Our parents are not slaves! Children of OFWs convey messages of longing and grief

As the International Migrants’ Tribunal nears, children of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) today lit and raised sky lanterns with messages for their parents, relatives and the government at the Quezon City Memorial Circle.

The activity was part of a whole-day workshop and counseling session provided by Migrante-Youth, youth arm of Migrante International, to children and relatives of distressed OFWs in communities in Quezon City and Caloocan City.

According to Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante Partylist, among the many problems assailing OFWs and their families is the social costs of migration, particularly the effect of separation and different problems of migration on children of OFWs.

“In the workshops, it was very clear that even the children understand that their parents were forced to leave and work abroad for their future. That given the choice, they would not have opted to be separated from their families just to survive,” she said.

Among the most common social costs of migration on children of OFWs are juvenile delinquency, failed marriages and broken homes. There are also the effects on children when their parents suffer abuse, maltreatment and death.

Sixteen-year-old Nyrriel Atienza, daughter of Terril Atienza, an OFW who died under mysterious circumstances in Mongolia, is now left to fend for herself and act as mother and eldest sister to her three younger siblings. Her father is a technician who does all sorts of odd jobs to provide for the family.

Since her mother died, Nyrriel balances her time for school, maintaining their home, taking care of her siblings and campaigning for justice for her mother as a volunteer for Migrante.

“My mother wanted to go home, she was ready to go home, but she was always torn between her situation there and wanting to be able to save money for our family’s needs. Nasayang lang ang lahat ng sakripisyo niya dahil sa nangyari sa kanya. Sana hindi na mangyari sa iba pang pamilya ang nangyari sa Mama ko,” Nyrriel said.

Bragas-Regalado said that in order to address the social costs of migration, the government should address the root causes of forced migration – unemployment, low wages, landlessness, lack of social services – and deviate from its policy of labor export.

The case of Terril Atienza and other OFWs in distress are among the issues and highlight case studies stated in the charges against the Philippine government and 36 other labor export-facilitating governments at the International Migrants’ Tribunal. The Tribunal will be held on November 28-29 at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. ###