“May Pinoy ka na katrabaho?” If you have heard this question countless times when talking to someone, raise your hand. I bet you didn’t even need to count again in your head how many Filipino officemates you have since you already know how many, what their names are and from where in the Philippines they came from since most often than not this is the follow up question.
So what is my point in asking this common and seemingly innocent question?
My point is that we are drawn to our fellow kabayans and that we sometimes fervently wish we have a Filipino in the workplace even just one, to eat lunch with or gossip with during lull times. Some would even reconsider taking up a job offer if there are no other OFWs in the company since most if not all would prefer to work with one. It’s like a security blanket knowing and perhaps expecting a little that when things go south, you have someone you could rely on, someone who has your back or even the most trivial of having someone who speaks the same language. After all, for us OFWs who are often alone with no any family or relative in a foreign country we tend to seek “familial” comfort and establish friendship with our officemates and sometimes even spend important holidays with them.
(I know there are those Filipinos who still suffer from crab mentality and are not anyone’s choice to be workmates let alone be friends with, but we’ll talk about that on another post).
This post’s title is ominous but a sad truth especially during this time of uncertainty here in the GCC. Last week a former colleague who became a close friend dropped me a bomb. Words I was not yet prepared to hear; “Neng, baka hindi na ko ulit mag renew ng kontrata ko.” She is the inspiration behind this post. She is not the first friend who left me. But every time one does, I’m still reminded of the hollow feeling.
This is what I mean when I say OFWs have fleeting, short-lived and temporary friendships. Sooner or later one is bound to go back home leaving the other behind.
What to do if you feel deserted by friends you already considered family?
First and foremost, don’t take it against them. My initial reaction was to tell her to stay and don’t go back to the Philippines just yet. I know I am going to miss seeing her and being with her but I forgot how unhappy she already is with her current company. I only thought of my sadness without even considering how she truly feels.
If there is a possibility and there is still a chance, do help them. I know my friend’s reason to not renew her contract with her current employer is that the workload is piling up, the remuneration is less than befitting and the benefits and health insurance curbing. So if they are still willing to give being an OFW another chance, support them in looking for a new workplace. If you heard of any job vacancies that fit their qualifications, inform them. Write them a recommendation letter or endorse them to your Human Resources Head who could interview them for a position or forward their credentials to other HR heads they know.
But if they are set on going back to the Philippines for good, don’t make them feel like they are abandoning you or don’t guilt them into staying just for you. Support their decision and let them know you accept their choice wholeheartedly. If it was your decision to make, I’m sure they will do the same.
Do make more memories with them. It is easy to say that you will all keep in touch but the reality is it is a lot of work especially when real life catches up with the both of you. This friend of mine is also from Visayas so even when I come home during my annual vacation it would still be hard for us to see one another again in person unless I would fly to her or her to me. So now that you still have time with them, take lots of pictures, play silly games, travel to places and save countless precious memories to reminisce once you started to miss them. Reminders of why you were such good friends in the first place.
Do ensure they have everything they need. Packing up years worth of living as an OFW is no easy task (not to mention expensive). Show up one afternoon with rolls of duct tape, bubble wrap and a box of pizza (you’d both be hungry after all those packing). Make sure they have packed up all the mementos of their being an OFW and shipped back to the Philippines. Do also remind them of their gratuity fees and experience letter. No one wants to go home empty handed or scrimped on how much they are really supposed to receive.
Don’t be discouraged to make friends with other kabayans. The pain of feeling deserted by your friends might make you feel withdrawn from being close to others since there is the possibility that the same thing will happen again. Don’t lose the chance of knowing people who might be your friends for life. Friendship does not always mean companionship. You could still be friends with someone even if you are separated by distance and or living in a different time zone. What matters is your feelings of pact and understanding are conveyed across even if it is only via a chat message.
It might be easier to just move on and pretend the friendship fizzled out since you feel like the victim being left alone to fend for yourself. But think for a minute if the roles were reversed. It would be easier for you to understand where your friend is coming from since you’ve been in their shoes. Oh and hey, if you are feeling sad from your friend’s impending departure then it only means what you had, what you have is real.