I am happy that I have been given an opportunity to tell my story as a migrant in Italy. When I was writing it I know that it should be limited to a number of paragraphs only. So I tried to share my experience as accurate as I can in a few lines. I believe it must resonate the same sentiments of Overseas Filipino Workers like myself. And at the same time, hinting that my story is just a drop in the ocean of millions of other stories of migrants like myself. In the end, I want the story to be about and for others, not for myself. I hope it will serve its purpose. So far, I have been receiving comments like ”it is our story”, ”very moving”, ”heartwarming”, ”I could hardly breathe as I read the article” and many more compliments.
Here is the English version. You can click the photo below for the complete text with the Italian version. Thanks!
In 2012, I became one of the 10 million Filipinos living abroad in search of work in hope of a better future for their families and children. And my children became one of the 9 million children who were left behind and are living without one or both of their parents.
I came to Italy with a petition visa from my husband. According to Italian law his salary as a domestic helper was not enough to bring all of us with him. So I was the first to go. In that way, if I could find a regular job we could combine our incomes to get our children.
It was not easy for me to come here. I had to leave my children behind. Fortunately, I still had a brother back home who I trust to take care of them as his own. I also had to say goodbye to a job where I recently just got promoted. And I had to forget about the Master’s degree I am just a thesis away from finishing. But I also know the benefits of working abroad for a low to middle class Filipino like myself. I am also a daughter of an Overseas Filipino Worker. And if not for my mother working abroad as a nurse, me and my siblings would not have been able to graduate from college. And eventhough I was already working professionally as a Nutritionist Dietitian, I know my salary was not enough to raise three children and send them to good private schools. And if they do not get a university degree, there will be an even less chance of them getting a decent job in the future. So I packed my bags with a hope that I was doing the right thing for my family. I got on the plane with the conviction that I would do everything to bring them in Italy where I am optimistic for equal opportunities for them. When the plane took off, I had one final look at the country I grew up in wondering when I will be back again.
Fortunately, I was able to find a job immediately eventhough I do not speak the language yet. I worked as a cleaner for people who speak English. When I was able to speak a little Italian already, I found work as a babysitter. I earned just enough to help my husband pay the bills and send money back home. But it is not easy to have a menial job and to be a foreigner at the same time. There were times I wished I had never come. There were times I almost forgot who I am.
I am grateful for the strong support I have with my family, friends and the Filipino community I found. Little by little I began to find a purpose to what seemed like my insignificant existence here. Part of the money I earn I send back home to help the causes support like medical services to tribespeople, education for children living in far-flung islands, and helping a young teacher educate children in the streets. A hundred euros could already help one doctor build a small clinic in the mountains. The same amount could help buy notebooks and pens for dozens of children living in isolated islands. And the same amount could also help sponsor one teacher to spend a week in another city to teach more street children.
My wish for the future is that I could help more people in my country. If I could only earn more, I believe I could help support more causes. I also dream that one day Filipinos here would become more integrated into the Italian society and be given the same opportunities for higher education and professions. I hope that Filipinos and the other migrants be given the chance to reach their full potential even in a foreign land. And most importantly, that we, in the process of integration, do not sacrifice or forget our cultural identity. I know there are a lot of barriers to break but I am keeping an optimistic outlook in life. For the meantime, I am happy that my children are already here and that they are being taught in schools with an excellent quality of education.
My story is only one of the million stories of Filipinos who made the sacrifice to leave their country in the hope of a better future. In the meantime we must keep moving as life is an ongoing series of transition. The road we tread upon is not easy but we are all hoping it will lead us to a place we can call home. Whether it will take us back to the Philippines, or it would mean planting our roots in a new soil.
Elisha Gay C. Hidalgo
For anyone who wants to help and send donations to some causes and individuals I support please visit the links below:
Dr. Roel Cagape
047 NLSA, Lagao, General Santos City, Philippines 9500
Father Jose Martin Sibug, OP,Camiguin Norte Mission, c/o Biak na Bato, Sta. Mesa Heights, Quezon City (006327437762) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRHxdc2bVbY
Kino Balaga at https://www.facebook.com/kerneilb3?fref=ts