Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'll drink a toast to you - OFW


I am sure you have not heard of it. For the lowly Indio, it stands for Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW). These are Filipinos who decided to leave their homeland to work for a living somewhere in the world. They are all over the world, that is literally true, so much so that some sociologists are dubbing this the Filipino Diaspora. You might find it a contradiction in terms because psychologically, the Filipino is deeply entrenched in his love for his native land. The Indios are enigmatic, they are superb in assimilation, they can absorb, they can adopt, they can blend, they can talk the way you do with accent, intonation and all, but when you rip their chests, and take a look at their hearts, you will see their hearts beating love for their native land. It is the place the Indio loves and dreams about but could not live in nor have it. His body may be somewhere but his mind is where he was born. So he works, and saves and sends money to P.I. It is known that they, on the average, send US $8B to the P. I. If not for the OFW, the country would have gone down the toilet already (i.e to the dogs).

Name a country and I am sure there is an OFW there. They are in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea even as far as Finland. In the Middle East they are in - Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel. Some of them are managers, engineers, laborers, maids, cooks, or drivers; you name a profession, an OFW covers that.

Each Christmas time, the OFWs heart goes through a wrenching agony of loneliness; for you see to the Indio, the family is everything. It is for the family that is why they have become OFWs in the first place! They leave for the sake of providing something better for their families. They hope that in their sacrifices something good might come, not for them, but for their moms, dads, brother, sister or their children. It is their hope that something good for the future may come, and we know, hope is quite a dangerous thing. The Indio finds his identity through his family. Ask them what they wish for in life and they will say "oh, I just want an intact family". That is their hope.

I am sure this Christmas eve, they will spend the night with their Karaokes belting out Barry Manilow's songs (now there is a guy who is cute and charming, if you are like that, you can get away with anything in P.I.) and the Indio Christmas carols. Then they lay their head to sleep with tears in their eyes as they muse to themselves -- here you are a care giver in Israel, and you are taking care of someone else's grandma or grandpa. Here you are rendering service to elders who are not your own. The domestic helper in Singapore cries herself to sleep, it is Christmas after all, and here you are nursing, feeding, caring for someone else's baby while you have been there now for 6 years away from your very own child who has grown up without your care, oblivious of what it would be like to have your arms surround her. Christmas, a time spent for the family, what is meant to give joy, suddenly and in the end, brings sadness. It is not easy being poor, and so no wonder you have a temporal concept of being "saved".

I like you to know OFW, I respect you.

I will mention a prayer for you in our noche buena and drink a toast too, to you my OFW. For I want you to know, I understand. But not I alone, but your Lord Jesus understands too. Look at your suffering and sacrifice, and then in His, and know that yours is only a pattern of the real sacrifice - that one of Christ - he was sent outside the gate, the scape goat, the fall guy - He too was an "OFW".


Past Elder said...

What a beautiful and moving post!

I have more to say, but that will have to wait until it isn't so bloody late.

For right now I'll savour the illumination on the OFW and Jesus, particularly after this trying day.

Thanks, Brother. Muchas gracias, hermano.

LPC said...

de nada mi hermano, sleep well in the Lord's arms.


Doorman-Priest said...

We need more of this at this time of year and less of the schmalzy crud.

Very apposite. Thank you.

LPC said...


The love of Jesus warm your soul this Christmas.

Weewh! I had to go to the dictionary for those words. We do not use the Queen's English here, here in Aussieland we only use 800 English words and I did not take a lot in my bag this morning (LOL)....

I am interested in your Christmas reflections too.


Past Elder said...

I think I mentioned that when I was a kid there were many Filipinos, mostly women, who came to work as nurses and medical techinicians. As they were Catholic, like myself, we came to know a lot of them, though you are right, I never heard the expression OFW.

The proper word was Filipino, though my Spanish side seems to think that the word now means precisely its opposite originally in Spanish, which meant a person of Spanish ancestry born not in Spain but the islands.

Is that right? If so, it would mirror the social stratification here in the Americas. Spanish from Spain on top, Spanish ancestry born in the colonies next, Spanish and indigenous mixed next, and indigenous at the bottom of the heap. Actually, here in the former English colonies something like that happened too -- with English on top, followed by English descended, then everyone else, except Africans and indigenous at the bottom.

