you some real, down-to-earth illustrations that your fellow economists and intellectually arrogant statistics experts in various government agencies may have not gleaned from "available data".

A family whose parent went to the US recently is now being threatened by a financing company due to a failure to pay the interest of their loan's interest in the amount of Php500,000. This money was used for processing the application, but when the worker landed to the US, there was no available job for her. Another family decided to send their breadwinner to the US recently, but due to the agency's neglect to provide a link to employers, the worker didn't earn for months. This led to two of her children quitting their college studies. Another hopeful family brought all their children abroad, but failed to send them to universities due to high cost of tuition. They would have enjoyed quality education in the top universities in the home country, but the family realized how harder life is in the Philippines.

In the Middle East, numerous workers exchanged their Php15,000 salary back home with Php20,000 in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Qatar. In Dubai, a number of Filipino workers took chances of it being an "open city" but were sent home afterwards due to retrenchment. Overseas Filipino Workers in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan would have been enjoying their pay but their brutal sacrifices from the hands of employers are not just a game of chance. They are real, and they happen on a regular basis.

Mrs. President, I never blame you for the course of events that happen in the country today. True, the effect of global recession has severely affected even the hardest and most stable economies in the world. But have you not done anything about changing paradigms --- selecting good leaders whose foresight can at least matter in alleviating our country's desperate economic condition? Have you not challenged leaders who have been suspected of continually engaging in massive graft and corrupt practices? We all would have enjoyed what they deposited in their personal bank accounts. Have you not thought of any other strategies to empower citizens, improve morality, affect change in various social institutions, and clean every corner of the public offices with wealth that were obtained in an evil manner or by dishonest means?

Mrs. President, time and again, you have suggested to us that after the SONA, there is much work to do and progress is underway. But after years of being our leader, you have only showed us that poverty is in its constant motion. We have not withered from what our parents, and our parents' parents have suffered in the course of Philippine History.

A quote from your 2009 SONA says, "When my father left the Presidency, we were second to Japan." What happened to us? Why have we not sustained that record? What has your administration done to at least set a direction to meet that record again?

I know you should not be blamed for this alone because you are just an heir to a nation that had been struck historically by structures that have made our people a predestined poor people in this generation. Our colonizers did, together with the leaders who were trained by them, with the participation of the past presidents and government officials who thought they could make things better.

But let me appeal to you, Mrs. President. And as I do this, please reflect carefully upon our situation as OFWs, together with the situation of our families back home...

There are still a few remaining months to do something extraordinary. Please clean our government. Please regain the confidence of the people. Please provide the poor majority with decent ways to live their lives. We, too, are uncertain of the time after your administration because the same old personalities are playing the game called politics in our country. But you can still make a difference.

May God bless us all.


M. Fernandez
Overseas Filipino Worker
North Carolina, USA


  1. Two Thumbs Up! What Batch Ateneo?

  2. bongga! I totally agree on this. oh, yung chocolates ko ah. hehehe

  3. jusko. naghihirap ka pala. hehehehe.

  4. Thanks for dropping by, guys, and for making sense of this open letter.

  5. How I wish you are home so we can join liza masa and the rest at liwasang bonifacio baka sakali makinig si madam president. Mabuhay ang mga OFW.

  6. i hope your letter reaches the president, but if it does not i hope you can hand this to her personally since she is going to the week upon the invitation of pres obama. also, let us not forget to pray and consecrate ourselves and our country and people to our Mother Mary. if all of us do this, she will always intercede for us. God bless you and your family!

  7. i felt sad... what she said in this letter is real. andito nako sa US pero mahirap pa din. mahirap na nga ang mga Pilipino, binubusabos pa ng gobyerno! ano ito? kalbaryong dapat tiisin hanggang sa may pumalit na mas malala? pasang krus na dapat ikatuwa? anu ba talaga Gloria!!! >; [

  8. Thanks so much, guys, for the support! We need to show her that we are serious. It's very late for her to step down. All she needs to do is to restore what has been lost...before she finally begins her farewell walk several months from now.

  9. talk about cleaning up her may not be too late, but it'll never be enough. she may not be inept, in fact she's far from being that. but she's just plain crooked and vile - which makes her presidency a failure all the more heartbreaking. pagod na ang mga Pilipino. what we need are leaders that not are only trusted but trustworthy, who can point us in the right direction and will never let go even if the rest of us fail to see its design. leaders who are selfless and not self-absorbed. what happens to our collective destinies, is now in our hands - and that MUST be proven when every Filipino eligible to vote makes their informed choices known and heard come May 10.

  10. thought provoking statements, Nhong! Kudos! Sad, though that you are not yet still living with your family. Have faith, and let us continue to be a blessing to others. God bless our country,

  11. Hi Tom! Thanks so much for the challenge. The restitution of our country rests upon ideal political successors. But who are they at this moment? The Philippine political arena is fueled by popularity and conventional strategies that are as old as time. The only participation of the incumbent president is pick up the pieces and clean her office -- however impossible it can be. We need to help each other in doing a massive campaign to curtail every attempt to mess up the Philippine government once more. We have to localize it, and do it in ways that we, in every sector, can afford. The purpose of this letter is to send a strong message to the incumbent, at least from the vantage point of an OFW. I have forwarded the letter to some friends. I hope it can multiply...

