Thanks to you Pinoys!

David HarwellBy David H. Harwell, PhD

I am writing to thank Filipinos for the way you have treated me here, and to pass on a lesson I learned from observing the differences between your culture and mine over the years.

I am an expatriate worker. I refer to myself as an OAW, an overseas American worker, as a bad joke. The work I do involves a lot of traveling and changing locations, and I do it alone, without family. I have been in 21 countries now, not including my own. It was fun at first. Now, many years later, I am getting tired. The Philippines remains my favorite country of all, though, and I’d like to tell you why before I have to go away again.

I have lived for short periods here, traveled here, and have family and friends here. My own family of origin in the United States is like that of many Americans—not much of a family. Americans do not stay very close to their families, geographically or emotionally, and that is a major mistake. I have long been looking for a home and a family, and the Philippines is the only place I have lived where people honestly seem to understand how important their families are.

I am American and hard-headed. I am a teacher, but it takes me a long time to learn some things. But I’ve been trying, and your culture has been patient in trying to teach me.

arrow green with textIn the countries where I’ve lived and worked, all over the Middle East and Asia, it is Filipinos who do all the work and make everything happen. When I am working in a new company abroad, I seek out the Filipino staff when I need help getting something done, and done right. Your international reputation as employees is that you work hard, don’t complain, and are very capable. If all the Filipinos were to go home from the Middle East, the world would stop. Oil is the lifeblood of the world, but without Filipinos, the oil will not come from the ground, it will not be loaded onto the ships, and the ships will not sail. The offices that make the deals and collect the payments will not even open in the morning. The schools will not have teachers, and, of course, the hospitals will have no staff.

What I have seen, that many of you have not seen, is how your family members, the ones who are overseas Filipino workers, do not tell you much about how hard their lives actually are. OFWs are very often mistreated in other countries, at work and in their personal lives. You probably have not heard much about how they do all the work but are severely underpaid, because they know that the money they are earning must be sent home to you, who depend on them. The OFWs are very strong people, perhaps the strongest I have ever seen. They have their pictures taken in front of nice shops and locations to post on Facebook so that you won’t worry about them. But every Pinoy I have ever met abroad misses his/her family very, very much.

I often pity those of you who go to America. You see pictures of their houses and cars, but not what it took to get those things. We have nice things, too many things, in America, but we take on an incredible debt to get them, and the debt is lifelong. America’s economy is based on debt. Very rarely is a house, car, nice piece of clothing, electronic appliance, and often even food, paid for. We get them with credit, and this debt will take all of our lifetime to pay. That burden is true for anyone in America—the OFWs, those who are married to Americans, and the Americans themselves.

Most of us allow the American Dream to become the American Trap. Some of you who go there make it back home, but you give up most of your lives before you do. Some of you who go there learn the very bad American habits of wanting too many things in your hands, and the result is that you live only to work, instead of working only to live. The things we own actually own us. That is the great mistake we Americans make in our lives. We live only to work, and we work only to buy more things that we don’t need. We lose our lives in the process.

I have sometimes tried to explain it like this: In America, our hands are full, but our hearts are empty.

You have many problems here, I understand that. Americans worry about having new cars, Filipinos worry about having enough food to eat. That’s an enormous difference. But do not envy us, because we should learn something from you. What I see is that even when your hands are empty, your hearts remain full.

I have many privileges in the countries where I work, because I am an expat. I do not deserve these things, but I have them. However, in every country I visit, I see that you are there also, taking care of your families, friends, bosses, and coworkers first, and yourselves last. And you have always taken care of me, in this country and in every other place where I have been.

These are places where I have been very alone, very tired, very hungry, and very worried, but there have always been Filipinos in my offices, in the shops, in the restaurants, in the hospitals, everywhere, who smile at and take good care of me. I always try to let you know that I have lived and traveled in the Philippines and how much I like your country. I know that behind those smiles of yours, here and abroad, are many worries and problems.

Please know that at least one of us expats has seen what you do for others and understands that you have a story behind your smiles. Know that at least one of us admires you, respects you, and thanks you for your sacrifices. Salamat po. Ingat lagi. Mahal ko kayong lahat.

yolanda malicseEditor’s Note: Thanks to Yolanda Malicse from Germany who shared us this little story. Yolanda is a Registered Nurse and a regular subscriber of our Weekly Update. A sentimental open letter from an American teacher to the Filipino people. David H. Harwell, PhD, is a former professor and assistant dean in the United States who now travels and works abroad designing language training programs. He is a published author and a son of a retired news editor.

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11 thoughts on “Thanks to you Pinoys!

