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Living and working back home in the Philippines is the classic survival of the fittest. Those who are not fit are drowning in debts and are living from hand to mouth which is usually the case. Before, I was working a 9-5 Monday to Saturday job with an average salary that just covers my daily cost of living. Others might say, my job is already satisfactory and it's just my style of living which is a little bit costly. Luckily, I and several friends have a prospering business and I thought I had it all! I had a steady job and an income generating business on the side. I was young and free and on my way leaping and jumping to get rich! Well, that is until everything crashed down on my head with a deafening roar! Until now my ears are still ringing…. but that is another story. That expensive episode prompted me to try my luck overseas. So, now I am one of the 10 million or more Filipinos working abroad, from the North Pole to the South Pole ( anybody in Antarctica?) in all kinds of jobs from white to blue collar jobs. And I also contributed to the $18.8 Billion remittances as of the year end of 2010 that the Banco Central ng Pilipinas announced a month ago. $18.8 Billions? As in Billions of dollars with a capital B! It is staggering! To those who are ignoramus like me, it would appear that OFW's are rich people (Philippine standard) because we are the country's #1 income generating resources. But the ugly truth is, it’s a sad case because we are the least priority on the agenda of the government. What a shame!

As an OFW myself, I can see and experience the struggles that every Filipino working overseas has to undergo in search for that elusive dream: to improve one's socioeconomic status. It's not as easy as ABC like what other people back home assumes. We go to great lengths to achieve our goals but more often than not, we go back home with little changes if not nothing at all. We Filipinos are considered very resilient people because generally we can bear our personal pressures combined with external factors such as racial discrimination and human right violations, with only a baring of teeth that will just as well pass as a smile. There is no other recourse because like they say "beggars are not choosers". We struggle and fight to survive but still the answer to the multi-million dollar questions "Where are we going wrong? Why can't we succeed?" are still elusive. The answers might me slapping us in the face but we tend to ignore it. I am not implying that all OFW's are failures but rather a big percentage falls short of their goal.

One of the relevant factors that we, OFW's have to consider in our pursuit to achieve our goals, whether big or small is our very own attitude. The way we behave outlines our very self and we Filipinos our usually full of virtuous pride. Pardon me for pointing it out but it is one of the prime reasons why we, the OFW's are stuck in the quagmire. No offense meant and we do have a lot to be proud of but most of the time it is a case of "love of our own excellence" as defined by St. Augustine. Pride is a prevalent stumbling block known to humanity, even Adam was not exempted and the Bible reiterates the price of succumbing to pride. Learning to swallow our enormous pride, like we gobble our favorite fried chicken at Jollibee and exercising humility is an enormous feat, easier said than done. We should take for example, Manny Pacquiao, that despite his monstrous success outside and inside the ring, he still maintains his humbleness and discipline. As said in Proverbs 16:18 " Pride goeth before the fall". Altering one's self for the better would improve our outlook in life as well as attract good energy that will open positive opportunities for the taking.

Another factor which I think is the next step after conquering our attitude is to get an education about saving and investing. Educating oneself will steer us from the get-rich quick schemes that is the bane of many OFW's and the knowledge would organize and provide us stability in our priorities. Sadly, the government lacks an active institution to guide us when we go back home and address the root cause of why returning OFW's gets impoverished after a few months and years. Banks and some non-government organizations offer an assortment of free information if one is interested but even these are vague. The world wide web can be utilized but not everybody is computer literate. One very important ingredient before starting on a venture is to look for good counselors and I myself believe nothing can beat a good counsel. A Babylonian parable states that, “Gold clinget to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of men wise in its handling”. This simple yet encompassing statement is often ignored by men who have nibbled on the edge of success and let it go to their head. Take note, we, the OFW's are the most vulnerable food to anyone who can smell the aroma of greenbacks miles away, aside from the usual piranhas and sharks. Beware!

Next, living below our means and committing ourselves to become automatic savers. Practicing moderate frugality with our earnings doesn't bode ill to anybody. This is always reiterated in every book about how to get rich. Minimizing our debts and seek the highest value at the lowest possible price when making purchases. In short, buy something for its practicality. Let's get rid of our "pabonga-an" attitude if we know it's taking a huge chunk out of our savings (not unless you are already filthy rich). People will ooohhh and aaahhh over your expensive things but in the end it really has no sense so let us use our God given common sense!

To top it all, we should not forget our very own Filipino core of values including our family. We are known and admired for our family centered social structure but the biggest percentage of broken homes belongs to OFW families. In pursuing our own goals, they are left far behind when the fact is they need to keep up with us so when we hit a pothole; there is somebody to give a helping hand and encouragement. Our family needs to understand our goals and they should feel that they are a part of the team and needs to pull their weight. And success taste sweeter in the company of our family.

These insights are will not guarantee immediate success but rather it’s written as a guide and food for the thinking mind as we start inching our way to the top. Like a caterpillar which nibbles endlessly until it is full of enough nutrition to nourish itself until it will emerge as a beautiful butterfly.

Food for thought: "Great things start from small beginnings".


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