    Hello Nhadz! Thanks for dropping by. This letter is my way of saying 'I miss them,' but the struggle continues...

  12. if i only could find a way to insert an advocacy class in every level of our education system making advocacy education as part of our curriculum. also i wish that volunteerism be not just a fad but a lifestyle for every Filipino. it's time that we believe the system and not just the people running it. i am close to lose belief in our nation...sana wag naman.

  13. I agree with you. It's really a matter of planting the seed of awareness to the minds of our youth through advocacy that can heal our land in the long run. But that is not an easy task. The structures are there. We need leaders with political will to do that, not just in the government sector, but in every social institution. Religious leaders playing politics should not be included. Top leaders in the education sector who are not doing their job should be eliminated, as well. If Rizal were alive today, he would have probably taken a dose of stresstabs upon realizing that what he had predicted about the country "a century hence" are all true...

  14. This comment was forwarded to me by Ms. L. Serrano, one of my greatest inspirations in deciding to join the hopeful OFWs (Thanks so much, Ma'am Lolly!):

    From: Giselle Bombay
    Subject: Re: [pinoyteachersnetwork] A Letter from an OFW to the Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
    Date: Thursday, July 30, 2009, 6:57 PM

    I am glad that the writer emphasized that he was not putting all the blame on the president. I am NOT a GMA fan, but if you look around you and even the so-called options paraded in front of us, I realized that it takes a whole nation to really build a nation. Of course the president has a role and a responsibility to lead our nation to better frontiers. But WE also have an important role to play.

    For instance, what do we teach our children? To sacrifice in order to reach their full potentials or to aim for any career in order to go abroad (I am very happy that in this case a Filipino teacher goes to the US to be a teacher and not anythig else). How do we vote our leaders (from lowest baranggay chair to president)? One who makes and promises the most donations or who is a popular actor, etc? What is our attitude towards little things around us that are wrong (like policemen who say they can make things easier for us, jeepney barkers who asks jeepney drivers a share of their income because the drivers are passing through their territory, and PTA fees that are obviously required but are officially claimed to be donations and voluntary, etc.). How do our OFW families value the hard earned money of their parents?

    Last night, I watched a documentary television show which was clearly simply anti-administration but I think not well thought of. To show that the president did not do her job, the reporter highlighted the life of a family with 8 children and living under a bridge. The family simply put the blame on the government for not providing their needs. But the reporter failed to account for the fact that the couple had 8 children despite the fact that they never had any education which means they would have limited job opportunities and limited income. The couple had to give 4 of their children to DSWD (ran by taxpayers money) leaving them with four children to feed. Could their life still be the fault of the government? I don't want to sound as "mata-pobre" because I am not rich myself. But, come on....! It could have been better if the reporter showed the life of a hard working teacher.

    I have decided to tell myself that we cannot solve the problems of our country or the world. We can do only as much. But I share the writer's plea and fervent hope that our countrymen will be able to fulfill their dreams here at home. Although all dreams entail hard work, it would be a nice to have a choice to stay home or leave the country. I hope that when my children decide to leave the country, it would not be like swallowing a bitter pill but because their career move and life plan is to leave the country.

    Please let's do our part and let's vote for the right leaders.



    (Thanks, Giselle!)

  15. My response:

    I am overwhelmed to hear reactions from colleagues at the Pinoy Teachers Network
    about the open letter that I intended to write for Pres. Arroyo. Thank you so much, Giselle and Crisma! Thank you, too, Ma'am Lolly for reminding me that I am part of this virtual group. Hello, Jenny Cheng!

    I wrote the letter in order to make the incumbent government realize that WE are here. The OFW sector is a huge but scattered community of struggling Filipinos. The diaspora did not simply start as an interest, or as an effect of colonial mentality, as others may believe. We left the country to work for our families. For every dollar (or whatever currency) that we earn, there are curses, forms of disrespect, slurs of discrimination, threats, and imminent danger underway that challenge our lives and our morality.

    My intention is not to place Mrs. Arroyo in a compromising situation. She should not step down, as many militant groups urge her to do. It is too late. All she needs, other than preparing for a graceful exit, is to make things a little better for us. What lies ahead, after all, is uncertainty. Who knows, the successor could even be worse than this incumbent government.

    As educated members of the society, it is unfair to simply look at the other side. Let us not forget that the other past presidents (and their officials) have also contributed in building our dignity as a people. The pages of history are a silent witness of the vulnerability of the Filipino people from the hands of our past (and imperfect) presidents.

    The message that I wanted to send through that open letter is for all readers to realize that the few remaining months of the incumbent government should not be spent for nonsense fault-finding. It is a time to reflect upon what we have done that will apparently affect the future of our country.

    Our society has already developed into a leader-centered rather than system-centered society. During election time, we choose according to popularity of the leaders and not according to the interplay of responsibilities shared and assumed by these leaders, and how we can work well with them.

    I hope I have contributed something to your reflection. Most of us will be away in May 2010. For those who can vote, please think about our welfare, and the future of our families, too.

    M. Fernandez


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