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March 24. Remember the date. It’s the occasion when a nation will recognise a unique breed of people in a unique manner.
It’s the day of the OFW Run, OFW being the acronym for Overseas Filipino Workers. The event has been sub-titled ‘Run for our modern-day nation’s heroes’. [For details please visit https://www.facebook.com/PinoyTakbo]
For those not familiar with the term, OFWs are Filipinos working abroad who expect to return permanently when their contract overseas expires or they retire.
It is estimated that between 9.5 million and 12.5 million Filipinos work or reside abroad, about 11% of the population of the Philippines – many of them classified as OFWs. Collectively the money they remit home represents a staggering 13.5% of the country’s GDP, the largest percentage of any country in the world.
Whenever I am at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, I realise why OFWs are so revered in the Philippines. It’s not just about their economic contribution, it’s also about humanity. One simply cannot be untouched by the alternating emotions of the Arrivals and Departure halls, respectively. Reunions. Farewells. Joy. Sadness. Humanity stripped bare.
Many of those OFWs work in duty free, led by a huge contingent at Dubai Duty Free and other Middle Eastern travel retailers. There they enjoy pleasant working conditions, decent accommodation and excellent treatment. Others are not so lucky and the newspapers in the Philippines abound with stories of abuse that OFWs have suffered abroad.
Whenever I meet an OFW in travel retail, I ask where they are from and when they last went home. The answer to the latter is usually once a year. Imagine working away from your friends and family in a foreign country for year after year. Behind those friendly smiles often reside many moments of loneliness and homesickness.
The Moodie Report has met many of travel retail’s OFWs down the years, women such as Christine Feliciano (below) at Dubai Duty Free, an outstanding Public Relations professional, and numerous others.
[OFW Christine Feliciano, right, from Dubai Duty Free’s Corporate Communications department, with her colleague Anna Khan and Martin Moodie at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Charity Ball]
So we join this unique inaugural salute to those heroes and heroines. Appropriately so is Duty Free Philippines (below which is supporting the run in a major way. We’ll be making our own donation – and hitting the road in our running shoes – come March 24.