Overseas Filipino Workers and Me

Flag of the Philippines The term, “Overseas Filipino Worker” (OFW), is a broad term used to signify Filipinos who work overseas. While advertisements in the Philippines and some of the destination countries don’t mention it, a Filipino (non-US citizen) serving with the US military would also be classified as an overseas Filipino worker.

According to the Wikipedia page on Overseas Filipino, there are more than 11 million overseas Filipinos worldwide, equivalent to about 11% of the total population of the Philippines. The reason that number is so high can be attributed to the high unemployment rate here in the Philippines.

Overseas Filipino Workers in the US Military

At my first US Marine Corps duty station, MCRD San Diego, California, I worked with an OFW. That was in 1979 and 1980. His name was Juanchito Ugalde. I spoke to him over the phone when I was serving at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1996 — he was serving as a personnel chief at the same duty station again. I’m pretty sure he retired a few months before I did and returned to his home in the Visayas.

In 1984, I worked with another OFW, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii (it was called “Marine Corps Air Station, Kaneohe” back then). His name was Cornell Munalem. I don’t remember what part of the Philippines he was from, but he spoke Tagalog. I haven’t been in contact with him since I left the island of Oahu.

The vast majority of Filipinos serving with the US military serve in the US Navy. Filipinos were recruited out of the Subic Bay Naval Station before it closed in the 90s. They’re currently being recruited out of Guam and other areas outside of the Philippines. I don’t know how it’s being done here in the Philippines now since there aren’t any US bases anymore.

Overseas Filipino Workers in Various Countries

There are Filipinos working as contract workers in the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar, Singapore and a whole slew of places I can’t name off the top of my head right now. When I was in Saudi Arabia in 1990 and 1991 (operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Desert Calm as part of the first gulf war), I came into contact with several OFWs. They were working as cooks and store clerks.

One of my sisters-in-law has a fianc√© (Alex) working at an Internet cafe in Qatar. Alex pointed the home pages on all the computer browsers at the cafe to the home page of this blog a couple of days ago. I then redirected them (from here) to my “Google Search – Qatar” page (since removed), created specifically for that reason. When Alex’s contract is over in Qatar, he’ll be moving to Dubai. I’m sure the person who takes his place will remove the blog from the home pages for the computer browsers in Qatar, but if Alex works at another Internet cafe in Dubai, he’ll do the same thing there.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. I didn’t ask or pay Alex to do anything. We just happen to be friends. Next year, he’ll be a relative, somewhat removed.

I have a nephew (Michael), who finished a caregivers course last year. He currently works at a place called “Ocampos” in Olongapo City, but he’ll be working somewhere overseas (probably Canada) when he gets contracted as a caregiver. He lives with my mother-in-law, his grandmother, right now and he’s about the same as my son (Jonathan). They often “hang out” together here in the neighborhood.

Returning Overseas Filipino Workers

In November of 2006, I met a neighbor (Joel) who served with the US Seabees (the US Navy Construction Battalions). I didn’t know, until then, that his daughter (Candy) was one of Jonathan’s college classmates. In fact, she stopped by here just an hour or so ago to check out my blog. Anyway, Joel and his family speak very good English.

Joel is going to a different college for a second career in nursing and will return to the US when he gets his degree, and it’ll probably happen before Candy gets her degree.

Filipinos come and go as overseas contract workers and I don’t foresee it slowing down at all. I’m sure I’m going to be involved, over time, with more Filipinos seeking employment elsewhere. I can’t predict the future, but I plan to live here for a long, long time. The amazing thing, right now, is that I can remember names from more than 12 years ago. Not bad for someone who has CRS (can’t remember Shiitake) disease.


16 Responses to “Overseas Filipino Workers and Me”

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  1. i too have a member of my primary family, as well as relatives, working in north america as well as other parts of asia.

    the decision turns on issues of pragmatism really. not that many jobs here, but quite a number abroad. not very good income here, but quite lucrative salaries in other countries.

    the tough part though is the separation. family tends to be important in philippine culture, so it’s all the more difficult to be in a far off place, with no family nearby.

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    • Michelle Banks says:

      I didn’t know Filipino work force are scattered all around the world in this way.

      -Michelle Banks

  2. Stevo | China says:

    You forget to mention Hong Kong, RT. There are 300000 Filipinas working in HK.

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    • RT Cunningham says:

      Which part of “a whole slew of places I can’t name off the top of my head right now” did you not understand? :mrgreen:

      • Stevo | China says:

        I am suitably spanked.

        I have heard that as much as 25 per cent of the population worked overseas, and if they didn’t the Philippines would have no money or economy. Is this an overstatement?

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      • RT Cunningham says:

        Not at all. I read somewhere that up 80% of the money that comes into the Philippines comes in as remittances from OFWs, resident aliens, and Filipinos who are now citizens of the US.

  3. I see workers from the Philippines every time I go into a Tim Horton’s for a coffee, and in some A & W fast food burger joints. I actually really appreciate their presence, because as soon as I see them I know I will get polite and efficient service. I hope that it is a win – win situation. The jobs they take are ones that many Canadians don’t want.

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    • Theresa says:

      Some disadvantages with OFW’s is that there are more jobs open to men, while jobs for women usually account for domestic work or entertainment . Sometimes Filipino women end up becoming slaves. Although, Filipino women in the states take up skilled work, the majority work in medical fields.

      Filipinos travel typically to core countries and are the highest contributers for overseas remittances. Remittances are sent to families in homeland which in turn helps their government.

      And if you mean jobs Canadians dont want, you mean hardworking jobs.

  4. Nick from Funny T-Shirts says:

    There are always a few subversive people who often stigmatize the reputation of larger groups be it races citizens etc… I believe filipino as we’ll as all legal immigrants make the united states a better place.

  5. cyril@New Tax Law says:

    that’s just about one major reason why there’s a brain-drain in the Philippines. A lot of professionals leave the country to be an OFW.


  6. Crisel says:

    kindly please post this message of us..so that i may share to all the OFW’s our songs that capture the heart of fellowmen…Thank yo

    This is a video that is dedicated to all OFW’s

  7. I was actually surprised how many Filipino workers are employed in Dubai. I found it very odd but I guess you go where the money is.

  8. Rachael Geller says:

    I didn’t know Filipino work force are scattered all around the world in this way. Thanks for the information.

  9. Cornell Munalem Jr. says:

    Hey i was just browsing the web when i came across your article. In your second paragraph you mentioned my fathers name and my eyes instantly widened! Its a shock to see him mentioned in anything, especially because you remembered his full name after 20 some odd years.

    Well I’m pretty sure there isn’t another Cornell Munalem roaming around besides Jr here. Anyway my father retired from the U.S.M.C. in 1999.

    Well that’s all i have to say about that. Ill be sure to mentioned he hasnt been forgotten. LOL.

    take care. god bless.

  10. Crisel says:

    We would like to dedicate this song to all OFW’s around the globe..so hope yo like it and enjoy it..

    click here

  11. Andreas@Free Midi says:

    Interesting song.. The text is Filipino?