Filipino Foreign Worker in Singapore - Part 2

From where I sit, I see a Singaporean society that has matured. Gone are the unstable political conditions that characterized its post-independence years. There is no more struggle for survival that their founders had to contend with as described in Lee Kuan Yew’s autobiography “A Singapore Story”. Although the yearning for something better is still there, people are well-adapted. They have the resources to make a good life for themselves and their offsprings. And they seem to relish the fruits of their struggle from a generation ago. Their short history tells of a society that has emerged from difficult circumstances to the one they enjoy today. And for this, they are the envy of those countries that are trying to do the same but kept failing - including the Philippines.

The only downside with living in Singapore (or any other foreign country for that matter) as an OFW is having to spend time away from family most days of the year. The initial excitement of being in a totally new environment that is ripe for exploration and adventure easily gives way to the feeling of loneliness. It’s bearable for people with families who moved together but not every worker has this capacity nor are every family willing to uproot their lives to a foreign land.

I am one of those who chose not to go through this ordeal. I knew how difficult it will be and how my family’s finances would suffer if the whole family moved to Singapore. We could of course find ways to adjust if we really wanted to. But we decided that although moving together is an option for us, we will not take it. We have set our minds to making a life in the Philippines however difficult that may prove to be. And my being a temporary OFW is a part of that plan. In other words, I don’t see myself living in Singapore permanently. I view myself as being in transit. This transition is necessary for us in realizing our dream life in our own country.

I would bet that most Filipinos would rather work in the Philippines if the pay was competitive. It’s not easy to be an OFW. And most days, we plan of our eventual return as soon as possible. We conjure of ways to earn a sustainable livelihood in our homeland. Many plans have come and gone to put up businesses. Whatever business it might be, we dream of success for we figure that is our only way out.

In the meantime, I resolve to fly home as often as possible. My plan is to be present on important family occasions and be home at least every two months. It’s difficult to be away for longer than that. My kids are very young and I don’t want to miss being there as they grow up. I want to be a good influence to them as much as I know how. Although my wife is very capable by herself, I know she needs a helping hand once in awhile to ease the burden and just be able to relax a bit.

There are multiple direct flights daily from Singapore to the Philippines. Some are cheaper than others. There are five airlines offering these services namely, Singapore Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Scoot, Jetstar and Cebu Pacific. The first two are full-service airlines while the last three are budget airlines. For many workers, the proliferation of budget airlines is a blessing. With cheap flights, OFW’s are more able to schedule their return home on a regular basis with less cost. And there is no shortage of passengers as well. As of 2015, OFW’s working in Singapore alone has reached a staggering 141 thousand people.

Health care is an important aspect that needs to be taken in consideration very carefully by foreign workers especially Filipinos. Without an insurance coverage, health care in Singapore is much more expensive than in the Philippines. I have an employer-based health care benefit which covers myself but not my family since they aren’t residing in Singapore. I have a 5$ co-payment for outpatient consultations including medicines and a 10$ co-payment with specialists. This sounds good but for more serious illnesses, my company’s medical coverage is mediocre. I am therefore not closed to other employment opportunities from companies which will provide better benefits especially in terms of health care coverage.

Although I would much prefer to work in the Philippines and be with my family, I know this is not an optimal choice for the time being and Singapore offers one of the best working environment and benefits for an OFW like me. And there are many things to like about Singapore, none-the-least of which are the Singaporeans themselves. I like working with them particularly my colleagues and customers. They are very professional, friendly and accommodating. However, I am here to earn money as fast as I can and that objective makes me very open to whatever opportunities are out there that will facilitate my transition out of being an OFW back to the Philippines with my family and friends.

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