Philippine Daily Inquirer

OFW children realize their dreams

Ten Filipino college students took their place on stage early this month as winners in Bank of the Philippine Island’s 2011 Search for Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children.

The winners of this search have not only overcome the difficulties inherent in being a child of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), but have also excelled in a field close to most parents’ hearts—education. As winners of this nationwide search, these children’s success is not only a testament to their commitment but to their parents as well.

According to BPI President and CEO Aurelio R. Montinola III, the program was set up because BPI, a channel for overseas remittances, wanted to take a more holistic view of the Philippine migration phenomenon.  “We saw the economic gain but also the social problems from people being separated.  The awards started as an experiment but we found the essays really worth reading because of the quality and emotions that came through.”

Rizaldie A. Zambra Jr. is a student at John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University. His father left before he was even born. “The transformation from boyhood to manhood was difficult because many times a father can be the best person I can seek advice from,” he said.

Zambra also said he joined the BPI contest to show his mother that despite being alone, she raised her children well.

Johna Pauline O. Mandac, who is studying medicine at University of the Philippines-Manila, grew up without a father in a family of all girls: “The lack of a father figure made it difficult to understand the bigger picture of the world,” she said.

Another awardee, Dean Cris M. Acabo, who studies chemical engineering at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, said he wanted other Expat Pinoy children to know that they were not alone.

This nationwide search to honor children of OFW’s is in its 5th year, and the 10 winning students are divided into 3 award categories—Ibang Klaseng Talino, Ibang Klaseng Community leader and Ibang Klaseng Athelete Awards.

An independent panel of judges chose from among 77 entries this year, looking at academic excellence, community contribution and other non-academic skills such as sports, music, and arts.

To be included in the search, a student must have an OFW parent with a current work contract abroad, be not more than 21 years old, a college student presently enrolled in a four-year course, and have no failing grades. Awardees each receive a trophy and P50,000 in cash credited to a BPinoy Savings Account.

Zambra advises, “Instead of thinking negatively about their absence, use it as your inspiration by making your parent’s sacrifice worth it.”It is hoped that the winning students will serve as inspiration for other OFW children, and offer advice from their own experiences.

Acabo said he went through his own dark period after his father left—using drugs and drinking while in elementary school—before finding his way. He offers:  “Don’t lose hope because of the separation. It’s just a challenge. You will have a turning point in your life when you will realize you are somebody more than what you are today.”

Chosen to speak on behalf of the 10 students at the award ceremony, Acabo looked back on the rocky road that led him to that moment. His words are a reminder that a life of struggle can strengthen one’s character and ability to succeed: “My life taught me to become a man that cultivates competence, upholds conscience and practices commitment.”

Rosalinda Baldoz, Secretary of Department of Labor and Employment, says there are so many sad stories of OFW families that she is proud to celebrate what she considers a positive aspect of migration: “As they suffer the pain of separation, now they are celebrating the success of that separation. They were prepared by their parents for confronting these challenges of life and they are able to excel in their own life and in schools.”

Baldoz continues, “These kinds of awards are addressing what I call the care drain. The focus of this, the children of OFW’s can really be an inspiration and role models. ” She says. “It is really our story. As we experience that not one family here in the Philippines does not know someone who is outside the country, so we are able to identify.”

The accomplishments of these 10 youths give the country something to be proud of, but these college students are even more proud to be Filipino.  Acabo says, “Filipinos have a lot of things to show to the world. We are a happy people. The country is so blessed with abundant natural resources. We have a lot to achieve as a country.”

Mandac, who is studying medicine at UP, cites the Filipino’s resilience: “Even through distant shores, we inspire people, especially our fellow Filipinos by achieving great things.”

Actress Lea Salonga, honored these families with a heartfelt rendition of “The sun will come out tomorrow” from the musical Orphan Annie. Sharing more than just her beautiful voice, she said: “There is so much to be proud of in the Philippines—we are happy, loyal, friendly. We strive to be the best in whatever setting we are in.”

Mandac shares, “The future belongs to all those who dream. If you have a vision, believe that they will fall into place. Hold on to your dreams and one day, you will realize them.”

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November 27, 2011
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