Going Home

Going Home. When you are working overseas, these words are always the best that you can possibly think of…to an expat working abroad, this sounds really good. Home is something that you look forward to. Whether you are going home because you have finished your contract, your annual leave is due, your company ran out of projects and you are one of the unfortunates that is being laid off, you were wrongly accused, you got into some form of mischief and your boss can’t let go, you are forced to leave because you are being maltreated, your employer can’t issue you a residence visa because you did not pass the medical test, one of your family members back home passed away, or a lot more reasons to go home, these words still sound good.
Life overseas is not always like a bed of roses. Yes, maybe to those who are lucky to land a better paying job, but even then, you can forget about your hardships once you are booked to go home. To those who are unfortunate… Well, you can still say ‘there will be another chance’.

I still remember whenever I was onboard a plane bound for home… it is always as the same like the other times. When the plane starts to hover over Manila International Airport, you can hear people clap and shouts ‘KABAYAN NANDITO NA TAYO!!” Oh! The shouts that you can hear when you feel the plane’s tires touch the ground. The scene inside an arriving plane is somewhat chaotic. Some fellows couldn’t help themselves. Amidst the noise, the voice of the stewardess is on the intercom telling everyone to remain seated blah, blah, blah… Some are already standing itching to open the overhead compartments for their belongings. Gone was the subdued atmosphere after boarding. Even the lady who was seated and huddled on my left is also consumed… she broke into a smile. The one seated next to the aisle who was silently crying when we left Abu Dhabi is fumbling to unfasten her seatbelt. The baby who was cradled by an elderly lady that is probably his grandma started to cry. Maybe his parents could not issue him a residence visa because they lack some of the requirements to do so. One lady on the front seat is already retouching her makeup. The lady beside her is telling the guy next to her to help her with her baggage, and they could perhaps share a taxi ride home. A guy who seems to be intoxicated with the freebies on board is muttering something. In those early days, mobile phones were still considered a luxury… No yelling at people to turn them off as the plane is about to land, but everyone is fumbling with calling cards so they can call home as soon as we land. Now, everyone turns on their mobile before we’ve even landed yet.

rebeccaYou can never miss this when you happen to be onboard a plane coming from the Middle East. Foreigners who happen to be on that plane, if it’s their first time to visit Philippines, sit in awe. What was in their minds, one never knew. After all, we ‘Pinoys’ are a happy lot. Some guys at the back began another round of applause. You can tell that they’ve come from Saudi Arabia. Some of them are wearing chunky gold chains, rings and earrings. Sometimes, members of a musical band do the same, only they accessorise themselves with heavy silver, and they always wear bandanas and arm bands.

The noise put my thoughts to an end. I mean, I was mentally noting the contents of the 60kg cargo box lying in the plane hold……… To whom would the packet of Pantene shampoo go to. The pack of Lux soap. Tubes of Colgate toothpaste, Jergens lotion, and the AED 10 each bottles of perfumes that the Indian neighbour had peddled… etc., etc. Of course, I did not forget my mother’s big tubs of Nescafe, linens, and cutlery items. I can imagine my mother’s face when she sees her Galaxy chocolates that are in one of those duty free bags in the overhead compartment. She prefers them to a Toblerone because it kind of melts in her mouth….For the love of God! She refuses to have dentures done. I also bought a “buy two, get one free” bottle of Johnny Walker, and a bottle of Remy Martin, plus Absolute vodka for brothers and cousins who are waiting for over a year to have some.

One can imagine how I managed to carry all these bags past the passport control to the trolley line. You can really feel as if your arm is being ripped off because the bags were just too heavy. It’s a good thing you are not paying for the trolley service anymore. Of days old, you had to pay a dollar so you could avail yourself of one. Yeah… You blew off your month’s pay to buy goody- goodies because it is expected that you’d be going home with ‘pasalubongs’ for everyone.

