Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Some believe that it isn't necessarily due to exhaustion from too much play when a child sits quietly for a lengthy period; more often than not, he's simply waiting for the next fun thing to do. I'm truly uncertain where children draw their energy from because their stamina can sometimes equal those of marathon runners whenever engaged in some exciting activity.

In one neighborhood in Quiapo about a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised when a child of five told me that she wasn't waiting for her playmates as she sat patiently in front of their house. She was instead waiting for her mommy to come home from the office.

When I told her that she had a long wait ahead of her since it was only eleven in the morning, her grandmother leaned over and whispered that the child's mother is a domestic worker in Dubai while the father is a jeepney driver. They told the child that her mother was just in the office so as to cushion the harsh reality of her mother having gone to a far away land for a very long time.

What astonished me even more was when the grandmother added that many children in the neighborhood are being raised by single parents or by grandparents because many residents are OFWs (mostly contract workers in the Middle East or seamen). She also mentioned that students do not make up the largest group of tenants or bed space boarders in the area but seamen who come from the provinces but maintain a room or bed space in Quiapo even if away for most times.

In the barber shop in the neighborhood I once went to, I was told by the barber that their customers are mainly seamen who are about to leave for another assignment or those who've just returned home. And sure enough, while I was getting a haircut, I was treated to a chatter of news with an international mix from the seamen customers.

What an intriguing neighborhood, I thought -- although looking old and comprised of many old houses, with some left to decay -- its people harbor an international bent, and most certainly their children as well.

* * *

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posted by Señor Enrique at 7:21 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

At one time, I was lured to apply for a teaching job abroad too. I was already at the POEA, ready to file my credentials. But then, my husband who was with me, just before my number was called, pulled me and said "let's go home."

Years after, I often reflect on that moment with gratitude. I'm just so glad I didn't leave.

This is a poignant post, Eric. I just wish the grandmother would tell the child the truth. I believe it would be in knowing the truth that would make her understand the real situation and in the end, it would somehow help assuage her longing for her mother.

June 04, 2008 9:02 AM  

Blogger Lola said...

Isn’t that the most pitiful thing you have ever heard – this poor child waiting for her mother? That almost broke my heart. I hope the Lola and the father gives her enough love to compensate for the absence of the mother.

June 04, 2008 9:51 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I understand why they have to tell the child where her mom is. But we exactly told the same to my niece about his lolo's whereabout but not because my papa has to work abroad but because he died.

But right now she understands now where her lolo is.

Nowadays, a lot of parents choose to work abroad because our economy is really bad. Everything here now is expensive.

June 04, 2008 9:57 AM  

Blogger Unknown said...

another great article senor. i love articles like this. very real and the community that you've visited is quite unique since it comprises the seamen.

my father once worked in Saudi but we didn't feel that sad because i get to receive new toys, new shoes, lots of bullcaps and other things. and when he gets home we make sure we have enough time and enough activities to cover the years we've been away from one another.

June 04, 2008 11:25 AM  

Blogger JayAshKal said...

I guess all well and good if parents can provide the financial needs of these children. How about the lost time between parent and children? That bond and time spent that you can't recover and irreversibly lost forever.

I would want to know in; in the decades to come, what effect 9good or bad) has come out of these experiences.

I remember my Lolo going home from an overseas work in Vietienne, Laos in the mid 60's. All my memory of him was in the airport, me and my cousins playing on the escalators. We manage to reconnect when he finally retired. But I would have loved to spent more time with him and get to know him better.


June 04, 2008 2:10 PM  

Blogger reyd said...

With so many Pinoy OFWs nowadays, I can imagine how many young children those parents have to leave behind for their family’s future. Indeed it's a big sacrifice on both sides and your article brought a picture of a child longing for a parent to return and be on her side.
Thanks to new technologies now, when we were sent overseas, we have the luxury of PC-Cam and satellite phones to get in touch with our love ones.
Pero, iba pa rin yung kapiling mo ang mahal mo sa buhay sa lahat ng oras.
When my kid was about 4 years old, I was overseas for half a year, long-distance phone is the only way to talk to them. Pag balik ko, hindi na ako kilala... LOL..
It took her a few days to get acquianted with me and because of the piggyback ride that she always enjoy at that age, that made it easy.

For sure, may epekto sa paglaki ng mga bata ang mga naiwanan ng mga magulang na OFW. Di bale na yung mga teens or yung may isip na, alam na nila marahil ang dahilan ng pag alis ng kanilang magulang para mag hanapbuhay.
You'll find most of those teens of OFWs enjoying the hard earned money of their parents at the malls. :D
Masakit makita ang mga pangyayari sa buhay ng tao, but that's reality we can only wish that we can help all of them including ourselves.

