Feature Story: Dave Visaya - My OFW Story - Weekend

Feature Story: Dave Visaya – My OFW Story

I DIDN’T dream of becoming a superhero like most kids my age when I was young. Instead, I dreamt of becoming filthy rich.

Yes, that kind of rich — sipping a piña colada while lounging in my 10-bedroom mansion and entertaining guests on my yacht kind of rich. In other words, I dreamt of living the lifestyle most rock stars are enjoying, or at least something close.

I’m not sure if I was being cocky or naive but I never really gave much thought as to how I can pull off a feat as epic. Back then, I was only certain about two things: my dream is valid and I’m holding on to it.

My reality that time however was a totally different thing. Primarily, I blame it to not having Warren Buffett, or Jeff Bezos, or Bill Gates as a dad. All jokes aside, my dad was one of those people who had to work outside the country to support his family, better known as the Overseas Filipino Worker.

For those who are not familiar, having a father who works as an OFW has some major downsides.

For starters, I barely got to see him. My old man comes home once a year and stays a month or so max. If we do the math, I only got to spend a mere two years with him by the time I turned 24!

What’s even unfortunate is almost everyone in my circle (unknowingly or otherwise), instilled in me the idea that the only way to become financially stable and support a family would be to work overseas — a truly limiting concept now that I know better. But back then, it made perfect sense.

Since I didn’t get to bond with my dad as much, his patience when it comes to dealing with my occasional mischiefs is not exactly commendable. One time he asked me to buy paint. I came home bringing a different kind. In my defense, the seller convinced me it’s basically the same as the one I was told to buy. Without any warning, I got a firm bottom smacking — definitely not the reward I expected for my resourcefulness.

Understandably, it didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t quite grasp his lack of patience even if my life depended on it. I started developing this hidden dislike towards my dad. Who does this guy think he is anyway?

That day, I promised myself that when I grow up I’ll never be an OFW!

We all know how it is with promises — they tend to get broken. Mine was no exception. When the time came for me to pick a course in college, I did the most logical thing — I took the same course my best friend took: nursing. So there I was, winging it, graduating, and passing the board.

My timing was crappy at best: I became a registered nurse when the US literally closed their doors to nurses. And then, a friend of mine told me about an immigration company that helps nurses find jobs in Canada. I only need to shell out P200,000 and I’m good to go. I felt like it was too good to be true — turned out it was. It was a scam.

Undeniably, it was one of my life’s lowest points: I was jobless and neck-deep in debt. One time, I had to walk from Ayala to Capitol for a job interview because I had no spare money for jeepney fare. Talk about hitting rock bottom!

Things got a lot better when I met this girl. Not sure what it is with girls but they seem to have this natural ability to make any blow (“misfortune” would be more apt) hurt a little less. She came from a well-to-do family (and no, I’m not a gold-digger, I paid all my dues on my own… Just thought I’d get that out of the way.)

However, her mom must have sensed my desperation and told me something I have never forgotten until now. “Dave, you can find money here. You don’t have to work outside of the country to find it. You just need to look for opportunities hard enough.”

That was quite a revelation. Looking back, I console myself with the idea that while the girl didn’t stick with me, that lesson did.

I followed the advice, looked for opportunities here, kept an open mind. I found myself slowly making my mark. I know it’s amusing but it’s a reality that as you get more financially stable, people become more friendly. You get more invites. So one time, I got invited to my cousin’s wedding and my dad was asked to give a little talk, having acted as my cousin’s foster parent.

I thought, “What good advice can this guy possibly dish out?” Back then, I still had some hidden disdain for the man (“hugot”). After offering his well wishes, my dad got a bit emotional. He told my cousin, “Don’t be like me. Don’t sacrifice family for money.”

I sat there, stunned. While he was giving that message to someone else, I sensed he was actually addressing me. From there, I saw the man, my father, in a different light.

At the expense of sounding sappy, I realized the man who stood before me was a man who loved and wanted to provide for his family but was imprisoned by his circumstances. He didn’t have much of a choice.

To this day, not sacrificing relationships for money has become my guiding principle. And it’s the primary reason I created the podcast “The Big Picture Philippines.” Through the inspiring stories of our guests, I would like to show people there is no need to work outside the country just to thrive and provide for your family.

I may not have that mansion or yacht yet but I am doing my thing and I get to spend quality time with my loved ones and friends while I’m at it. It can’t get any better than that.

If you are at a point where you have to decide whether to leave your family or sacrifice your relationships for money, choose not to. Speaking from experience, I’d say it’s a price too high to pay. Instead, I’ll encourage you to look around. This country offers endless opportunities, and if you just look hard enough, it would only be a matter of time until you find them!

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