Having to wait near the baggage conveyor, you have to watch your carry-ons. Hilarious as it may seem, I even put my hard-earned money inside my socks. Now don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to go home empty handed. I did that until one of my dollar bills got squashed and wet because I have clammy feet and hands whenever I am nervous. That was when I came home from Kuwait in 1983 and my early years in Abu Dhabi. Tales of fellow OFWs got me scared because some of them got mugged, even just arriving, right outside the airport. I switched to pocketing my money in my front jean pocket and securing it with a pin. I just leave enough for my taxi fare and bus fare, plus a little extra, if something arises, in my wallet. I still remember changing my dollar bills to pesos before heading to the province. My friend and I used to go to Mabini, or Padre Faura, to those money changers. Some of them still exist. A 10 cent difference to a dollar means a lot. Those days the rate was 20-25 pesos to a dollar. Nowadays, there are a lot of easy and convenient ways to send money. There’s the Kwarta Padala, Money Gram, Western Union, and bank to bank transfers. We cannot send through the latter… Abulug is a town in the north that doesn’t have a bank. The nearest bank is in Aparri and Luna, Kalinga Apayao. I used to send through an exchange centre in Abu Dhabi and my mother could just collect it in the nearby town of Ballesteros.

Transport is another problem. If you don’t have relatives in Manila who are affluent enough to own a Sometimes if my best friend, who owns a recruitment agency, happens to be there, I can have a free ride… but it means a day less from my leave. I used to complain about having two week’s vacation every two years instead of a whole month, but then, it sometimes has its’ advantages. I can keep myself from being bored. I was still unmarried then. A week of going here and there is enough, if you live in the province. There are no malls that you can go to in order to while away your time. My friends can’t go out with me if I want to go places, since they are already married with kids. And of course, I still have some amount left for a bus ride to Manila (wink wink………. you can ask any balikbayan how easy it is to spend your leave pay and savings whenever you’re here in the Philippines). Sometimes you don’t even have money left for a bus ride to the airport… you will borrow, to be paid back as soon as you get paid. Vicious cycle, I must say… But it’s all worth it. Nothing can beat that feeling when you see your family smile the moment you walk in that door. They may not say a lot, but you can feel their joy and happiness in that brief period you are staying and you know that when you are gone, they are gonna miss you again.

Fast forward to 2007… I’m going home with the usual baggage plus one. I mean my fiancée is accompanying me home. He had proposed marriage and I told him that he has to come with me to see how we lived in the Philippines. Although there’s an option to travel by air to Tuguegarao, we boarded a Florida bus en route to Ballesteros. Luckily my then fiancée slept through, up until Tuguegarao… my mother was dumfounded, and so was everyone else, when I told them that John is younger than me by four years. Again, don’t get me wrong. It’s not common for a foreigner to fall for one older than they are. Maybe then, what he felt, was true love. Our vacation went well, and he met my elders and other relatives. We went back to Abu Dhabi, and there we began to plan that we would move back to the Philippines… for good.

Home sweet home it is… after 14 months, we were married up in Abulug. I thought it was just so easy being finally home… but having to live that long outside the Philippines, I was in for a shock.
This does not end my story. My next posting will be about my struggles to adjust. I hope you guys will stay tuned, and ……. tata, for now.

Post Author: RebeccaM (2 Posts)

Rebecca Carrao Miele manages a farm in Abulug, Cagayan province, in Northern Luzon. She lives in Quezon City and spent 23 years as an OFW in Kuwait, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi. Now she is a full-time mom to Juanito, and has returned to the Philippines for good. She currently divides her time between Abulug and Manila.

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  1. Glenn B. says

    Nice article Rebecca. Although I’ve been living here in California for the last 19 years and it is my home, everytime a trip to the Philippines comes up in any conversation, I still say “coming home” instead of “visiting” the PI.

  2. says

    Great article Rebecca. My Kuya Francis (now deceased) was an OFW in the early 80’s in Saudi. I’m sure he had felt many of the experiences you shared in this story.

