By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“We have come as your slaves, to buy food. We are all brothers. We are not spies, sir, we are honest men.” — Genesis 42:10
It was in the last week of August that we celebrated National Heroes Day. Since the present Administration has a way of changing important dates in our national calendar, specific dates have lost their importance. But nevertheless, we do hope we have not forgotten the significance of such dates in our lives as a people. National Heroes Day is a time for us to remember those who spent their lives for our country’s sake.
For the past three decades, the number of Filipino migrant workers has grown enormously. They are now considered the number one dollar earners of our country. They are remitting to our country’s coffers billions of dollars annually, which help keep alive our dying economy. Thus, our migrant workers are considered to be the real heroes of our time.
If we weigh the billion-dollar remittances of our migrant workers against the number of Filipino families broken due to physical separation of husband and wife, the number of children neglected due to the absence of a mother or father, and the number of migrant workers exploited, abused or even killed, we are tempted to ask, is it worth all the sacrifices?
The issue of migrant workers has something to do with stewardship. It has something to do with the way we appropriate our nation’s resources. It has something to do with how we value money and the things that money cannot buy.
The Biblical story of Joseph and his brothers can help us reflect on the situation of today’s Filipino migrant workers, the so-called real heroes of our time (Gen.42:1-24). Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. He was sold into slavery by his own brothers due to their collective jealousy against him.
By God’s mysterious ways, Joseph became a responsible leader of Egypt, specifically in charge of the nation’s food. Then, there was a great famine, and people from all over the world came to Egypt to buy food from Joseph. And so, Jacob also sent his sons to go to Egypt to buy food.
This Biblical story mirrors the situation of Filipino migrant workers today. Like Jacob’s sons, they have to leave their homes primarily due to economic deprivations. They have to go to the Egypt of our time to look for food for their starving families. The Egypt of our day may be Singapore or Hong Kong or Japan or the Middle East.
The Biblical story goes on to say that Joseph recognized his own brothers, but he acted as if he did not know them. He treated them harshly. He accused them of being spies. But his brothers answered him, saying: “We have come as your slaves, to buy food. We are all brothers. We are not spies, sir, we are honest men.” (Gen. 42:10)
This seems to be the same story repeated in the lives of Filipino migrant workers today. Rich countries know that we all belong to a single human family; we are all brothers and sisters in need of each other. But more often than not, they pretend that they do not know us. They treat our migrant workers harshly. Sometimes, it is even worse than being accused of being a spy.
Then, Joseph ordered his own brothers to be put behind bars for three days as punishment. It was at that moment that they realized their mistakes and said to one another, “Now, we are suffering the consequences of what we did to our brother. We saw the great trouble he was in, when he begged for help, but we did not listen. That’s why we are in this trouble now.” (Gen. 42:21) Joseph’s brothers finally realized that their sufferings were the consequences of what they did to Joseph – they sold him into slavery to some Midianite traders.
The phenomenon of Filipino migrant workers today is a consequence of what we did to our own people. With our government’s huge foreign debts, our people’s future and destiny is already sold to big international financing institutions. Unless we stop selling our country and people to the present-day “Midianite traders,” the disturbing phenomenon of Filipino migrant workers – the so-called real heroes of our time – will continue to haunt us in the years to come. # nordis.net