OFW kids greet New Year without Papa

Mar. 05, 2009

Davao Today

DAVAO CITYJai-jai, an eight-month old baby, smiled at my camera. She seemed lighter now from the last time I saw her. Her mother, Marlin Labadia, said its due to her growing teeth.


COMPLETE CHRISTMAS. The whole family pose with Santa Claus at SM Mall Davao during Christmas in 2007.

Jaijais father, Jeremy Labadia, hadnt seen her yet except for the pictures Marlin has been sending him abroad. He had flown to Abu Dhabi a month before Jaijai was born. He signed a contract as a construction worker for two years, so he wont be coming home until March 2010.

For Jai-jai and her three-year old sister Jeannette, this means not seeing their Papa for two more Christmas seasons. For Marlin, 28, its the first time theyre not spending Christmas and New Year together. But not seeing her husband in the next two years could mean a brighter future for them and their family.

Millions of Filipino families celebrated the Yuletide season last year with the marked absence of some of their members who are working overseas.
Ron Lionel Bartolome, regional director of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, said some 3.7 million registered Filipino workersan estimated 20,000 of them from Davao cityleft the country last year for jobs abroad. The figure hasnt accounted yet undocumented workers who left the country.
Among the top OFW destinations last year were the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
The deployment of OFWs worldwide has kept the Philippine economy afloat, earning the country some $13.7 billion worth of remittances from January to October in 2008, according to Labor Secretary Marianito Roque.


PAPA’S NOT HOME FOR CHRISTMAS. Marlin, with her daughters Jai-jai (8-month old) and Jeannette (3-year old) celebrate Christmas without her husband, who is now working in Abu Dhabi.

But Marlin wasnt even aware how her husbands dollar earnings contribute to the economy. She and her kids shared fun and cheers with OFW-returnees and their families in an OWWA- sponsored Christmas party at SM Mall Davao on December 14.

She won from a raffle draw 500 peso-worth of gift certificate which she immediately spent for the older daughters Christmas party the following day. She recalled her previous Christmas with Jerry, when she was still pregnant with Jaijai, and the whole family went shopping in the same shopping mall.

Despite her loneliness, however, Marlin said she could not prevent her husband from working abroad while their children are still young.

Jerry grabbed the chance to work in the Middle East to earn higher pay. He worked as chief cook for the Davao City Pancake House for four years without becoming a regular employee. Marlin expected his current job to lift them from poverty, hence, its worth their temporary separation.

They both dream to have a house and to send the children to a good school.

Marlin and the children spent their Christmas at her parents home in Palanca Village in Matina, celebrating the noche buena with Jerry in their hearts. Someday, when the kids grow up, theyll look forward to a Christmas with Papa. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/davaotoday.com)

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