Overseas Filipino Workers: Role of OFWs in Philippine Society

Filipinos are widely recognized abroad for a variety of traits and cultural aspects but of the many things they are known for, no other word holds as much impact on a global scale as “OFWs”. Overseas Filipino workers, often hailed as modern-day Filipino heroes, embody the enduring spirit of the Philippines. Their courage to venture beyond our shores in pursuit of better opportunities is a testament to their resilience and dedication.

Not only do OFWs significantly contribute to the economy through remittances, but they also bring pride to the nation through their hard work and adaptability in diverse cultures and environments around the world. Their stories represent the many Filipino families who, through sheer determination and sacrifice, seek a better life. The narrative of an OFW is filled with tales of perseverance, hope, and often, success against all odds.

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs): Modern-Day Filipino Heroes
Image: Philippine News Agency

Recognition of OFWs as Modern-Day Filipino Heroes

Did you know that it was way back in 1988 that former Philippine President Corazon “Cory” Aquino first used the term “modern-day heroes” to describe OFWs? Since then, this recognition has been deeply ingrained in the fabric of Philippine society. This recognition stems not just from their economic contributions but also from the resilience, sacrifice, and courage they exhibit in the face of numerous challenges. Let’s take a look at the many facets of what makes our OFWs truly the modern-day heroes that they are.

1. Economic Contributions: A Foundation of the Philippine Economy

  • Remittances as Lifelines: According to the 2020 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), OFWs send home billions of pesos annually, providing a vital lifeline to the Philippine economy. These remittances support countless families and fund critical sectors like education, healthcare, and real estate.
  • Global Impact: Beyond remittances, OFWs contribute significantly to the economies of their host countries, often taking on roles that are crucial to the functioning of key sectors like healthcare, engineering, and service industries.

2. Cultural Ambassadors: Promoting Filipino Values Globally

  • Spreading Filipino Culture: OFWs are known for their hard work, dedication, and family-oriented values, which they carry and share globally. In doing so, they become informal ambassadors of Filipino culture and heritage.
  • Building Bridges: Their presence in diverse countries helps in fostering cross-cultural understanding and building bridges between the Philippines and the rest of the world.

3. Personal Sacrifice and Resilience

  • Sacrifice for Family: The decision to work abroad is often driven by a deep sense of familial responsibility. OFWs endure the emotional hardship of separation from their families to provide them with a better life.
  • Resilience in Adversity: Many OFWs face challenges like homesickness, cultural barriers, and sometimes harsh working conditions. Their ability to persevere through these difficulties underscores their heroism.

4. Government and Societal Recognition

  • Legal Recognition: The Philippine government officially recognizes the significant contributions of OFWs. Laws and policies have been enacted to protect their rights and welfare, and special days are dedicated to celebrating their contributions.
  • Community Acknowledgment: Communities across the Philippines also recognize the sacrifices of OFWs. They are often held in high esteem in their local communities, with their success stories inspiring many.

5. The Symbolism of OFWs in Philippine Society

  • Embodiments of Hope and Perseverance: OFWs are seen as symbols of hope and perseverance, representing the aspirations of many Filipinos. Their stories are a source of inspiration, showcasing that hard work and determination can lead to success.
  • Role Models: The younger generation looks up to OFWs as role models, exemplifying the virtues of resilience, hard work, and the importance of family.

Challenges Faced by OFWs

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs): Modern-Day Filipino Heroes
Image: Philippine News Agency

Navigating the life of an OFW comes with its own unique set of challenges. While the opportunity to work abroad offers financial benefits and professional growth, it also brings forth a range of hurdles that can impact both personal well-being and professional life. It’s crucial to understand these challenges to better support and prepare OFWs for their journey.

Personal and Emotional Challenges

  1. Separation from Family and Loved Ones:
    • Emotional Strain: Being away from family, especially for extended periods, can cause significant emotional distress. The absence during important family milestones can intensify feelings of loneliness and isolation.
    • Maintaining Relationships: Long-distance communication is a lifeline but maintaining close familial bonds over time and distance requires concerted effort and emotional resilience.
  2. Cultural Adjustment in Foreign Countries:
    • Culture Shock: Adapting to a new culture, language, and social norms can be disorienting and stressful. This can lead to a sense of alienation or misunderstanding in daily interactions.
    • Social Integration: Building a new social network is essential but challenging, requiring patience and openness to diverse cultural perspectives.

