LETICIA Orupe, an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) from Kuwait, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) with more than a hundred others like her at around 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, 2018.
She seemed so fine. She even told me she has been a domestic helper there for 15 years, and that her employers were good.
That was what I thought — until she told me her story.
“I really thank God I’m back home!” Orupe uttered in Filipino. She has been a TNT (Tago nang Tago), or those who are always hiding from authorities for fear of being deported back to their home countries, usually due to lack of the necessary permits to stay in a foreign land.
She had been like this for 10 years, but never opted to avail of the amnesty from Kuwaiti government, not until this administration.
Apparently, the past administrations would not shoulder the expenses for them to go home.
“This is just the first time, during (President Rodrigo) Duterte’s term when we could go home for free. We were treated special,” she said.
The 55-year old woman continued: “If I have opted to go back home before, what would I spend for my airfare?”
Behind their smile
“When people see us smile, that is just for pictures,” she told the Philippine News Agency (PNA). Those smiles were all lie, she emphasized.
“The truth is, when we receive our salary, we go to our room to count the money and just allot some for our food. We always look at our phones, checking if there’s a new photo/video of our loved ones back home,” she shared.
A single parent from Davao, Orupe said the last time she saw her son was 10 years ago, when he was 12 years old. At that time, she said her son almost didn’t want to approach her, and seemed to love his grandmother more than her.
“But now that he has grown up, he told me he works as a call center agent for me. He told me, ‘Ma, umuwi ka na. Mag working student ako’ (Ma, come back home. I’d be a working student).”
Orupe said her family doesn’t know she’d come home Tuesday.
“I am very happy. My son is 22 years old now. It’s his birthday on March 19,” the mom told PNA.
“Lord, give me strength, patience,” was her usual prayer back when she was in Kuwait. Living there as an OFW was really hard, according to her.
“Life in Kuwait is really hard. The work is hard and we’re lucky if we could find a good employer,” she cited, adding that one is lucky enough if he/she could go back home alive.
Orupe revealed she has helped many fellow domestic workers, who came to her with bruises.
“I struggled. I fought (to survive),” she continued.
Her experiences in Kuwait were painful as she described it. She worked in a salon, washed the feet of her clients. Working as a helper, meanwhile, she said her employers’ kids would throw a glass on her and that would cause a bleeding wound.
“Working there requires lots of patience, patience that would reach heavens,” she said.
She added she had experienced all the hard work in Kuwait, since they (women) were tasked to do jobs that are usually for men.
“Employers would ask us to carry a sack of rice, to go up and change the lights,” she narrated.
As another OFW called her to fill up the form for returning OFWs, she uttered, “Thank you. I’ve already expressed all my pains.”