Sort of a hoot that the Spanish-American War, though most Americans think of it in connexion with Cuba, which hardly any know was once eyed as a slave state to be added to balance the free states, actually was the big factor for Filipinos and Puerto Ricans alike in terms of the American experience.

Ibero-American relations have come a long, long way. I think of the presence of representatives from former colonies at la boda real of Felipe and Letizia, or the welcome accorded Felipe at the inaguration of President Morales in Bolivia, the first indigenous head of state in South America. I, BTW, am a huge fan of Felipe and his great dad Juan Carlos, as well as Queen Sofia and Letizia. I watched la boda real on Univision, a Latin channel, thinking among other things I'm getting on, when I was in Madrid Franco was still in power and we didn't have the king back!

But again, what a great post, and connexion between the nature of the OFW and Jesus in the flesh is magnificent and I thank you for bringing this to my awareness.

LPC said...

Hi P.E.

Very correct observation indeed on the names. In actuality as you suspected P.E. the word Filipino was meant to be given to the Spaniards born in the Philippines, we were not called that originally, only later did that name stuck on us. We were Indios for a while.

Now a section of these Spaniards born in P. I. were called Illustrados. These folk were sent to Europe to study and comeback to P.I. To their redeeming credit, they were the ones who taught the Indios that they should stop being slaves to Mother Spain when they returned and that we should start asserting our freedom. It was these Illustrados who wrote materials, novels, etc that stirred the heart of the Indio to seek independence. The Illustrados were proud that they were born in the Philippines and considered P.I. their homeland though their ancestors where not natives. They were whites or mixed blood, we call "mestizos".

My mom and my wife are one of these of "mestizo" heritage. Our youngest sibling , my sister is the only one who got something from my mom (I am the eldest). When she was younger she was quite white and her hair was light brown and as tall as I,

Well you know the Filipinos have a saying - everyone in this world is brown, some are dark brown (the blacks), some are light brown (the whites), and some are just right (meaning us) ;-)

To a good extent the poor have nothing to be ashamed of, because the Lord when he came did not choose to identify with the rich and noble but he became one with the poor and lowly, he identified with them rather than the others. He was like them.

Odd isn't it at times, our Lord and God was a lowly carpenter. He is always counter intuitive.

Thanks too and God bless you, tu hermano,


Past Elder said...

I'm pretty light brown, by Filipino definition! Then again, being of English descent, what else would I be?

There must be a lot of ethnic Chinese there. My second favourite Chinese restaurant here is run by Filipinos who are Chinese ethnicity, and a friend of mine is married to one (Filipino ethnic Chinese, not the restaurant staff!).

In one of the notes in the Hertz Chumash, rabbi states that while the world is full of myths of chosen people, none of them are made up of stories of being slaves and continual faithlessness. Likewise, there's no lack of stories of gods having human kids etc, but none of them happen in the context of being born to the working class, in a stable for animals and put in a feeding trough (what a manger actually is!) for a crib.

So our skin colour, ethnicity, race, sex, position, parentage, ancestry, money, whatever, all the things on the basis of which we humans find ourselves superior or inferior to each other, count for absolutely nothing before God any more than our actions as a source of merit. Wir sind alle Bettler -- we are all beggars, saved by one who became a beggar like us.

As a side note, it always makes me chuckle to see Jesus in art looking rather European rather than Middle Eastern!

Past Elder said...

And speaking of toasts, my favourite Spanish one is the classic "Salud, pesetas, y amor", which in the Americas is usually modified to "Salud, dinero, y amor", the peseta being the unit of currency in Spain.

Or was! Wonder if they went to dinero or say Salud, Euros y Amor! What version is used in the P.I.? I'll include it this year. Hey, there's another parallel -- PR and PI! Stop me before I click over to Schuetz' blog and post some more!

LPC said...


The Lord is amazing. He was born and laid on a wooden trough then laid and died on a wooden Cross.

Wir sind alle Bettler -- folk with theology of glory got tired of me using Luther's words --- we are beggars, this is true, as my call out signature. One of the guys, frustrated of me quoting this (because to them you see we no longer need to beg for mercy...) said that next time I pioneer a church, I might as well call it Beggars Lutheran Church.