    I’m glad to finally see you here and I am looking forward to reading your stories from not only as an OFW but a wife of a foreigner point-of-view. Again, welcome to LiP!

  3. says

    cutlery items ? Rebecca is your nanay obsessed with sharp objects ? haha I can tell you what is going through a foreigners mind when the clapping and crying out is going on , at first I thought it was for making a safe trip, but then i learned what the real reason was, they were gald to be home, this is differant then any trip i have ever taken and adds to the mystery to which is the culture of the Filipino, it is really wonderful to discover these experiences. Thank You for coming on so we can finally meet John’s better half, he is a great guy so you really must be twice as special ! welcome :)

  4. roy says

    Hello Rebecca, great initial piece! I thought I wrote that story myself except the part that says about coming home w/ a fiance. And a younger dude at that! LOL! Seriously, I imagine that what happens in the airplane. I have a Tia who told me how the male balikbayans get so excited..all ready to go even if the plane has yet to touch down. I remember the time that I was checking money changers in Mabini for the best rates which was what..a difference of cents?! And yes, it’s really possible to leave empty handed since you are already wiped out. When I go for a visit, I would expect to go back empty handed except for my tuyos.

  5. john grant says

    Welcome back to the Philippines and welcome to LIP.

    And again thanks to you and John for letting us both visit you a few days ago. I t was a pleasure to meet you both.

  6. Anthony says

    Nice story Rebecca. Last time I flew to R.P, I had a stopover in Papua New Guinea and we picked up quit a few OFW’s who were proably working in the mines in PNG. During the flight a few of the guys had quite a bit to drink, as they probaly hadnt been able to drink while working, and when the plane was approaching Manila they were getting quite boisterous, and the male flight attendant was running around telling them to stay in their seats and be quiet, but the guys were pretty excited to be coming home that they kept on singing, laughing etc, and the steward was getting more angry and animated. It was hilarious, but you could tell the Pinoys were so happy to be coming home.

    You know how you can tell at the airport who is travelling to R.P?

    They are the ones who are absolutely lumbered down with the most luggage!

  7. says

    Hola Rebecca,
    Wellcome to LIP,I enjoyed your article,as much as I enjoy Jhon articles, allways.I can relate to your article very much,because my self been living and working in four diferent nations for 10 years.

    Whenever I meet foreing workers in any place in the world,I feel a lot of simpaty for them,now I am employing oversea workers my self,and treat them as well as I demanded to be treated when I was lieving abroad,as a matter of fact my family say,that I treat them better than the spanish workers,I think it is true…but my family never been working outside Spain,they dont have an idea what is like to be away from family and freiends.

    I am looking foward to yours articles.

    Please,give a kiss to JUANITO on my behave.

    have a nice day all of you.

  8. Jack says

    Hi Rebecca. Great artictle. The times have changed. I have been shopping for my visit in November. Instead of Jergens, I have a suitcase full of Japanese Cherry Blossom lotion and other lotion from Bath & Body Works for Juramie and her friends. I enjoy hearing “bango” from everyone after smelling the lotion.

  9. RebeccaM says

    John Grant: thanks to you too… you are always welcome to our humble abode…. looking forward to your next visit..

  10. RebeccaM says

    Anthony: i rest my case… been having that experience for twenty odd years.. even if i don’t do the singing, am one of those who might have the most baggages in tow.

  11. RebeccaM says

    Antonio Marques: muchos gracias! one thing about us Filipinos is our tenacity and the capability to endure hard work. Employ a ‘Pinoy’ and you can have your money’s worth. as they say the ‘golden rule’ still spply. keep up the good deeds and you’ll go a long way…

  12. RebeccaM says

    Jack: my husband bought me some japanese stuff too. i can not make out which one is the shampoo/conditioner or lotion. its all labelled japanese. anyway, i’m sure your family will be happy to see you…

  13. Ron LaFleur says

    Welcome to the site. I am very pleased that you will be writing here. I think I am developing a nice internet relationship with John and I know that I will with you also. Hoping that in the near future my wife (From Davao) will have had enough of life in the U.S. and and tell me that she is ready. Take care, good luck and I will be looking for your articles. Ron

  14. Aljay says

    I never gave it much thought that a plane from the Middle East would be very different from a plane coming from California.

