MANILA, Philippines – Loreto "Lito" Soriano left his 8-month-old son in the Philippines for Saudi Arabia in May 1980, determined to provide the baby better prospects in life than he had.
Lito did not finish college but managed to secure vocational education. One of his biggest fears was not being good enough for the job he wanted in the Gulf state, given his lack of a bachelor's degree.
"Worry ko parati hindi ako tapos ng kolehiyo (My constant worry was that I did not finish college)," he told Rappler in an interview.
But after 5 years and 11 months of working as a radio specialist technician in Saudi, Soriano returned to the Philippines and spent the next few years expanding his knowledge and capacity for a recruitment business he now leads.
Now 60 years old, Soriano is the president and chairman of LBS E-Recruitment Solutions Corporation.
His son – one of the reasons why he could not stay for longer than a decade abroad – now helps him out in the business.
True to form, his son graduated with a business management degree.
Soriano believes overseas employment should always lead to social mobility.
Not a panacea
While acknowledging that OFWs' remittances increase the purchasing power of Filipino families, the older Soriano believes work abroad is never a panacea.
He said state policy should not treat labor migration as a magic bullet to end cyclical poverty.
Every would-be overseas Filipino worker (OFW) must have in mind a clear exit strategy from working abroad, he said.
"In my case, when I decided to go overseas, I already decided also to come back," Soriano added.
"Returning should always be part of your decision-making process," he said. He suggested that OFWs set a limit on how long they intend to work abroad.
For Soriano, overseas employment must be a short-term plan intended to save up for two things – family and future career in the Philippines.
"The saving capacity of the OFWs should be increased," he said.
Migrant workers must abandon the mindset that one can always re-apply for overseas employment after one's present foreign work contract expires. Saving up in the here and now would prevent work abroad from being a life-long endeavor, he said.
While in Saudi Arabia for half a decade, Soriano was single-minded in his goal: "I have to learn as much as possible there and at the same time I have to earn as much as possible." – Rappler.com