BEING in a family that is used to receiving imported products and balikbayan boxes every now and then, since my father is out of the country, I frequently lavish myself with chocolates and imported stuff–from lotions, soaps, clothes, toys to shoes.

Somehow similar to commonly portrayed American culture, I had a taste of what it was like to get everything I wanted except the attention of a parent.

My father started working abroad when I was about two years old. I had no idea why he left us, much less why he would only come back home a year later. I did not even bother asking my mom. I just got used to it. Since then, I only knew about my father through stories she told me. I had very few interactions with him whenever he was home. Surviving without our father’s presence was an everyday struggle for us since we are a small family. We were almost always incomplete during graduations, Christmas, New Year celebrations, and other holidays. It brought both joy and agony. Joy since his absence made me stronger and agony because I technically did not have a father while growing up.

But there are still a handful of perks of being the child of an overseas Filipino worker. Though the perks are usually materialistic in nature, they can somehow distract you from the pain of deprivation of a father’s meaningful presence. I enjoyed looking more elegant and comfortable compared to my friends. But deep inside, I felt ugly and poor compared to them, who enjoyed both their parents’ presence while growing up. I argued with myself frequently that life would be better with him around, but as I grew up, I began to understand why he had to leave and work far.

Reyna Esperanza

There’s also a life lesson to learn about his absence. Unlike other children who grew up to be rebellious without their parents, I learned to value my father’s hard work, because I knew he wanted us to experience comfort. So each time I feel life is unfair, I try putting myself in his shoes. If I’m sad, I just try to imagine what he feels. Being thousands of miles away from home, away from his family, celebrating his birthday alone, weary of pirates whenever he crosses the Suez Canal where Somalia is near—my father braves it all for his family. His circumstances taught me that life is not always easy. We need to grow up and become more mature and understanding of the different demons that other people face.

Our love and respect for our father never diminished, despite his usual absence particularly during the turning points of his children’s lives. It remains intact and untarnished despite the distance between us and his lack of time for us. He is still our father, someone to look up to and someone to thank for everything that we have now.

To my father and to all OFWs, you are my modern day heroes who deserve love and respect.


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