    People still clap upon arrival in Manila and still loathe the trip back, but now I realize there’s nothing like a plane ride full of hard-working Filipinos away from family and home.

    I’ve also seen how OFW’s in Hong Kong congregate, which also struck me in awe: http://my_sarisari_store.typepad.com/my_sarisari_store/2009/10/side-trip-in-hong-kong-ofwsthe-term-overseas-filipino-workers-or-ofws-was-officially-adopted-under-the-ramos-administration.html

  15. James says

    Hello Rebecca
    That was a great article, my and my wife met in kuwait and have been happly married for 2 years,I met her family and they are great my wife
    met my family and they loved her, we built our dream house in pangasian and one day soon I will also being home for good, for now
    I still need to save the house is 99% complete,and hoping 3 more years
    I will have saved eneogh to live a simple life.

    God Bless

  16. widcat75 says

    Hello Rebecca,
    I also name after you and i can relate to what you have said being an OFW as well and going home after so many yrs of absence at home is always like heaven to me, thank’s for this article. I’m sure were on the same boat and i can’t wait to hear more of your ecxiting experiences as a former OFW as well as being a Kano wife….

  17. maria says

    thank you for sharing. please always have a draft ready. its really good to hear from someone who worked in dubai.


  18. says

    Hi Rebecca, indeed there is no place like home.. We, OFWs, always look forward to that moment – to see and to spend time with our family and loveones.

    I look forward to your next post – the adjusting period.


  19. lisa maze says

    hi rebecka
    year was 1985 i was 15 yrs old then weent to okinawa and lucky me met my husband ther just after bifore my 3 months visa expired and frm there went to USA ,,,for the first time 2007 i finnaly went homme …yes after all those years… thinking why so long,,,, well i dont have a good life growing up that’s after my dad died everythinf just went black after he died he was my hero,, so make my story short i decided that at 15 yrs old i will get away from my family as far as i can so i went to live with my aunt that is married to marine that station in okinawa,,,,now i have 5 girls and wonderfull loving husband he’s never been in the phil..next year he will be up for his second retirement 27 yrs in usmc and 10 yrs as a cop,,do you think that $2ooo a month will be enought to live there, i’ve been looking in tuguegarao/angeles city.. for any house for rent if you happen to know any let me know by the way i’m originally fr bittag grande baggao the reason i want to retire and live there is that after all those years iwanted to make mends and to be closed to my mother she is now 72 yrs old yes i am so sorry and regrets that all those years i never forgive her i did suffer”yes” me” coz 3 brothers past away and my oldest sister too and never told them how much i miss and them so much….thank you. i feel so good getting this thing of my chest,,, wish me luck on my new journey and begining thank you

  20. lisa maze says

    hi rebecka

    i mean $2000 is my budget for the entire month. my hus band gets $5400 a month but i plan to save the rest in case if things don’t work out in phil.we have that fund to go back stateside what would you recommend tuguegarao or angeles city

  21. lisa maze says

    hi rebecca
    let me correct myself i was turning 18 went i left phil now i’m 42 and 2007 the first time i went home after 22 yrs and yes i needed a major udjustment i only lasted 6 day’s,,,, but at least i tried took me 4 more visit in the next 2 yrs to be able to get used to it and yes ilove being back home nothing can replace the fresh fish and vegetables that i can buy for less than $1.50 pancit at carinderia for $1.00 oh yes,,yes,,,yes,,,i love to show my husband what is true living is all about, just enjoy it and when we get tired off living there than back in the USA again. we now live in san diego and palm spring we do have 2 property to go back to so we are set regardless if thing’s dont work out in phil right.and for those who decide to retired back in the phil. alway’s have somthing to fall back to.