Professional and Environmental Challenges

  1. Adapting to Different Work Environments:
    • Work Culture Differences: Every country has its own work culture, which might differ significantly from what OFWs are accustomed to. Understanding and adapting to these nuances is crucial for professional success and personal comfort.
    • Skill Adaptation and Growth: Continuous learning and adapting skills to meet the requirements of the new work environment are essential for career advancement and job security.
  2. Dealing with Employment Issues and Rights Abroad:
    • Understanding Legal Rights: Knowledge about employment rights in a foreign country is vital. This includes understanding contracts, work hours, benefits, and recourse in case of disputes.
    • Workplace Challenges: Navigating issues like job stability, employer expectations, and potential exploitation or discrimination requires awareness and sometimes legal support.

Government Agencies that Support OFWs

The Philippine government has several agencies that provide support to OFWs in various aspects of their employment abroad, from deployment to welfare and legal assistance. Here’s a list of key government agencies providing support to OFWs:

1. Department of Migrant Workers (DMW)

  • DMW is the primary agency responsible for the protection, welfare, and advocacy of OFWs. It centralizes services related to overseas employment, including policy development, welfare assistance, and coordination with foreign entities.

2. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)

  • DOLE oversees general labor and employment matters in the Philippines, including policies that affect OFWs.

3. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)

  • Now under the DMW, the POEA continues to be responsible for the registration and supervision of recruitment agencies, and the processing and documentation of OFWs.

4. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA)

  • Also now under the DMW, the OWWA focuses on the welfare and well-being of OFWs and their families, providing services like insurance, legal assistance, and reintegration programs.

5. Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO)

  • The CFO addresses issues of Filipinos overseas, especially permanent migrants, and fosters connections between the Philippines and the global Filipino diaspora.

6. Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)

  • Through embassies and consulates, the DFA offers assistance to OFWs, particularly in legal and diplomatic concerns.

7. Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)

  • TESDA provides skills training programs tailored for OFWs to ensure their competitiveness in the global job market.

8. Social Security System (SSS)

  • Offers social security protection to OFWs, including retirement, disability, and other benefits.

9. Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth)

  • The PhilHealth ensures health insurance coverage for OFWs and their dependents.

10. Pag-IBIG Fund (Home Development Mutual Fund)

  • Pag-IBIG provides savings and loan programs for housing and other needs of OFWs.

11. Bureau of Immigration (BI)

  • The BI manages immigration concerns and documentation for OFWs.

12. National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO)

  • Now under the DMW, the NRCO aids in the reintegration of OFWs into Philippine society with programs for livelihood and employment.

13. Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED)

  • Offer educational support and scholarships for the children of OFWs.

These government agencies work together to provide comprehensive support and protection for OFWs, addressing their needs from pre-deployment to post-employment. They play a crucial role in ensuring that OFWs’ rights are protected and that their contributions to the country are recognized and supported. Other than this, various non-governmental organizations also provide services to support OFWs, whether actively working abroad or back home.

Video: The Story of the Filipino: OFWs

In this compelling episode of “The Story of the Filipino,” we delve into the lives of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), who, driven by the pursuit of diverse opportunities, find themselves in foreign lands, miles away from their loved ones. The narrative unfolds as we explore the complex tapestry of experiences faced by these resilient individuals. We acknowledge their sacrifices and the emotional weight they carry, balancing the hope of a better future with the heartache of separation from family. This episode is a tribute to their courage and a candid look at the realities they endure, painting a poignant picture of their journey and struggles.


In conclusion, Overseas Filipino Workers stand as a remarkable embodiment of the Philippine spirit, marked by resilience, dedication, and the pursuit of betterment not just for themselves, but for their families and the nation as a whole. Their journeys, replete with perseverance, hope, and triumph, reflect the broader story of the Filipino people—a narrative of unwavering determination and formidable spirit in the face of challenges.

error: Content is protected !!