Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Ofw's Via Crucis

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Filed Under: Overseas Employment, Religion & Belief

THIS HOLY Week, put aside the good old devotional prayers and walk the road to Calvary via the path of the overseas Filipino workers. Carry their burden, wear their crown of thorns, drink from their empty cups, feel the stripes on their backs and the fever on their brows. Broil in the desert sand, be tossed at sea, descend to the pit of their loneliness.

Most of all, let us enter the cave of their hearts.
For many Filipinos, the way to jobs overseas has been a road to Golgotha. Into the valley of death many have been led, into lives of misery and shame not a few have been lured.
With them, we cry, de profundis, ahhh, Father, have you forsaken us? How have we come to this?
We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee. Because by Thy holy cross Thou hast redeemed the world.

First Station: Jesus is condemned to death. A poor Filipino sells properties, borrows money at high interest rates so he can go abroad and be employed. Even before he leaves, his family is already deep in debt.

Second Station: Jesus carries His cross. The labor recruiter exacts a high fee, but the poor worker has no choice. The OFW-to-be leaves, carrying with him the burden of his family’s debts. How long will he slave away in loneliness in a foreign land so his family can live a better life? Will he come home to find his family intact?

Third Station: Jesus falls the first time. The poor Filipino farm girl arrives in a foreign land and is soon snatched by her strange employer, then taken to a home where she finds herself alone and with no one to share her burdens. Held a virtual prisoner, and having little contact with the outside world, she imagines the worst that can happen to her. She is despondent.

Fourth Station: Jesus meets His mother. Filipino maids in Hong Kong gather on their Sundays-off to share with one another their experiences and to find links and solace from compatriots in a strange land. In the Middle East, maids have no regular way of getting in touch with other Filipinos.

Fifth Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry His cross. Filipinos help other Filipinos who are victims of abuse. The Philippine embassies are supposed to be places of refuge, but many OFWs feel some of these embassies cannot be relied upon for succor. They cry, where are you when we need you?

Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. Non-government organizations, religious groups and women’s crisis centers here and abroad come to the rescue of OFWs in distress. They provide havens, oases for battered Filipinos, and help them to go home safely.

Seventh Station: Jesus falls the second time. A seaman finds out too late that the salary he will receive from his employer is much lower than what is specified in the contract. Somewhere in the high seas pirates hold them hostage.

Eighth Station: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem. Women OFWs come to the aid of other women. They help a runaway maid with burned hands and face. The maid tells a horrible story of constant battering. She becomes insane and is shipped home without money and sanity.

Ninth Station: Jesus falls the third time. An OFW falls ill or is injured in an accident. He finds himself helpless and with no health benefits. He is sent home. A dancer in Japan finds herself prostituted and held as a sex slave. A woman kills her employer and faces a death sentence.

Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped of His garments. An OFW is arrested for the crime of drug trafficking. Guilty or not, he finds himself stripped of his rights. He has no counsel, he has no visitors, he is alone languishing in a foreign prison.

Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed on the cross. A maid is pinned to the bed by her male employer and raped repeatedly. She becomes pregnant and is sent home. She delivers her baby aboard an airplane and is hounded by the media upon her arrival.

Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross. An OFW is accused of crime he swears he did not commit. He is detained, tried, convicted and sentenced to die by beheading. He dies alone, unmourned and away from home.

Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross. A Filipino domestic worker in a foreign land jumps from the window of an apartment building to escape the brutality of her employers.

Fourteenth Station: Jesus is laid in His tomb. A dead Filipino is brought home in a box. His family does not know how he died, why he died. An autopsy is performed and tell-tale signs of torture are found on his body. His wife and children are deep in debt, with no one to turn to for deliverance.

Let us weep. Let us pray. Let us rise.
In this Sunday’s Easter issue of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine, read my feature story on slain botanist Leonardo Co and his legacy to conserve Philippine native plants. As you read this, some 30 mountaineers, friends, colleagues and members of Co’s family are in the Sierra Madre mountain range near Palanan, Isabela to celebrate Earth Day and open the Leonardo Co Trail in what is known as the Philippines’ Last Great Forest. Co’s ashes will be strewn in the awesome wilderness that he so loved. Indeed, he is home again.

Earth Day greetings to you all. Wishing you a wondrous, shimmering Easter. Alleluia, Christ is risen, alleluia.

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