  1. Hello my dear KABABAYAN and so with the other RACES too. I am a Filipina and I love my BEAUTIFUL country PHILIPPINES.

    This issue makes me happy in a pretty way & to say to all of you “I am very proud to be a Filipina”

    I was at home last December 2012. I am so delighted for what I’ve seen and experienced. The friendliness and helpfulness of my KABABAYANS are just planted in my heart & brought this feeling ’til I come back here to Germany.
    I’m talking of good sides… but surely like in every corner of the earth, Perfection doesn’t exists…..

    GOD BLESS US ALL!

    Like

  2. Dr. Harwell,
    Beautiful write-up. I wish that more people would see with what you see in the Filipino race. You spoke the truth and Pinoys love you even more for that.
    Dr. Leo Jurado, PNAA

    Like

  3. Dr. Harwell,
    How eloquently you put your soul on paper. I too have felt the love and care of the Filipino race in the Philippine Nurses Association of Arizona, in working with the Global Caring Nurses Foundation, and the Asian Pacific Community in Action organizations. I too often have felt the burden of being a unrooted American caught in the American trap. Well, I am working to change that and to more fully experience the love and joy of the Filipino race in a visit next year. Many thanks to you for inspiring me to definitively make that decision.
    Cecilia E. Fleming, MSN, RN

    Like

  4. Dr. Harwell,
    Thank you for your sincere message. It is very heartwarming indeed.

    God bless the OFWs who who have made and continue to make a positive impact to the people who they work for and to the Philippines.

    I hope someone could write a book to chronicle their stories and their contributions.

    Like

  5. Dr. Harwell,
    I could feel the way you express eloquently your experiences about our our Filipinos brothers and sisters oversea. When ever I see a bad news about a young Filipino laday being abused by their boss, makes my blood realy boil. I am a Filipino and had been in the U.S . for 51 years and always visit the philippines evry two years.
    Dr. Harwell, you make us very proud of the way we are. I am sure you are one of those who have seen it all, and your observation about our race is to be commented even if I am not one of those who did not run into the American trap.
    Many thanks to you for inspiring all of us who makes an honest living in another country but our hearts souls are are still back home.

    Quint
    Sr Design Engr

    Like

  6. Dr. Harwell,
    Thanks so much for that honest observation. I am a physician, a permanent resident of the Philippines. Your writeup touched my heart and brought tears in my eyes. You are correct- the Filipinos are all over the world, in all kinds of occupation, and they really work hard, are reliable, honest, cheerful and God-fearing. Its a pity some employers abuse them. They havent realized that they have a jem in their midst.
    God bless and more power to you!

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  7. I was born I the philippines and raised in New England. Yes. We are all hard working Filipinos. Phjippines is the world largest labor exporters. The problem is the Politicians in the Philippines. They do not have much regards to those overseas workers. Billions of Dollars of revenues to all the money that they send to back to the country. However, when those hard working Pilipinos comes back, they are giving them a hard time by the custom agents at the airport. Those customs agents are getting paid and they wanted more from those worker that comes back to see the families. Someone has to wake up and smell the coffee!! I hope you all know what I am talking about. Crooked agents have to go and not tolerated…Dr. Harwell, took his time writing this and tell us the truth.

    Like

  8. DR HARWELL YOU MADE ME MISTY EYED AS I READ YOUR LETTER.HOW TRUE EVERY WORD YOU’VE SAID ,MADE MY HEART EVEN MORE WARMER AND LIGHT.MADE ME FEEL SO GOOD ABOUT BEING SEEN AND UNDERSTOOD .YOU ARE GOD’S INTERPRETER/WRITER FOR WHAT FILIPINOS ARE .THANK YOU TOO.OUR CULTURE WILL ALWAYS STAY HOSPITABLE,CARING ,AND GENEROUS.THAT’S HOW OUR UPBRINGING WAS.I SHALL NEVER FORGET THIS.”SMILE BEHIND EVERY HARD
    WORK” GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS.

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  9. Well said Dr. Harwell.!! It often takes a “foreigner” like you to appreciate who we are and what we do for the people of the world. Filipinos abroad regardless of how long they have been out of homeland would take to heart what you have eloquently described based from your own experience. I’m just wondering if the reaction would have been the same it the writer was a true blooded Filipino…It’s time to pat ourselves on the back for what we have accomplished, BIG or small.
    We are all in it together.

    Like

  10. Every word he wrote touches the very bottom of my heart. I got teary-eyed as I read Dr. Harwell’s message…such an accurate observation. Nice to know that there is someone like him who appreciates the Filipino’s way of dealing with other people, doing his job and caring for his family.
    Maraming salamat din po sa inyong pagtangkilik.

    Like

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