[ Wish there was a happy ending to this story. I still continue to fight the good fight, solider on, and live every day as if it were my last. But in the game of life, don’t we all? ]
SHOW ME an overseas Pinoy worker (OFW), and I’ll show you a migrant-in-waiting. Behind every successful migrant was once an aspiring OFW willing to try his luck anywhere he (or she) is wanted.
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but it’s much easier to migrate when you condition yourself to be an OFW first. A host nation is much more welcoming to potential migrants who look for work first before attempting to become one of its citizens. But one needs to be hyperalert, hypersensitive and hyperaware of all opportunities that lead to the OFW’s ultimate goal, which is to work in an ideal situation abroad…
…or, you could be lucky, and just be at the right place at the right time.
THE FIRST LUCKY BREAK. It all started with a generous aunt, who brought a different set of nephews and nieces each time she went on a vacation overseas. That particular year I was lucky enough to be taken along, and because she had a nephew there (my brother), she chose to visit New Zealand.
After we had seen the sights and enjoyed our reunions with relatives, my brother asked me, if ever he gave me the initial assistance (board & lodging, initial paperwork, etc), I would fancy finding work in New Zealand. It wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. But then, given that I didn’t exactly have the awesomest job back home, what did I have to lose?
***** ***** *****
Inside and out, I don’t come across as a typical OFW. I don’t have the marketable skills in the medical, construction and technology industries that are so desirable all over the world. I’ve never been tech-savvy, I’ve got little to no aptitude in health care, and I definitely don’t possess the particular strength and skill that serves well in housebuilding occupations.
No coincidence, these are among the skills prioritized under the umbrella Skilled Migrant pathway, on the premise that jobs that fuel the economy can’t be filled by locals alone and the backlog must be picked up by migrant labor. These skills are listed, unsurprisingly, on what’s called a Long-Term and Short Term Skills Shortage List.
Nope, I didn’t have any of the skills on either list. And that’s where my second lucky break came…
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THE SECOND. Almost a year after my first work visa was issued, my luck was running out. The company that hired me under that visa went out of business, and the position that I was hired for (something that I barely qualified for) no longer existed, so I of course had no more job. I was back to square one, in fact one step backwards, because like I said above, I had already abandoned my last job in the Philippines (not that it was any great loss) and had already used up a lot of favors getting my first visa.
At the last moment, barely weeks before my only option would be returning home, one of my brothers acquaintances from church gave me a referral to an employment lead.
With the slimmest of hopes I snagged an interview with the site manager. I would be trained from the ground up, with minimum wage but on a case-to-case basis (not based on general work visa policy), I had a chance at a visa. Biting the bullet and kapit sa patalim, I took a leap of faith, and cursed the darkness… (any more dramatic idioms, kabayan?)
***** ***** *****
That was 2008, nearly eight years ago. The good news is, I’m still here in New Zealand. The bad ? Well, there is no bad news. Only a slight disappointment, in the sense that I’m still on a work visa. But given all that I’ve been through, I’ve been very lucky.
I’ve trained as hard as I can in all aspects of my work, so that (surprise!) I’m now a qualified tradesman in my line of work. But because it’s such a specific specialty, unless I go out of the country (again), my employment prospects are quite limited.
Oh yes, it’s true that I’ve been at the right place at the right time, picked my spots and played my cards right. (What if my aunt brought another nephew or niece with her the year she vacationed in New Zealand? What if I was introduced to my brother’s friend a week or two before or after the job opening surfaced? And so on and so forth.)
But I also persevered, perhaps more than I thought I would. Many, many times I thought I would give up. A quarter of my job involves manual labor, another one-fourth a little discipline, plus a little pakisama. That adds another quarter. Most of the time, it’s just showing up, and showing up on time.
It would sound arrogant if I didn’t admit that I’ve been blessed to find work as an unskilled tourist coming from the Philippines, to First World New Zealand. But I would be less than candid if I didn’t say that sipag at tyaga has played a major part.
Diba, sometimes they mean the same thing? Luck and good fortune. Sipag at tyaga. Sometimes we make our own luck.
Thanks for reading kabayan!