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By Jeric G. Contreras

THEY SAY, WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES you stronger. This is true of trials come to test one’s strength and faith. I faced what I now consider the toughest part of my life as a son of OFW parents last year.

Here’s the story of my family.

My parents are both OFWs. I was grade four in a public elementary school when my mother, Marina, left our family to work in Japan. During that time, my father Bert, who also worked as a carpenter there, unexpectedly came home after suffering a fracture on his knee from a fire accident in the province of Chiba, Japan.

My mother immediately took the big risk of working there even without a working visa. She needed to go despite her reservations about leaving us; besides, we were four children in the family who needed to study. She left us hoping that her efforts abroad would give us a secure life and a better future.

I was just a young boy but I realized her reason for leaving us.

Since our parents became OFWs, my siblings and I have not experienced a complete family life. When our father was working abroad, mother was taking care of us here. When our father stopped working abroad, our mother took the responsibility of being the breadwinner of the family.

It is really hard to cope with life’s struggles, trials and challenges without the guidance and presence of parents.

We are fortunate enough - despite the situation, I’m proud to say that we have all grown up mature and well-disciplined individuals. None among my siblings has taken the wrong path. All of us take our studies seriously since it’s one way of reciprocating and appreciating our parents’ sacrifices for us.

After all, our mother’s main goal in leaving was to send us to school. She successfully fulfilled her mission. All four of us graduated last March.

Mother arrested

Unfortunately, she was not able to see us march and receive our diplomas. One year before our graduation, she was arrested by the Japanese police for having overstayed twice in Japan. She is at present serving a three-year sentence in jail.

I consider the previous year as the most challenging and difficult time of our life as a family. Since her arrest, she could no longer send money for our needs. My sister Jacky, 20, and I were graduating students at the time of her arrest; we had to find a way to survive.

I was taking up AB Philosophy at San Beda; she was pursuing a nursing degree at Far Eastern University.

Multitasking

Our two other siblings, Jervee, 12, and Jay-R, 16, were graduating from elementary and high school respectively.

It was not an easy year for the family, most especially for me. I was attending to my duties and responsibilities as a campus leader while performing my task as a Sangguniang Kabataanofficial in Hagonoy, Bulacan. I also had to maintain my good academic standing since I was expected to graduate cum laude. It was difficult to adjust, but I had to be strong for our mother and for our family.

Being the eldest in the family, I had to show them how strong and determined a brother I was. The situation did not deter us from pursuing what we knew could be best for us. Despite the seemingly tough situation, my siblings and I did not give up.

I was thinking how my mom would feel as I was receiving my college diploma. I was with my father when I graduated, cum laude, at San Beda-Mendiola.

Jacky received her nursing degree last April at FEU. She took the Nursing Board Exams on June 10. Jay-R is taking up an IT-related course at the Bulacan State University.

Jervee is now a freshman high school student at Saint Anne’s Catholic High School. My mother would surely feel proud of the feats her children achieved and the accolades they received in the midst of trials and difficulties. After all, our mom’s dream was to see us grow as successful individuals.

I have not sent her a letter for almost two months now. She has no knowledge about all these stories. She will certainly be very glad to know that her eldest son is now a municipal councilor in Hagonoy, Bulacan. I took the risk of running for councilor immediately after graduation. I had no choice but to heed the clamor of my kababayan in the province. Let this be my way of sharing my experiences unto people, especially the young ones. Trials and difficulties test how strong we are.

I have temporarily deferred my plan of enrolling in a law school this year. Perhaps, next year, when she comes home, I will pursue further studies. Meanwhile, I have to focus on my new job as a young public servant. (The Philippine Daily Inquirer)


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