There was a time when domestic economic woes did not bother the chunk of the population that relies on dollar remittances from family members and relatives working abroad. Their only woes revolved around exchange rates, expired contracts and not much else. With the global financial crisis, relatives of overseas Filipino workers can no longer be too nonchalant.
For Filipino families relying on relatives working in Northern America, these are bad times. OFWs in Asia and the Middle East look safe for now but for how long? The financial difficulties will trigger more reactions and we really don’t now how far the effects of the disaster will hit.
Employees in America are being laid off by the thousands and no one knows the extent by which overseas workers will be affected. Then, there’s the peso-dollar exchange rate. One day, the peso is up; the next day, it’s down. If you’re fortunate enough to still have a relative working abroad and remitting dollars regularly, you really ought to try and help them, and yourselves, cope with the crisis. In fact, even if you don’t rely on dollar remittances, there are habits and practices worth rethinking.
Scratch off mindless “malling” from your vocabulary.
For some reason, the city dwelling family, whether rich or poor, has come to consider the mall as a venue for weekend outing. Parks are becoming less crowded with picnickers with most families spending Saturday and Sunday at the malls.
I know one OFW whose family treated every remittance like birthdays and Christmas combined. The husband sent money monthly and, like clockwork, the wife took her young children to the mall on an eat-and-shop-till-you-drop kind of thing. Toys, shoes, clothes… anything they liked. All of that instead of saving and investing wisely or starting a small business. Not even a thought about buying their own house instead of forever renting. When the husband’s contract was up and he was home, without income, until he could sign a new one, there were ugly scenes when the monthly shopping sprees came to an end. Everything was a problem — from rent money to grocery to how to pay the electric and water bills and even the young children’s school bus service.
You are not a charitable organization.
There’s this housewife whose husband has been working in the Middle East for a decade. The money was good, the husband is an engineer and he was making a killing in a shipping company. But after a decade, they still had no savings, no real investments. No house either, only a second hand car. Where did the money go?
The housewife is a sucker for sob stories. Every person who asked her to invest in some networking scheme never got turned down. It wasn’t really because she believed in the potential of the business offer but because every person who approached her had some story about how she could help him or her earn some commission by joining the network. The wife, feeling she was fortunate and obliged to share her good fortune, never turned anyone away. And she never bothered to investigate whether the business proposals were sound. All she cared about was playing the generous benefactress.
Then, the wife started acting like a lending institution to her two married sisters who never paid her back. But she kept giving them money anyway every time they came to her with one story or another about their husbands not earning enough — unlike hers. Imagine the mind crap they were feeding her, making her feel guilty if she did not help them out considering how lucky she was. And the sisters were living it up, I tell you. The wife started looking like a hag while the sisters spent a lot of time in every kind of spa and beauty salon and looked like aging movie starlets in mini skirts and high heels. Is it any wonder that after ten years of six-figure remittances, the wife had nothing to show for it?
You are not Santa Claus.
With Christmas less than 50 days ahead, the shopping frenzy is expected to hit full speed. Extra remittances have started to pour in, wreaking havoc on the exchange rate. It’s an annual affair, actually, because in consonance with Filipino traditions, OFWs provide their families back home with the equivalent of the 13th month pay that’s meant to be spent on gifts and the Noche Buena.
For how many people are you buying gifts? Are you one of those people who think you have an obligation to give something to every person you know and every person who knocks on your door on Christmas day? Do you feel you have to because the whole barangay knows you have someone sending you dollars from aborad? If you’re a ninong or a ninang, drive it into your head that the role means you’re supposed to serve as a spiritual adviser to your godchildren rather than a source of gifts and cash every Christmas.
The bottom line is that this isn’t a time for mindless spending. OFWs make the sacrifice of leaving their families behind in order to provide for them (no, the sacrifice is NOT made in favor of the country — it is a personal and family affair, so let’s not even go into the heroism angle). The least their families can do is to spend their earnings wisely. In Filipino culture with its very Christian values of giving and sharing, that’s probably a very tall order but not impossible to do.