Written by Leon Magpusao Jr. (philstar.com) Updated June 24, 2010 11:44 AM
Retrieved from Philstar.com
On February 6, 2002, I got a text message asking me to contact an agency for a job offer. I was considered for a one-year consultancy work by my former employer. The offer was unexpected; my wife considered the compensation “obscene.” Friends admonished me, that I would be a fool to refuse such a lucrative offer. Considering that my second child would be entering college, I accepted the job. I flew to Manila for my medical examinations and passport renewal. After completing all requirements — delayed by the bureaucratic processes in our government agencies — I departed on April 19 back to the land of kings and princes, oil and sand dunes.
I took a leave from work as school registrar with the knowledge that I will return to my post after completing my one-year contract.
The contract was extended for one year; my school principal urged me to go on. And then for another year, so I asked him to look for my replacement. He did with a promise that the school will always be open for my return. At the end of the third year, my contract was converted to regular employee status with position of senior contracts representative, where I was put in charge of procurement of contracts for the company’s major infrastructure projects.
I continued my services for five more years and on April 30, 2010, I retired at age 58 years and 77 days, equivalent to 60 years in the Hijra calendar.
I am retired but I still don’t feel old and tired. My colleagues say I am still good for a couple of years. Honestly, I yearn to be home. It is not due to homesickness; I am home with my wife, kids and our dogs twice a year, with a visit to my hometown once a year. There are far more profound reasons for my longings to come home. They could not be expressed in words; they are felt by the heart.
It was never my dream to work abroad, but circumstances forced me to leave the country. I lost a high-paying job due to the closure of the nuclear plant in Bataan after the EDSA revolution in 1986. I spent many months job-hunting. Private companies, where I was lucky to get an interview, declared that they could not afford the salary I deserve. They prodded me to go abroad. Government agencies required recommendations from top officials who don’t even know me. While I wasted nine months looking for jobs in the local market, it took me only two months from filling out an application form to filling in data in my departure card in December of that year.
Despite a promising career and a comfortable life with my family in this country, I decided to bring my wife and four children home in 1994. The government then had flaunted its reintegration program. My wife and I were so enthusiastic in our prospects of establishing a new home in my hometown, of being near our relatives, and eventually, of finding a good-paying job. We succeeded in the first two, but missed the third.
I tried in so many ways but failed to reintegrate in the mainstream job market. It was probably the “curse” of being an OFW. I ventured into a small farm-based business, but the return was not enough. Most farmers could not afford to pay in cash and being a “Good Samaritan” (but a naïve businessman), I accepted their promises to pay me at harvest time. But harvests at times were not good. I tried local politics but was rejected by the people I want to serve. So the most I got was a teaching job for two school years. Then the government implemented the law that stopped me from doing a work I loved so much. I am an engineer, not a licensed teacher, and the Magna Carta for Teachers clearly stipulates that only persons duly licensed could teach in the elementary and secondary levels.
Thus I put aside my chalk box, eraser and lesson plans, and concentrated on my paper works and liaison tasks as school registrar until that day that with heavy hearts, I left the portals of that school to once more venture into this faraway land.
Though now retired, I remain committed with the company for another year as an independent consultant. I am not certain, but I might stay here, maybe for a couple more years, unsure of the proper time for me to finally come home. I hope that such time would come soon when all OFWs could declare emancipation from this “noble slavery” that all our governments from the Martial Law era call overseas employment. I am looking forward to the changes promised by the new administration, with great hopes that such changes will soon come to fruition so that progress will finally come to our
country and its people.
When that time comes, I will pack my things, declare that I am truly tired and retired, and go home to my hometown where I could spend my remaining productive years and savor once more the rustic life I longed for all these years.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leon Magpusao Jr., 58, works as a consultant in a government-controlled power utility company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.