Early in the morning before sunrise, she heads to the bushes hoping to find root crops for her starving family. She held the stem of the sturdy cassava plant, she pulled it up but failed, she tried again yet the plant resisted. She gave another blow with all her strength from her tiny body, she uprooted the yucca plant full of edible fully grown roots. A usual routine for a young girl’s family living below the poverty line.
Meet Marevel Obedencio Paekpcke, 40 years old, and Overseas Filipino Worker in Denmark, from Bukidnon, Philippines. Marevel is among the few migrant workers who found refuge in this Scandinavian country.
Originally from Gango, Libona, Bukidnon, an agricultural village occupied by prominent families owning haciendas and ranch. Though living along with wealthy neighbors, Marevel’s family is the opposite. She is second from the eldest among her 7 siblings, her parents are both uneducated and their only source of income is through farming and construction.
Their family had to move from one place to another in search of a better source of living, their nomadic lifestyle often left their family struggling to survive. As a child, she had experience scouring the creek in search of rattan, a raw material for basket weaving, and their handicraft then sold to buy their basic necessities.
During her primary school, she had to walk almost an hour from her residence and had to cross a stream just to reach school. Several occasions she’s unable to go to school due to no food on the table, life was extremely difficult for the young girl as she was growing up. Their impoverished situation prompted her to dream that someday, everything will be alright.
Work in The Household to Support Her Family
After completing high school, she had to work in the city as a housemaid to help her family’s poor condition. Despite her meager salary, she never forgets to go home and brought her siblings and family’s food to share on the table. Seeing how happy her younger siblings made her elated as well.
Until one day a friend of her recommended her to have a “pen pal”, back in the 90s and early 2000s, social media wasn’t very popular at that time, instead of through the postal mail. Eventually, she found her prince charming, the man of her dream from Denmark. Their “pen pal” relationship ended up into church marriage, the ‘tie the knot’ brought her to Denmark. At first, she was reluctant to move to Denmark knowing it’s going to be her first time to be away from her home and her family.
Though Scared, She Went Abroad For Her Family
Despite being scared to go with her husband, seeing her family’s pitiful situation gave her the courage to venture into the unknown. Contrary to what most of the people thought, she never relied upon her husband’s earning; while in Denmark, she had experience working in the field harvesting beans and strawberry. Nobody knew how hard for her being alone in a foreign land intensified by the language and cultural barriers.
Though sometimes feeling sick, she had to go to work despite being unwell, she had to take care of herself on her own. Often times, she found herself crying in her room due to loneliness and homesickness, she had no one to talk too and to tell her problems, not even her family knew about it, she became the sole breadwinner.
Financially Supported Her Family, Built A New House and Siblings Studies
Through her, she was able to build a new house for her family back home and supported financially the education of her three younger siblings in college and two in the primary schools. Unfortunately, only two of her siblings graduated college out of three.
After almost two decades of overflowing financial support to her family members, her kins became too reliant and dependent on her that led to abuse. Despite her immeasurable financial support since the beginning, her family would still ask for more. That sometimes resulted in trouble and misunderstanding between her and her family.
Marevel, often too depressed and extremely sad of the situation, instead of thanking and appreciating her for helping them out from poverty and for supporting her siblings’ complete college. She was sometimes being blamed, despite all the support that she has done for several years to her family back home.
Often Misunderstood and The Struggles Working Overseas
Marevel would often wonder – why and how? Why her family can’t understand her situation and how they are acting like that after all the kindness that she had given them. Affected by the situation, Marevel can’t help, but fell in tears and would cry in her room alone, no family, no relatives, no brothers, and sisters knew her suffering and her difficult situation of being misunderstood.
Meanwhile, after more than a decade of her married life, Marevel and her husband parted ways but continued to have a friendly relationship. Currently, Maribel is working in a Nursing Home in Denmark, a country she could call her second home.
Marevel hopes that one day, her family would be able to understand her situation and restore their relationship with her siblings and parents. After all, at the end of the day, they are still family.
Marevel’s story is not uncommon to us, as there are many OFWs who have experienced the same situation as Marevel. When an OFW’s family became very dependent and end up being abusive to the point that they would no longer work for themselves. Perhaps the lessons learned is that – our family back home should learn to appreciate whatever assistance and support are given to them by their relatives working abroad.
Likewise, we, as an OFW should constantly remind our dependents back home that we also have a life to live. As working abroad is not an easy game to play, our families back home are not aware of our struggles being alone in a foreign land. In times of sickness, nobody is there to get us through, in times of sadness and loneliness no one is there to alleviate our burdens.
As an OFW myself, I have learned that apart from helping our family – we should leave something for ourselves because we cannot give what we don’t have. Salute to all the OFWs in the world who have left their comfort zone and sacrifice themselves for the sake of their families.
Are you an OFW? Do you have OFW relatives? What lessons have you learned from this story today? Let me know in the comment box below!
The author is currently based in Saudi Arabia, the holiest land of Islam. He’s a full-time employee of the largest energy company in the world. He’s a graduate of Communication Management, loves to write and travel.