Our real heroes

My friend Gus Infante, who left the Philippines two years ago and now lives in Ottawa, Canada with his family, emailed me a couple of days ago. He mentioned some insights about the Pinoy OFW.

“It (entrepreneurship) is the first step in the road to self-reliance and being able to hold our head up with pride. Given the downturn in the world’s economic outlook, one wonders how long the Philippines can continue to survive on the backs of the OFWs. One wonders if the level of remittances will continue to hover around the $20 billion mark or will this slowly start to dwindle as the global recession persists.”

For the past 14 days, we lived with more than 250 OFWs aboard the Crystal Cruise that toured us from Rome, stopping by seven ports, to London. They were all over the ship. They were in housekeeping, fixing our rooms and the messy rooms of my sisters. For breakfast, they greeted us in Filipino with their smiling faces. They go the extra mile, not only for us but also for other guests on board. Filipino service is 24/7 versus the rest. It was like they knew everyone on the ship, calling us by our first names. Clearly, they had the passion to serve.

As we would go up the deck in the afternoon, we saw Pinoys also managing that area. They were cooking our burgers and hotdogs to American standards. For dinner, the ship has the famous Nobu Japanese Restaurant. This part of the ship was our most frequent dining area. You can have everything in the ship for free. You can have a whole slab of Toro if you wanted. We got the exact Nobu quality. It was manned by Pinoy Sushi Chefs, waiters and managers. My enterprising in-laws even tried to pirate them to go back home, but these people are loyal to the job and their company. Even the person who maintains the cooling system, from the air conditioning to the refrigeration, is a Pinoy engineer. We saw him being treated by his big boss in the restaurant, as he was the employee of the month.

Until the day we departed, I have nothing else to say about how excellent Filipinos work abroad. Let me share with you their dreams for themselves and for the country. These are the reasons why they work so hard.

I dream of a country with higher standard of living, more jobs, and lower government corruption. I dream for my family to be together, and for seafarers back home to have competitive job and salary, so that we don’t have to work abroad.

Arnold Jamir, 14 years as OFW

My dream for country: decent job for everyone, low cost of living, honest leaders, strict law enforcers, and disciplined countrymen. My dream for myself: have my own house, spend more time with my family, be financially stable, and give proper education for my kids and future kids.

Ferdinand Tolentino, 6 years

Dream for our country: unity and trust among people. Dream for myself and family: to have good health, to help people in need, to keep our relationship strong as a family.

Rico Enriquez, 10 years

I dream to have a stable economy and a corrupt-free country. I dream to have a business back home to support my family when I finish my career on board.

Louie Payongayong, 8 years

I dream for our country to stop corruption and have a peaceful government. I dream for my family and myself to have happiness, good health, and a successful and good future.

Miguel Edgardo, 5 years

I dream for every Filipino to have discipline, progress and success. I dream for myself to preach and spread the word of God. I dream to give my family a good and affluent way of living according to God’s plan.

Kathleen Ann Reyes, left Manila April 20, 2009

I dream for my country to have success, discipline, peace, love and a good leader. I dream for myself and my family to have success, excellent and low profile, and happiness with God’s way.

Ross Ramos, left Manila Jan 23, 2009

I dream of a better leader for our country and no government corruption. I dream for myself to fulfill a better future for my kids and to provide more precious moments with my wife.

Joseph Jimenez, OFW since 1995

I dream for my country to elect the right people who will work for the Filipino and not for themselves. I dream for myself and family to save enough money and to have more time together.

Rolando Dojie Lejano, OFW for 16 years

I dream for my country to have a strong economy, with no corruption so we can have sufficient income to support our family and so we don’t need to work in other countries. My dream for myself and family is good health and more success for the future of my children.

Walson, OFW for 15 years

I dream of a nice, green and peaceful country. I also dream to have my own family soon, with good health for each of them.

Ann, OFW for 6 years

So you see, they sacrifice being apart with their families. They see us as a family, fortunate to be able to travel and bond together. This is the same thing they wish for themselves. They serve us, as if we were also part of their families. They all look forward to a corrupt-free country. Maybe this is not possible during our lifetime, but a great reduction of the level of corruption is desired. They all look forward to starting their own negosyo one day. Hopefully, GoNegosyo and other similar organizations helping improve the negosyo environment would succeed, for their sake.

So Gus, the world is in a shakedown because of this financial crisis. In fact, the World Bank just revised the growth forecast to a bigger negative number. The Philippines is not immune from all these. But, unlike a phone, TV or car that you can postpone buying, the service that Filipinos provide is not easily replaceable.

Filipinos are passionate to serve. Most have taken control of their own destiny, wanting a better future for their families. We may not be able to get everyone to start a business, but GoNegosyo can help lead they way for more people to be enterprising.

Manny Pacquiao is a hero to us Filipinos, and equally heroic to us are the countless OFWs who sacrifice in order to give a better future for their love ones. To all the overseas Filipino workers out there, you are the Filipino heroes of this century. Continue to dream.

I would also like to thank all those who sent birthday greetings through Facebook and GoNegosyo emails. My birthday wish… may we inspire one another to be able to get through life’s challenges. I hope through this column, in its own way, and through the GoNegosyo advocacy, I am able to help.

Philippines, its time to dream big…