June 04, 2008 2:38 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

Children of OFW’s are forever longing for their parents’ embrace. And parents who work away from their children are always full of guilt for leaving their kids behind. My cousin, a seaman, cried when his 8-month old daughter refused to be held by him. The baby didn’t recognize him, and it broke his heart. Sometimes, grown-up children of OFW’s treat their parents like strangers. There’s just no easy way to earn a living away from home when you have kids. Let’s hope the little girl you encountered would be lavished with love by her father and lola, and would appreciate the sacrifices made by her mother.
Great post, Eric.

June 04, 2008 3:28 PM  

Blogger Aura said...

Stories like this always touches my heart.Reminds me of my previous life when i also left my children to work abroad.The only difference was that i talked to my kids beforehand to explain the reason why i have to leave and they understood at their tender age.

The mom and grandmother should have told the truth to that poor child...

June 04, 2008 5:06 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What will happen when grows up carrying a burden of abandonment and loneliness?
How would she handle the baggage that would not unload?
Would this form of rejection and longing haunt her the rest of her life?
What about the feeling of love and security coming from the most trusted and loved Mother?

June 04, 2008 5:56 PM  

Blogger EM said...

I don't think I can live far away from my children and I thank God for not giving me such a difficult challenge. My heart goes out to these kids who are away from their mothers. Too young to understand and to young to make a say. You made me cry Eric... but it also made me say a prayer for these little angels.


I can't seem to get my comment in again. i made several tries, sorry if i flood your inbox.

June 04, 2008 8:39 PM  

Blogger Video 48 said...

Great shot of the child, Eric! The photo itself speaks a thousand words.

June 04, 2008 10:01 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was so surprised to meet the new addition to our parish church in carroll gardens brooklyn (new york) , a gentrifying old italian-american neighborhood. he's a priest hired all the way from the philippines to minister to the filipino seamen whose ships would dock at the red hook piers which is less than a mile from the parish church. he hardly says any masses at the church as the churchgoers (old-timers) have a preference for the italian speaking priest but he gets to say mass in every container ship that docks at red hook! red hook, by the way, is prime real estate in new york and imelda is rumored to have owned vast tracks of land in the area.

last saturday, i went to the red hook pier where a cruise ship was docked and as i was watching the workers of the cruise ship work the ropes, i noticed the filipino workers cheerily waving at the onlookers. i can't imagine how hard it must be to toil on foreign shores after leaving everyone behind.. the sight of them being so "filipino" in new york tugged my heartstrings a bit.

June 05, 2008 4:47 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

You were fortunate to have been given a choice, Rhoda, unlike many of our compatriots who had no other choice but seek better employment abroad.

I've also noticed the astonishing numbers of failed marriages since this massive OFW phenomenon, as well as teen pregnancies in OFW households.

I'm sure that in due time, the grandmother will find a way to make the little girl understand her mother's decision to go abroad.

June 05, 2008 6:22 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I remember when our entire household seemed so sad and empty when my mother went to Bicol for a week's vacation to visit with her father and siblings, Pat. My father was so lonely, too.

I can't imagine what's it like for a little child not to see her mom for more than a year :(

Grandmothers are most often very loving and caring -- to a fault ... hehehe ... so I'm sure the little girl wouldn't feel so lonesome.

June 05, 2008 6:26 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's right, Equilibrium. For many families, there's no better alternative than one of the parents to seek employment abroad.

I guess, the family elders would know best how to tell a child about a certain sudden absence of a family member.

June 05, 2008 6:29 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

But I'm sure donG, the first time your father left, there was much sadness, too, in the family. However, in due time, everyone adjusts accordingly :)

I'm sure all those goodies added much fun during his homecoming, eh? Hehehe!

June 05, 2008 6:31 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

A significant point you raised, Mario. Indeed, there's a price to pay as well in such situations. However, many of our countrymen are left without no other choice :(

June 05, 2008 6:34 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I wouldn't be surprised at all, Reyd, if our OFWs' dollars are the ones mainly supporting all these malls in the country. Serious!

Ayon na nga, kahit na maraming kalungkutan, wala tayong magagawa kundi maghanapbuhay sa abroad. At ang ating mga munting anak kung minsan ay nalilimutan na din tayo :(

June 05, 2008 6:38 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

This little girl, Luna, was merely one of the many children growing up in the neighborhood with only a single parent or grandparents looking after them.

I should also mention that I've met some kids who are really striving to do very well in school. To them, it's a way to demonstrate their appreciation for their parents' sacrifices mainly to provide them a better future despite having to go abroad to earn their income.

June 05, 2008 6:42 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm sure in due time, Aura, the grandmother will find the appropriate time and manner to tell the little girl the truth behind her mother's long absence. However done, I'm sure it'll still be sad for the girl. But kids are resilient and will eventually heal.

