Darna Cruz, a young filipino woman from the capital city of Manila located on the biggest island in the Philippines, Luzon is one from the 10.2 million Filipinos working abroad. This 29 year old is an immigrant as she has permanently gone to live 8,092 kilometers away from home in Saudi Arabia were she has worked for 5 years as a caregiver.
Darna lived in her parent’s house with them and her two small brothers, Andrei and Jayson. Soon after finishing the second year of highschool, Darna dropped out the day she was announced she was having a sibling. She was told she had to replace her mother in the sewing factory as her mother would not be able to work there. The next day, her father and she got onto the car and rode the opposite route from school to Quezon City, a 33 minute ride, into a garments industry called Armina Garments. This great known industry had previously established quotas on textile items which were imported to European nations, Canada and the United States. This caused serious problems to garment manufacturers given there were more and more products being created at lower and lower costs, closely leaning into labour exploitation. After many needle pricks, Darna started getting the hang of her first job and soon she got her first month salary, P9060 Philippines pesos, equivalent to $180.
The year Darna became an adult at age of 18, she operated intraregional migration to Quezon City so she could better commit to her now permanent job at Armina Garments. She shared a miniature apartment with other four Philippine women who also worked at wholesale, but she barely spent time there giving that she had to spend from eight to twelve hours at her job. She meeted with the Cruz family every two weeks if possible and financially helped them with what she had saved up, however, it never was enough.
The Philippines country working for progress, it is gradually developing, but it has a long way to go to reach developed status. As the CIA World Factbook states, “while there has been some improvement, underemployment remains high at around 17% to 18% of the employed population.” So far, efforts into improving tax administrations have helped facilitate debt burden. The current government in the Philippines is presidential republic lead by Rodrigo Duterte, and wistfully it is known to be corrupt instead of fighting for what is right, fair and just. Within this country, the two main topics missing from social conditions are poverty and inequality. Some of the causes are: low quality of jobs and weakness in employment, high inflation during crisis periods, high levels of population growth… These are also some reasons that cause brain drain where highly trained or qualified people migrate to another country in order to make use of their working abilities.
At the age of 24, exhausted of working non-stop receiving peasant money as a result, Darna realized she had to do something more to keep her family standing. She had heard from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW), people who fled to other countries in order to search for better quality jobs and salaries than what they had back home. 1.5 million Filipinos are working in Saudi Arabia, and given that this country has the strongest Arab economy, with high salaries and with tax free benefits such as housing and medical insurance, Darna knew this was her next future.
Without hesitation and weeks of planning, Darna kissed her two little brothers, hugged her parent and walked away from the Cruz family in the look for a better future. Her push factor was them, she could not stand that there wasn’t enough food to feed the boys, that they had to receive poor education, that they did not have a proper shelter to call ‘home’. On the other hand, she also had pull factors, she had heard that in Saudi Arabia, there were many job opportunities and with better salaries. Even though her move was voluntary, she felt forced to in order to help her family. Although it was far away from the Philippines, her hope for a better work quality was high after working like a fool in those sewing factories. In addition, the Philippines government always encourages citizens to take pride on the OFW referring to them as “heroes of the nation”. Of course, this was the cause given that approximately 80% of remittances come from seven countries around the globe.
Darna now lives in Saudi Arabia, in a house of three were she works as a caregiver at all hours. She cooks for them, cleans for them and babysits whenever they need her too. Although she has a lot of work, they treat her well and with respect and they provide a shelter and food for her. Darna finds life in this country so much easier and less stressing given the amount of jobs available and the reasonable salaries. She found a big community of Filipinos and they keep themselves as a close community and she recently discovered societies like Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) which help protect the rights of the workers. Even so, she still finds face racism and abuse and often targeted as “illegal migrant” even though her move was completely legal.
Darna stays in touch with her family by calling them every week and she sends them most of the salaries she receives. Her move has improved both her life and her family and she misses hope but knows that home for her is the place where she is respected and cared of the most.
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