What Hurts You Can Make You Move (OFW Stories)

Every end of the month I send money back home for our tithes, to fund my investment portfolio, and a few more bucks for my mother’s monthly needs. Call it routine for Filipinos based and working abroad.

It’s common to see kababayans lining up the banks and remittance centers during the last and first weeks of the month.  As you know, paydays abroad are mostly scheduled on a monthly basis. Not the typical 15th and 30th payday systems commonly practiced in the Philippines. In fact, there are lots of heartbreaking stories you hear from fellow Filipinos while waiting in line. These are a few of them:

  • Some receive their salaries after 3 months or so
  • Older Filipinos, mostly domestic helpers and laborers, sending almost all their monthly salaries
  • Sick and dying loved ones back home that they need to support financially
  • A loved one died but they could not come home so they just send money instead
  • Started a business that failed

While there are tear-jerking stories, there are a couple hilarious stuff as well:

  • A man sending money for his kid’s “projects” only to see their teenage children’s photos on Facebook, flashing V signs….while in Hongkong.
  • Invested their money in a network marketing group that has no product.

But what moved me last night was the sight of an elderly Filipina on the other line, in her 60’s perhaps.

“Magkano po ang ipapadala ninyo?”, asked the remittance guy.

“200 riyals (2,200 pesos) lang po.”, said the lady.

You could see in her the weariness from a long day of hardwork, as a domestic helper. Her hair uncombed, the sad and tired look in her eyes, her hand on her cheek while shaking her head. For whatever reasons, I wouldn’t know. But for sure it’s something urgent. An emergency perhaps? Her last saved money?

I remember in her my dear mother who went to Qatar during my childhood years to work as a family helper and assistant. Those were one of the saddest years in my life. I would skip recess meals in school and just sit under those acacia trees in our playground thinking about my mom. And cry. There were no cellphones back then. No internet. Only letters that we receive once month. We could only hear her voice recorded on a cassette tape. And we would do the same for her.

She needed to accept that overseas job after my father went bankrupt. My late father entered into an office furniture business deal with a scammer after opting to retire early from his high-profile government job. He was not able to fully utilize his Bachelor of Laws degree due to his age at that time. Maybe he was too passive. Or maybe he was just too scared to try once more. But I loved him very much. And missing him so badly.

I saw the pain in my father’s eyes and the sadness from my mother’s face during those last minutes before she left for the airport. My younger brother crying out in screams of “Mama!!! Mama!!!” after realizing that our mother won’t be back very soon.


I was thinking, this couldn’t have happened if he didn’t invest all his retirement pay in a business that he has no knowledge of.  If only he saved and invested more of his monthly earnings in stocks or mutual funds. Or any other paper asset for long-term. If only he knew better back then. We would have been happier. Together.

He was only 54 yeas old when he accepted the optional retirement package from the government. He withdrew everything he earned from his mutual fund investment upon his first early retirement year and re-invested it in a fishpond business that was eventually destroyed by a typhoon. We also had a small restaurant that didn’t even last for two years as I became very sickly that they had to focus their attention to me most of the time.

Today, is another story. I feel so blessed to have a work overseas while my wife and child are with me. A blessing that my mother and father didn’t have back then.

But how we wish and pray we could go back home soon. And try to become entrepreneurs. And contribute to the economy of our nation by giving jobs to jobless neighbors.

We have started investing in the stock market, UITF, mutual funds, etc. and I am firmly decided to do this monthly investing until my retirement age.

I will not let my family down. I may fail by trying. But I will not give up by trying all over again.

My Advocacy for OFWs

A group of friends and I have been so busy the past few weeks organizing an ambitious international financial literacy drive for overseas-based Filipinos. It’s part of an advocacy of helping OFWs and their dependents become educated in matters of investment, entrepreneurship, and personal finance called OFW UsapangPiso. A forum website has been created as the main venue for free online learning. Visit the site here: OFW UsapangPiso Forum

You can also join our Facebook group, which is actually the extension of the forum website: OFW UsapangPiso Facebook Group

We also have a Facebook page OFW UsapangPiso Facebook page  and a Twitter account that you can follow OFW UsapangPiso Tweets

Be inspired in your journey towards financial independence by subscribing to BurnGutierrez.Com for FREE.

P.S. 1.The OFW UsapangPiso Forum in partnership with Colayco Foundation for Education will be conducting its twin webinar offer on April 5 and 19, 2013. The Managing Director of Colayco Foundation, Ms. Guita Gopalan will discuss about the “Basics of Growing Money” on our FREE webinar on April 5, 2013, 6PM (Philippine time). Mr. Armand Bengco will talk about proper money management – spending, saving, planning & investing entitled Pisobilities: Wealth Within Your Reach on April 19, 2013 also at 6PM (Philippine time). Register here now! 

P.S. 2. Four years ago, I joined the TrulyRichClub. It was one of the best decisions of my life. Founded by Bo Sanchez, its purpose is to “help good people become rich”. Because of the guidance I get from the Club, I’m now investing in the Stock Market (and mutual funds, bonds, UITF’s) each month! It’s amazing how I’m personally growing in my finances. I’m inviting you to join the Club too. If you’re interested, then join the TrulyRichClub NOW! And email me at burngutierrezblog@yahoo.com.ph if you have any questions.

Photo credit: Makaristos