Nearly half a million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been forced to return to the Philippines since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, but some of them are still not recovering.
Seafarers were the first OFWs to feel the brutality of the pandemic. It was February 2020 when the outbreak on the Diamond Princess cruise ship became known.
Nearly 4,000 passengers and crew, mostly Filipinos, have been quarantined in Japan. This is where the non-acceptance of ports on other ships began.
Christine Turla, who used to work at a cruise ship’s casino, will never forget it.
“Nakakatakot ‘tsaka ‘yung thought na ano ba, uuwi pa ba tayo or what, kasi ilang days tayo palutang-lutang, walang port na tumatanggap… ‘Yun ‘yung start ng kalbaryo naming mga seafarer, kasi hindi na namin alam kung kelan babalik sa normal,” she said.
Turla returned to the Philippines in April 2020. She endured quarantine problems to bring home her 3 children to Cavite.
Since then, she has worked in various ways to earn a living, from selling food, to small businesses, but she has not been able to find a permanent job.
Almost 500K OFWs return to PH due to pandemic
“‘Pagka ‘yung nakakakita ako sa Jobstreet ng mga hiring like cashier ita-try ko lahat. Pero lahat ‘yon hindi sila nagre-reply… Nakaka-depress din as nanay,” said Turla.
Land-based OFWs who lost their jobs then went home.
Nanny April Joy Adajar waited 2 months at the Philippine Embassy in the United Arab Emirates before returning home. But she was disappointed when she arrived in the Philippines because the 2-week quarantine became 2 more months.
“Du’n sa quarantine facility di mo alam kung umaga o gabi kasi hindi mo makita ‘yung labas, walang bintana, sarado lahat… Nakaka-depress na ‘yung palipat-lipat ng quarantine facility na nilalagyan namin, kasi pagdating dito sa probinsiya quarantine naman ulit,” she said.
Like Turla, Adajar now trades for profit.
Although she used to be a call center agent before going abroad, she has no money to buy a computer for work-from-home requirements.
She also did not receive P10,000 cash assistance for OFWs.
According to the Department of Labor and Employment, although there are more than 220,000 pending applications for P10,000 cash assistance for OFWs, almost 500,000 have already received them.