The usual reason behind a Filipino’s decision to work overseas to become an OFW is to have a better life. It is also a fresh start at what life has to offer.
Today, our inspiring OFW story is about a single mom working as a “Metapellet” or Caregiver in Israel for the past 11 years. She came home as balikbayan in 2009, 2012 and 2015. She has 3 children, eldest daughter is 27, Registered Nurse, married and living in the USA. Second son is 25, HRM graduate and working in Qatar. Youngest son is 22, Tourism student, preparing for his On-the-Job-Training in Virginia, USA in March 2018.
She studied Secretarial Course in Manila, a Bachelor of Arts undergraduate and a Caregiver Certificate holder.
“I used to be a spoiled brat when I was younger. Working here in Israel gave me the chance to be my family’s breadwinner and the mission to give my Mama a comfortable life now that she is getting older.”
With her permission, we write Maria Vitug’s inspiring OFW story. She is Capampangan.
1. What were the adjustments you experienced as a first time OFW?
My first employer was an English family and their mother, my “alaga” was not nice to me for the first 2 months. She would always say “Don’t touch me! I don’t need you!” I was homesick and I was adjusting so I always cried. But later on, my “alaga” love me like a daughter. She passed away after 14 months.
It was my choice not to have a day off because I wanted to earn more. During payday, I only walked to the remittance center so I can save and send more money to my family in the Philippines. I could not even buy a cola during payday. I was blessed to have an employer who is generous with food and with money. My salary was paid on time and sometimes, even advanced.
When the family went out, I was with them and my “alaga”. We always had private car so I didn’t learn how to ride the bus. Israelis are good people and they have respect for foreigners especially like us, metapellets or caregivers.
2. Describe your second job.
My second job is still as a caregiver but it is the most memorable for me. My employer was a German family and my “alaga” was their 93 year old mother. She was an amazing old lady. All family members were very kind to me. During my birthday and my Mama’s birthday, they gave us gifts.
During Christmas parties they would tell me to enjoy on my own. But I chose to stay with my “alaga”. I did not have any day off too. But I was not lonely because I would take my “alaga” to the park and take pictures with her.
I remember in 2014, the daughter of my “alaga” wanted to take me to Canada so I can also get my children after a few years. But I chose to stay with my “alaga” because I have learned to love her. I worked for their family for almost 8 years and on April 2, 2016, my “alaga’ breathe her last while I was cuddling her near my chest. It was very painful for me.
3. Did you have any negative experience in Israel? How did you overcome it?
I had a best friend, a Filipino too. I considered her my sister that’s why when she had financial problem, I was ready to help her. Sadly, she did not pay any single centavo so I had to pay by myself. The amount was huge so it was difficult for me. I still pray for that person and leave everything to God.
The saddest month for me here in Israel was April 2016. April 2nd, my “alaga” , the amazing German old lady passed away. Then my father passed way too on April 10th. I wanted to come home but I had no Visa. If I went home to the Philippines, I can no longer come back to Israel. I am the breadwinner so what will happen to me and my family?
It was very painful for me but I stayed. My mother and my children kept me strong all these years. As a stay in caregiver for several years, I did not go out. I didn’t know how to ride the bus. But I had to learn because I was looking for work.
4. Where is your favorite place in Israel and why?
For 11 years, I did not visit any place in Israel. I was always working but I was happy because I had good employers. The place where I live now is Nahariya and it is close to the beach. When I take my “alaga” for a stroll at the park or the boulevard, I just enjoy the view and people.
5. What keeps you busy now?
Because of my good employment record (I never resigned from any work), I was given another chance by the Ministry of Interior Israel to have work permit and my Visa is on process. I have a new “alaga”. She is Hebrit and does not know how to speak English. She teaches me some Hebrew and I could catch a few words enough to understand each other. Her children know how to speak English.
Sometimes, I meet with my younger female cousin for a few hours, then I go back to the family’s house. I just got a call from a daughter of the German family, my former employer. She is inviting me for dinner to celebrate my belated birthday.
6. Describe your happiness as first time balikbayan.
I first went home to the Philippines in 2009. It was a very happy memory for me and my family. From that time too, after paying all of my obligations, I started investing. I was able to buy 2 lots and I paid the downpayment for a brand new car of my youngest son. My eldest daughter pays the monthly installment. It is our gift to our “bunso.”
7. What advice would you give younger OFWs so they can be successful in their own way?
Do not forget to pray and give thanks to God. I believe everything happens for a reason. God gives us trials so we will not forget Him and to become stronger persons. Be humble because God loves a kind person. If you can help in anyway, do it even if the person may not yet be able to pay you back anytime soon.
8. How do you see yourself 5 years from now?
I may still be here in Israel working as a caregiver for the next 2 years. After that, I plan to go home to the Philippines while waiting for my US petition from my eldest daughter. So I can help them raise their young family.
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