Hirap talaga kung minsan ...

June 05, 2008 6:44 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Those are definitely valid questions, Anonymous, and worth some serious study by our socio-psychologists. Hopefully, such studies would yield certain measures in terms of making it less traumatic for kids who are being left behind.

June 05, 2008 6:48 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Sorry to have made you cry with this post, EM. I, too, am saddened whenever I meet some kids whose parents are away in some foreign country for long periods of time. And this may be why I just had to post it -- a not much talked about sadness that permeates in our society.

Yes, lucky are those who don't ever have to leave the country to create a better future for their families.

There seems to be a bug in this Blogger comment box, EM. I experieince the same in some fellow bloggers' sites :(

June 05, 2008 6:53 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thank you very much, Simon :)

June 05, 2008 6:57 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I know a couple who ran a small Pinoy store in Manhattan. Some of their customers were Pinoy seamen whom I got to meet some. Despite the hard work and homesickness they had to contend with, they remain to have a jovial disposition. Admirable folks, talaga :)

Not much familiar with Red Hook but isn't there a US Navy yard there, too?

I know Carroll Gardens is a charming section of Brooklyn with lovely brownstones. I once almost bought a coop apartment in Park Slope just as it started going through a gentrification process, but in the end, I opted to remain in Manhattan.

Incidentally, the promenade on the Brooklyn side that overlooks the piers and Brooklyn Bridge against the Manhattan skyline was a favorite spot for us to watch the sunset. My friends and I used to bike out to Brooklyn Heights from Manhattan to do just that during the summer months.

By the way, Anonymous, the fiction I wrote, "Weeping Willow" was set against this Brooklyn backdrop :)


June 05, 2008 7:12 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i've actually read the "weeping willow" and really liked it. my favorite is the one about the couple whose son became a successful video game designer and ended up owning a coop in brooklyn heights! that was a lovely piece.

you're right, there's a navy yard in red hook but it's no longer operational. the area has become popular with artists and this resulted in prices going up. nowadays, you would find fancy-schmancy zagat rated restaurants, artist studios and galleries in the area and the fairway market. hard to believe considering that the projects in red hook were notorious for supplying most of the drugs in new york not too long ago.

park slope real estate is now more expensive than some parts of manhattan like the upper far east side ( york and first ave.) and gramercy park. although i like the progressive vibe of the area, the stroller gridlock has become unbearable and this is the reason why i would not recommend the area to anyone who is single. damn those uws transplants!

and yes, the view from the promenade is hard to beat. we moved to brooklyn three years ago and i still don't get tired of looking at the skyline and the bridge. have your tried the famous ice cream shop near the river cafe?


June 05, 2008 10:41 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

I still recall when the first batch of OFWs went to father was among them. The most poignant picture I still have in my mind's eye was a man embracing his children and wife good-bye then as he was squatting, he looked long and hard at the sampaguita lei given to him as going-away token.

There was also a time when we had to send off our father on another instance when I saw some very young girls (maybe 15 or 16) dressed in provincial lacey dresses (loud colors na pang santacruzan baga) off to enplane. They were too new to city life but nevertheless hied off abroad. My auntie said they might be mail-order brides.

Such is the diaspora of the Filipino soul...and until now, everyone wants to migrate more than ever.

June 05, 2008 6:32 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Senor! Just an observation, in the Philippine Constitution Article II (Declaration of Principles and State Policies)

Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.

In pure contrast to this provision in the constitution, and in reality, based on POEA's Copendium of Overseas Employment Statistics 2006, 1,221,417 left the country to seek greener pasture. An increase of 1.4% from the year 2005 and will continue its upward trend for the years to come. OFW remitted $12 billion last year resuscitating the ailing economy.

In the meantime, how many "child who would patiently sit in front of their house for her mommy to come from the office".

June 05, 2008 9:02 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

The painful part is yet to come ... when the OFW-parent returns home, he/she would have become a stranger to their own children.

I feel sorry for both parties.

June 06, 2008 1:28 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I absolutely had no idea that Red Hook has been transformed into another artist enclave; thought it was in mainly in Williamsburg. at least, while I was there last. Awesome! Wish the same would happen in Manila's Quiapo district.

I had a feeling that Park Slope was bound to be a pretty nice neighborhood. Btw, I lived for many years in Yorkville -- 77th Street between First and York.

Don't remember the ice cream shop but had a friend who ran a saloon near the river cafe -- frequented by the nearby docks' 'bosses' -- across the street from an old warehouse that was converted into living lofts.

When I think of Brooklyn, Junior's cheese cake comes immediately to mind!

I bet you watched the fireworks during the Brooklyn Bridge birthday celebration :)

Thank you very much for the updates, Gemma -- you make me miss my old hometown.

