In an alternate universe, parents get to earn enough where they live and get to spend a third of their day with their kids.
But life in the Philippines is not the same for everyone, and while our family were doing well in a modest rented townhouse, my three brothers and I were successively graduating from high school and my parents were daunted by the looming costs of college education.
Without much hassle, my father was able to find a job in the Middle East and before we knew it, we were a tearful brunch bidding our father goodbye.
And so for the last decade, I had been a pseudo fatherless, young professional, making it out into the world, I wonder if life would’ve been different if my father didn’t need to spend the last ten years of his life without us, his family.
An OFW’s family’s life is like a peso bonanza when Papa’s remittance would be deposited in Mama’s passbook account. In the span of three months, we changed our old CRT TV into a state of the art LCD TV, my brother and I bought a van for the family and our family each had new mobile phones.
Soon enough, our lifestyle had bloated into a life we didn’t know before, back when my Papa was a chef at a nearby hotel. Mama dragged us to the mall every Sunday after church and would have us help her lug around her latest ‘acquisitions.’ The latest models of appliances, video game consoles and cars suddenly filled our newly built two-story home. By the seventh year, I had been so used to my family’s extravagant lifestyle that I hardly remember the life we had when our version of Sunday evenings was when Mama and Papa would jointly cook kare-kare for all of us and I would concoct my famous leche flan for dessert. Life was simple back then but experiencing lavish things was also amazing.
And then it happened. My father was brought back to the country. He had suffered a minor stroke and had to recuperate for a few months to get clearance to work again. For five months, Papa was in and out of the hospital, with us taking turns in accompanying my Mama and him to the hospital. Because we didn’t see it coming, we had to sell my brothers’ gaming consoles, three of our TV sets, and Mama’s jewelries.
Eventually, Papa had been able to go back to his job overseas but not without being disappointed in all of us. Without going into full detail, my Papa was able to send us millions of pesos in remittances in the span of those years and all we had to show for were the latest models of TV sets and other things that couldn’t pay for his hospital bills. It was an awakening that was too painful to stomach because I, knowing that we could’ve saved all those money instead of spending copious amounts of money right and left.
Today, we’re a little more mindful of where we spend Papa’s padala. Mama and I carefully pore over our household’s needs instead of thinking of going shopping immediately after we get a remittance. If we have extra, we now think long and hard if what we want to spend on is truly a need, or just a whim. Paying off our debts is also another priority. Most of all, saving and putting money away has now become a must-do rather than an afterthought when we have extra.