By REV. LUNA 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
Overseas Filipino Workers
National Heroes Day is celebrated this year on August 27. It is an opportune time for us to remember those who spent their lives for our country’s sake. Real heroes are those who give their lives so that others may live. Jesus Christ our Lord said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
For the past decades, the number of overseas Filipino 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 are helpful to save our dying economy.
Thus, our overseas Filipino workers are considered to be the real heroes of our time.
But if we would weigh the billions of dollars our overseas Filipino workers are remitting 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 overseas Filipino workers exploited, abused or even killed, we are tempted to ask whether or not it is worth all the sacrifices.
The issue of overseas Filipino workers has something to do with our stewardship. It has something to do with the way we appropriate our nation’s human and material 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 overseas Filipino 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 as a slave by his own brothers due to their collective jealousy against him.
By God’s gracious and mysterious ways, Joseph became a responsible leader of Egypt specifically in charge of the nation’s food. This shows that God truly cares for those who are oppressed. 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 somehow the situation of today’s overseas Filipino workers. Like Jacob’s sons, overseas Filipino workers have to leave their homes and love ones 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 today’s overseas Filipino workers. Rich countries know that we all belong to a single human family; we are all brothers and sisters in need of each other. But most often than not, they would pretend that they do not know us. They would treat our overseas Filipino workers harshly. Sometimes, it is even worse than 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 Joseph’s brothers 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).
Correlation of Action and Destiny
Joseph’s brothers finally realized that their sufferings were the consequences of what they did to Joseph their own brother – they sold him as a slave to some Midianite traders. This is what they call historical retribution in Old Testament theology or karma in Buddhism. What we do to others will always come back to us historically in due time. If we would do evil or good to others, something evil or good would also come back to us. It is based on the life principle of correlation of action and destiny. Our future destiny is dependent upon our present action.
The phenomenon of today’s overseas Filipino workers is a consequence of what we did to our own people. It is a result of how we are appropriating our nation’s material resources. With our government’s huge foreign debts coupled with endemic corruption in the bureaucracy, 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 overseas Filipino workers – the so-called real heroes of our time – will continue to haunt us in the years to come. Unless we channel our nation’s precious human and material resources to our country’s genuine national development, we would always be at the mercy of the Egypt of our time. # nordis.net