June 06, 2008 8:42 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Mail order brides being shipped off to foreign lands? Sad, Bernadette.

Wish I had documented those scenes you had described, especially that man and his children.

You're right, the desire to migrate is greater than ever.

June 06, 2008 8:48 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And its the $12 billion of OFW remittances that keep all those malls in Metro Manila afloat. It's staggering, really!

Many thanks for sharing with us these information, Mandaragat.

This is 'waiting child issue' will haunt us for a long time.

June 06, 2008 8:51 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

And let's not forget those Pinoys ready to retire and go back home but unable to because they didn't want to leave behind their kids who had become too westernized and feel no interest or love for the Philippines.

That's tragic, I think.

June 06, 2008 8:59 AM  

Blogger mgaputonimimi said...

"sometimes equal those of marathon runners"

so true...

June 07, 2008 1:01 AM  

Blogger  gmirage said...

I have the same question too, where do kids get all the energy and imagine I have three, the eldest doesnt want to have a nap at noon unlike how I was as a kid.

It is very difficult for someone to be left behind always waiting for their special person to come back. I remember a roommate in college who was finishing her graduate studies while her daughter was left in Palawan, she would call often and cry at times and at one time I heard her told the other person on the other line not to tell the child she'd be coming home after a 1 night sleep, especially because the kid can count I wonder how sad it could be for those who cannot call their kids regularly because of the expense.

Telling the kids the truth is better than making them wait.

Great photo, full of emotion!

June 07, 2008 5:32 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice story... i think filipinos are born to be migrants. i am product of an ofw family and i was raised by mom single-handedly during those years when my papa was deployed abroad.

June 07, 2008 7:31 AM  

Blogger undoy said...

diaspora keeps the heart grow fonder, and "more creative"... i feel that the grandmom just did her job. i think it's the best truth that the kid should hear of. maybe the granny has reasons why. all that we can do is hope for the immediate family who are with the kid to somehow "compensate" for the lack.

this has been a norm all the way back to our prehistory/ies, and it does portray the "wandering" nature of our "race".

touching slice of life sir. :P

June 10, 2008 2:46 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malungkot nga na yung bata ay nakakaawang naghihintay sa kanyang ina; pero hindi kaya mas nakaka-awa na silang mag-ina ay laging magkasama pero walang makain at wala magandang kinabukasan? One or both of them have to make a sacrifice. Nothing comes easy in life. If truth be said, I pity the mother more than the child because a child is more emotionally resilient.

June 10, 2008 4:24 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

good post Eric. Sometimes we fail to understand the emotional toll of young children growing up with the absence a mother or a father. THese people take it with a lot of courage and perseverance - for the sake of survival. Sadly, they don't have much choice :(

June 10, 2008 9:43 AM  

Blogger Elson said...

My article on Andres Bonifacio was published yesterday in Mindanao Goldstar Daily. It contains a quotation from your page ( without your permission. I'm sorry. I was in a hurry and couldn't find your email address. It's only now, examining your site in detail, that I see this comment form. Please tell me your email address so I can send you the article for comment. Let me know also your full name. This message is not interested for publication in your blog, but a request to have your name so I can make a proper reference. I will submit my article in Mindanews. Please reply to

June 10, 2008 11:31 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Isn't it something, Mimi? Kids don't seem to ever run out of energy :)

June 11, 2008 6:53 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Thanks Mirage2g!

It's truly difficult whenever members of a family have to leave especially on long periods of time. Children are often bewildered, though they seem as if they understood.

I agree with you -- it's oftentimes better to be truthful to a child and be very gentle about it.

June 11, 2008 6:56 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That can be true, Mari -- that Filipinos have an adventurous spirit! Lucky are those whose OFW parents are able to come home once a year.

June 11, 2008 6:58 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That's a good point, Undoy -- the immediate members of a family unit are oftentimes more cognizant of the best way to explain to a child about a parent's absence. But I'm sure as times passes, the child is gently told of the real reason.

Thank you!

June 11, 2008 7:01 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Yes, bertN -- for the most part it's a matter of sacrifice so as to provide the family a much brighter future.

I remember a friend in New York who kept sending his family back home balikbayan boxes until the wife finally begged him to stop because they had run out of closet space for all those stuff they were receiving from the States ... hehehe. But I guess it was my friend's way of expressing his loving thoughts on his family.

June 11, 2008 7:04 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Isn't it ironic, BW? -- that it's the love for one's family that sometimes become the cause of a long-term absence from home.

By the way, a recent report indicates that OFW dollar remittances amount to US$12 billion a year -- amazing!

June 11, 2008 7:07 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Elson,

Thank you very much! I just sent you an email.

Looking forward to reading your article :)

June 11, 2008 7:09 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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