I was a product of two broken families. It seems cool, having to think how my mother and father used to sleep with two different people that they consider as significant others. That night, however, I’m seeing them hug each other tight, as it was our last night in Dubai, and one must be left behind. I began to think about the fourteen days we’ve spent in such a marvelous city – its huge skyscrapers and well-defined culture; it’s pretty much the ideal tourist place if you think about it. But no, I refuse to be a tourist tonight, as I’ve just realized how hard it was to be alone – and I do not only speak for my beloved dad, but the countless others in dispersion, not only in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, or even the Middle East, but even those around the world.
I could still remember how that day was an emotional pit stop in our journey in the said city. From eating at buffet breakfasts to seeking touristy places, I was surprised to know that that final day, we’ll be taking the road-less traveled: conquering the city in the footsteps of an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW).
As we were walking towards the metro station, I felt compelled to think about how still beautiful the city was (for its successful experimentation) – but as I was at the peak of my enjoyment, my dad started explaining our route and where we were bound: his office. For some reason, he told me that going to his office required him to ride two trains and two buses everday. Not only that, he shared about the usual commuter traffic, hassle rush hour, and the distinct aroma of Dubai. I laughed hard while everyone in the train looked at me – I thought it was unforgettable and borderline funny and rude.
After at least an hour of travelling, we finally arrived in his big office. We were happily greeted by my dad’s officemates and I myself was happy to know how much he was treated with sincerity and companionship even though he was a Filipino – as there were seemingly bad cases for our fellow kabayans. My dad’s boss talked to me for quite a while, and he told me about the hard work and diligence of my dad as a co-worker. Not only that, he also said that my dad was easy to work with, finishes the job with utmost quality, and does it all with a smile. After that conversation, I have never been so proud of my dad.
Afterwards, the rest of the day simply allowed us to go outside of our comfort zones – we ate in a local restaurant that was a favorite of OFWs for their cheap and delicious meals, opened our rotting social media accounts in a sketchy computer shop that meant connections for the country we missed that time, and more so rode an unregistered taxi service brought about by fellow Filipinos – even encountering a sincere line from the taxi driver: “This is what keeps me and my family back home alive.”
For the most part, these were just some of the experiences I had to internalize, knowing how well our lives were back at home. Up until now, I can’t help but wonder about the same thought-provoking questions: why is my dad away in a far place? Why should he be away from the Motherland? More importantly, I began to wonder about the hundred thousand OFWs dispersed around the world. What stories could they have? How are they abroad? Are they having equally good experiences, or negative ones? Being that skinny 14-year-old boy I was then, I felt passionately strong for once. I sort of immediately wanted to work in an NGO or the government to help the plight of these OFWs – especially for those who have no choice and are treated badly.
However, those were some idealistically intended imaginations – and so long were my reflections that I actually haven’t kept up well with the time. The night closed with my deep thoughts and hopes and I began to love my dad even more. I saw him kiss my mom, and being the awkward person that I am, I willingly agreed. No one deserves to be more than loved tonight than my dad – and I was content.
The following day, I bid goodbye to my dad and hugged him tightly with crying eyes. It finally happened: the moment I appreciated a once not-so-functioning dad. It was a feeling I’ll never want to get rid off – as if I’ve connected myself and felt his caressing love more than ever. I was thinking of all his sacrifices, and while I wasn’t glad he needed to sacrifice, I’m safe with the idea that what he’s doing is for our family, and all of it are not in vain. That night, I boarded the bus (as our flight was in Abu Dhabi), and never wanted to look back. But I did, and caught sight of my dad as he walked back towards the usual bus stop going home. I could tell he’ll be having a few tough nights coping up, but I guess he’s not alone – as I missed him the moment I saw him.
Boarding in the bus, the foreigner at my back asked if he was my dad, and I responded with a yes. You must be so proud of him, he replied. I excitingly (but still emotional) answered another yes, and thought to myself: and also to the thousands around the globe who constantly work hard for each of their families.
Fast-forward to around twelve-hours later, I’m happy to be on the plane back home – but I thought this trip is not yet far over with its surprises. That same flight, as our plane’s wheels landed on the ground, groups of OFWs clapped their hands and cried in jubilation about how we are all finally home. Everything that followed seemingly inspired me as kababayans from my row talked about their familiar experiences in distance places. Truly, it was a different kind of bayanihan spirit I’ll never forget – and as I walked out of the plane, I smiled because I knew how deeply loved this country is and how energetic the arrivals area would be (later).
Up to this day, I continue to think of that trip as my remembrance and challenge of being for the other. For many times that I have seen and acknowledged the diligence, patience, and love of our kababayans abroad, I have felt that urge to be a better Filipino citizen and leader whose aim is to serve the people and the Motherland.
Truly that in our increasingly complex society, the impediments toward being for the other can be as small and large as we imagine it to be. However, after understanding what it truly means to care and recognize the other‘s presence – it is undeniable that doing small things (such as changing how we view life and respond towards crisis) is equally just as affirming and impactful as the big things we hope to achieve in the future.
From this then, my hope, as I end and wrap this course on Philosophy, is to internalize and make sense of being for the other – to realize a vision and a society (from a small classroom down to the world) that everyone has his/her own share, and that doing and undoing equally makes impact to the other.
Similarly, I hope my fellow Ateneans, who’ve also immersed and engaged the course on Philosophy, would take time to think about the essence of being human – which also corresponds to a pursuit of being for the other (and serve the face wherever it may lead them).
PS: Mabuhay ang ating mga manggagawa! Mabuhay ang mga OFWs!