  22. says

    Hi, Jack, this is off-topic, but I need your help to get me back to the article that I was reading earlier and somehow lost it. The article in question is where you posted a comment about buying meals from Jollibee for the hungry kids on the street, or something like that. You also provided a link to Flickr that had pictures of you, Juramie and her family in Tagbubunga. Thanks.

  23. Blusky Cruz says

    Good luck with your plan in living in the Philippines and also with your business in Abulug. My siblings and I havent thought of going back to live there. My parents still have properties in some barrios of Abulug , its just so far away to visit that when we go to the Philippines we just stay close to manila. Its nice to see the pictures you posted, I still remember the place pretty well , “bevay, sawang, muru,” and I think this is the time when there is “iffun”. Again , good luck to you..

    • John Miele says

      Blusky: Just sent you a note on the other posting… Rebecca has been up in Abulug for a month and Internet is not available up there (The little dongles don’t work well at her house). I’ll ask her to take a look on here when she’s back in Manila ON sATURDAY (aLSO WHY HER NEXT ARTICLE IS DELAYED).

  24. Nastassia Simmone Olivar says


    I am looking for an OFW who will go home for good, soon. Maybe you can link me to one. By the way, I am Nastassia Simmone C. Olivar, a researcher for GMA 7’s Public affairs program, OFW Diaries. Thanks!

  25. says

    Going back to the Philippines for me is both difficult, and happy. I miss living there, and I am happy to be back with my family. It’s hard to move away to another country and miss the place where you were raised.

  26. RebeccaM says

    Glenn: Thank you. I never thought of the Middle East as home, no matter how long I was there. It was just a place to earn money, even though I had learned how to get along there.

  27. RebeccaM says

    Miss August: That’s nice of you. Promise you’ll have them all, i mean the high and lows being married to a ‘Kano’ or rather what they call them here’foreigner’…….. pronounced as ‘forenger’………

  28. RebeccaM says

    Tommy:i take that as a complement..thank you. You see, i am sending balikbayan box twice a year full of stuff including cutlery items. when i go home, i cant find a knife that i can use. must be there’s a bermuda triangle at home…… or perhaps someone nicking them i suppose…

  29. RebeccaM says

    Feyma: Thanks! am reading everybody’s posting during my spare time. learn a few tips even…..pleasure is mine and am really glad to join you guys!!!!

  30. RebeccaM says

    John in Austria: I am sure you got a lot of Filipino friends..i kind of think that knowing about someone can help you bridge the so called cultural divide. Thanks and do hope you will like my next article.

  31. RebeccaM says

    Roy: its not surprising that filipinos can feel and relate to one another. Sharing is one trait that is imbued to us by our elders. yeah! am sure you’d be prepared when you come home again…

  32. says

    Hi RebeccaM – Nice to see your posting on LIP. In regards to the “missing” cutlery my suspicion is that much like my Filipina wife and her friends, they are using them for gardening tools! Look around the garden and in the yard, there you may find them. 😀

  33. says

    Hi, Frugal Expert, I didn’t know that returning OFWs need a period of adjustment upon returning to the Philippines. What is there to adjust about when most OFWs have lived in the Philippines all there lives and have gone abroad to work for only a few years?

    But, yes, I have to admit that there are a few OFWs who, upon returning home after only a few years abroad, act like foreigners and pretend to be strangers to Filipino culture. All of a sudden, they don’t like to fry “tuyo” in their homes anymore because it’s mabaho. Yeah, I’ve seen them at NAIA and in the provinces. They are the ones who flash their Movado watches in the barrios and they no longer respond to you in Ilocano. They now speak a brand of English that no one seems to understand. So, yes, for these few, they would need a period of adjustment upon returning to the native country.

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