Photo by Buena Bernal/Rappler
CABANATUAN, Philippines – "Malas kami pagdating sa pag-abroad (We have been ill-fated when it comes to working abroad)," Celia Veloso said emphatically.
Celia is the mother of 30-year-old Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, the Filipino on Indonesia's death row. (READ: Fast facts: The case of Mary Jane Veloso)
While her fate may be the worst, Mary Jane is not the first in the family to bet on an overseas job.
In the Veloso family, all the women have already tried their luck as household service workers in a foreign land – all forced by circumstance and the gnawing poverty in their homes, their mother said.
"Eh kasi nasubukan ko na... Eh nakita kong mahirap doon kaya ayaw ko silang payagan talaga. Kaso mapilit naman sila (I have already tried it....I saw how hard it is there so I really didn't want to let them go. But they were really insistent)," Celia told Rappler in an interview on Monday, March 30.
In Celia's case, her husband Cesar said they had to borrow money, in addition to selling their cow and their carabao, to send Celia to Taipei. She secured the job through an agency.
The Velosos' eldest child Leah – the only one in the family to obtain a high school diploma – is still in Bahrain. Deep in debt, Celia says.
Middle child Maritess flew to Bahrain only in February 2014. She came back on January 10, in need of surgery for her gall bladder.
Darling, the daughter right before Mary Jane, went to Japan around year 2000. She spent 6 months there at first, and another 6 months after vacationing, earning just enough to pay off previous debts she had before her first departure.
Celia herself recalls her own experience. "Para akong mababaliw. Di ko maintindihan 'yung sinasabi nila tapos mag-isa lang ako doon sa bahay na malaki (I felt like I was going crazy. I couldn't understand what they were saying and I was alons in that big house)," she said.
She spent only 3 months in Taipei and never returned after her vacation.
Cesar said he never toyed with the idea of working abroad. He said he couldn't stomach being away from his family, a sentiment shared by their only son.
In the Veloso family, from patriarch Cesar down to his 18 grandchildren, nobody has ever entered college.
Cesar quipped about not knowing how to speak in English. "Kaya kapag may umi-English sa amin, Ma'am, hindi namin alam 'yung sinasagot namin (So if somebody talksto us in English, we wouldn't know what to say)," said Cesar.
The Veloso sisters are part of a still-growing diaspora.
The Philippines is a known labor-sending country, with over 10 million Filipinos either temporarily working or permanently residing abroad.
Comprising more than a tenth of the country's gross national income, OFW remittances have boosted the Philippine economy.
President Benigno Aquino III, however, said he envisions "a government that creates jobs at home so that working abroad will be a choice rather than a necessity." – Rappler.com