We use "pesos" but hey, if you have love and money, need you ask for anything else?

My pastor and I were going to a meeting and I mentioned your mentioning the "infamous" line from our friend - he laughed so loud, he got a great chuckle.

God bless you Dr. Terry.

PS. Remember to blog on that Nietsche guy, ok?

Past Elder said...

I just thought of this -- you might like to know that my kids have a nice consistent slightly bronze tinge to them, as opposed to the pale, blotchy English hue I have.

That is because their mother was primarily German but mixed with Cherokee in descent. While there are many things I came to know and love about her, I will admit that the starting point was thinking she was a complete and total babe worth risking what I took to be the certainty of rejection to ask out!

So I have mestizo kids!

LPC said...

Hi P.E.

Speaking of the two boys, they are in they are just entering pre-teen years no?

You must miss Nancy very much, raising two boys without a wife is quite a challenge, but one day they will be proud of you and you proud of them. Mestizos have a bit of an advantage, they become more culturally sensitive than the rest.

Feliz Navidad, P. E. and the kids, the missus and my pastor know you already and we wish you GOD's comfort in this difficult time.


Past Elder said...

The boys are eleven and ten. The older one has a little more of the bronze than the younger, but the younger has more of her facial features than the older. Interesting what you get when you mix up English, German and Cherokee! They don't speak any Spanish though, but then again neither would I if the Puerto Rican contingent at university hadn't adopted me -- they seemed to think I think more like they do than Anglos and thought I should hang with them, which I did.

In recent years, Christmas Eve has taken on an additional significance. When Nancy and I first met, one of the many things that drew us to-gether was that each of us had taken a step we didn't want to but saw as impossible not to do -- leave the church of our youth due to changes in its identity, she with LCMS and me with RC. We were married LCMS, and as children neared wanted not to inflict our religious burn outs on them, which ended with us resolving things as Lutherans in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). As my faith progressed, and this is after she was gone, I was less and less happy in WELS even though I was an elder by then, and began to look around, which by now included the blogoshpere, wherein I noticed that Lutherans like myself seemed to be mainly in LCMS (along with many who aren't!)

So one Christmas Eve, back from the family thing at Grandma's (Nancy's mom, or perhaps I should say mum) I thought why not make this 11pm service at the LCMS parish down the street I had known of for years and which was the runner up when we contacted parishes years before. We went. It isn't the First Mass of Christmas, but rather someething the youth group does every year, where the Luke narrative is read in sections, with a skit they write and a relevant hymn after each section, concluding with Silent Night by candlelight.

And for this Red Hymnal or be damned blowed in the glass confessional guy, it's just fine! (I don't know what service books the LCA uses, but the "Red Hymnal", The Lutheran Hymnal, is much loved among confessional types here.) We now belong to this LCMS parish, joined last year!

The whole widower dad thing is amazing, and convinces me more than anything that faith really is the gift of the Holy Spirit. I have some experience at renouncing things, as you know, and knowing me there would be nothing more characteristically me than, being barely a year Lutheran, thinking this wife dying and left with two babies thing is the last insult I'm going to take from a God who doesn't even exist, and renounce the whole deal.

Yet I never was tempted to do that! This amazes me. I know me, have been me for a while now, sinning and falling short of the glory of God is what I do best, and I can tell you I am absolutely incapable of faith myself, so it has to have come from somewhere else, exactly where our pastors tell us it comes from!

Lucian and I are having a little discussion on Schuetz' blog while he is away, which will perhaps entertain that readership since here you are infamous and now apparently he and I are regarded as semi-lucid at best!

Pero muchas gracias otra vez, y Feliz Navidad a ustedes tambien!

LPC said...


Crikey, I just wondered off there and goodness, there I found a blog about you if you where the anti-Christ. We are the infamous.

I know Lucian, he an I had a fascinating interchange once in one Calvinist blog The point they miss is that precisely what you saw in the two Romanisms is the fact that Sedevecantist are around. I blogged regarding your quote here........

PS. BLessings to you and the boys.