Travel Diaries

How Returning OFWs Can Adjust during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The rise of the global COVID-19 pandemic saw travel bans, cancelled flights, and closed airports all around the world in the past year and a half. For the Overseas Filipino Worker, this meant remaining and working abroad for an extended period of time, as well as postponing any plans to return home, especially for the holidays.

For the ones abroad, it was disheartening to be apart from their families for whom they were working hard in the first place and to have to endure this separation for even longer than they were prepared for. For their families at home, there could only be a growing anxiety over how vulnerable their loved one could be to the virus and how helpless the family would be if it happened. Worst of all, these families could not be complete to brace through such troubling times together.

In 2021, hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were finally able to come home, allowing them to be reunited with their families, but it also came with a new set of concerns. Most OFW’s have returned for good as a result of losing their jobs abroad, leaving them abruptly to settle back into the Philippines both domestically and occupationally. In the middle of a pandemic that has yet to be fully addressed in the nation, the OFW must somehow reintegrate back into life in their home country.

To get an idea for how to adjust to life back in the Philippines, it’s best first to look into what the situation is actually like for the OFW returning home.


The OFW Household

Historically, Filipinos have had a family-oriented culture which lies at the core of the people’s resiliency when facing greater problems. However, this means that anything that obstructs the bond of the family also weakens the strength of Filipinos, and this is why a parent working abroad can lead to many family problems that are unique to an OFW.

Much is known about the effects on the development of children in the absence of one parent, such as gender disparity and emotional neglect, but often for them, it is a choice between their presence and their provision. Even if they also think and worry about their children’s welfare, they know that this sacrifice is the only way to impart a better life for their families.

Before anything, affairs of the home should be settled first. It should be good news then that the OFW is finally staying home, but the comfort of the family as a whole may not just happen overnight. To no fault of the OFW, their families may have grown too used to the routines and virtual communications, knowing their loved one mostly through a digital screen. As a result, the children have especially gone through great phases in their lives without the presence of one parent. However, this puts them in a situation where they can become a whole family again.

A great first step would be to join the family for meals as often as possible. Eating together serves as an important moment for bonding in Filipino culture. It allows everyone around the table to share in the joy of a basic human need and to have that experience surrounded by loved ones too. Furthermore, such a simple gathering is perfect for many conversations and opportunities to catch up on each other’s lives. The parent who’s worked abroad can share his or her experiences staying somewhere so different from the Philippines, while the children can open up about school, friends, and even hobbies.

While meals may be the most accessible given the circumstances, there are still some viable options for OFW families to take a change of pace and scenery. Travelling isn’t the only way to get out of the house for a while and relax with the family. For example, eating out at a restaurant (while following sanitary protocols) can be a nice treat for everyone, especially with the chance to try out new food. Should they want more, there are actually a few good options for hotel vacations—sometimes called staycations—to relax and enjoy creature comforts with loved ones.


Back to Work, Back Home 

Given that the return to the Philippines comes as a result of unemployment, the next issue is to find a new source of stable income to provide for the family. Some households already have this covered when both parents have been working in the first place, but the parent working abroad is often the one receiving the more generous salary than what’s common in the Philippines. In times as uncertain as the pandemic, this may not be enough in the long term for OFWs who’ve had to come home unemployed.

Applying for jobs normally may prove to be tough as the job market grows tighter amidst the COVID-19 situation. For many, a probable option is to start a business, which makes sense given it is the most developed sector in the country. In this case, the most difficult step is figuring out where and how to begin. Even with an idea for a product, they’ll need startup capital first to jumpstart any business.

At this time, government programs to assist OFW’s in this respect are a bit slow at the moment, but nevertheless, there are still ways for them to proceed. A decent start would be through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s Balik Pilipinas, Balik Kabuhayan program, which offers grants of up to PHP 20,000 to OFWs returning to the country and starting their own business. Aside from this, it may be a good idea to enlist in mentorship programs that have industry leaders teaching and guiding potential entrepreneurs on how to plan and to sustain a new business.


Where to Start: the OFW Hotel

 To juggle both domestic and professional affairs all at once upon coming home can be incredibly demanding for anyone. Fortunately, there are places and institutions nearby that are made with the OFW in mind. A particularly great option here is definitely the Kabayan Hotel for OFW with options both for them and even for their families. Established in 2002, Kabayan Hotel serves as the best place for all an OFW’s needs immediately upon their return to the country as well as moving forward and back into life in the Philippines.

From the get-go, the hotel offers airport transfers and free shuttles for any transportation needs. They also offer luxurious options for staycations at affordable prices, be it for individual OFW’s or for the whole family. The hotel provides the true experience of home for the homesick OFW, from the hospitality of the staff to the delicious, aptly themed Pinoy Star Café and their signature Filipino dishes.

Aside from being providing luxurious amenities for guests, Kabayan Hotel even has an OFW Center with various services catered to reintegrating OFW’s back here into their home country, including programs to address their employment concerns.

If you’re a Filipino who’s just come back from working abroad, make sure to check out Kabayan Hotel as your first choice for all your OFW needs.


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