Monday, March 3, 2008

Maintaining Good Relationships with In-Laws: What Seafarer’s Wives Say

Last February 13, the Daungan team invited Sr. Aida Virtudez, SJBP and Sr. Lucita Saligumbe, SJBP of the Apostleship of the Sea, as well as Daungan volunteer counselor Celestina “Icel” Lee, to get their insights on the many concerns of the seafarers’ family. As perhaps expected, the subject of in-laws came up! In a way it may be supposed that the seafarer’s family may not be that different from regular folk after all. It seems everyone is destined to be plagued by our spouse’s families.

Seriously though, the OFW family is prone to discord between non-migrant spouses and in-laws. There is the sticky matter of the division of remittances; what percent should go to whom. There is the tendency towards gossiping; for some in-laws have been assigned (or have assigned themselves) as the “watchdog” of the spouse when the seafarer is away. There is the constant interference on many issues like child-rearing, financial management and even good behavior. All these are embedded in context of parents possibly still in the process of preparing to let their children go.

Through sharing of personal experiences, observations and reflections, the group was able to distill some gems of wisdom to start and even enrich relationships with in-laws. The follow are some of the principles they have found to be effective.

1. Develop the mindset that without my spouse’s parents, my spouse would not be, much less not have been a seafarer.

Everything starts with a good attitude towards our relationships. We owe a lot to our parents, they have provided us with all that we are and are our main source of love and care. They have sacrificed a lot for us.

As Filipinos, we value an unconditional respect and love for our elders. It is our pleasure to serve our elders. This respect need not even be earned, it is a given because of “blood”. It is a given because our parents gave us life and the gift of life cannot be measured.

As this is true with our own parents, it is as true with our spouses’ parents. Our spouses’ parents gave them life and care, without them our loved ones would not be. And if we argue about the fruits of our spouse as a seafarer, it is best to remind ourselves that without their sacrifice to send our spouse to school and provide for his education, he would not be a seafarer. This recognition helps us see things in perspective.

No parent is perfect, but generally, parents do try the best that they could to love their children in the way that they know how. Underneath behavior that we do not understand are often pure intentions to protect and care. Sometimes, they too, are in the period of learning and maybe even woundedness. It is best to always remind ourselves to have faith in our parents even if on the surface it doesn’t seem that our faith is warranted or reciprocated.

2. The seafarer should remit to the spouse and the spouse should be the one to remit to the in-laws

Battles between the spouse and the in-law are ultimately power struggles, particularly on who is the “queen of his life”. It is to be expected that once a person marries, his or her primary priority becomes his/her immediate family with family-of-origin second. But at the same time, there should be an active and healthy maintenance of ties to one’s parents despite matrimony. It is very difficult for a parent when he/she perceives that his child is no longer attached to him/her after marrying.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a parent that remits to his/her parents, especially if because of old age there is no alternative source of income. But this decision is no longer the seafarer’s alone, it is a joint decision that must be made by the couple. It is technically “their” money not just “his.” To avoid the seafarer’s spouse from feeling by-passed or unimportant, it is best that she has been consulted from the onset. It is courtesy to plan together, but more than that it is a way for the seafarer to involve his spouse in his values and family life.

It is advisable for seafarers to give the entire remittance to the spouse, and let the spouse be the one to give to her parents-in-law. This move achieves many things: it recognizes the role of the spouse as the rightful “budgeter” of the family, it promotes a healthy relationship between the in-laws and the spouse, it involves the wife in the spouse’s desire to serve his parents and it implicitly implies that all things that the spouse’s agreement in the move is an important part of the seafarer’s life.

3. Seafarer should also remit to his in-laws (spouse’s parents)

The amount is not issue. It may be small and only given occasionally, but if it is possible it is advisable that the seafarer should give to his in-laws. In relation to the previous suggestion, this practice may be symbolic of the seafarer on his wife’s family life.

4. If dependency is a potential issue, come up with an assistance to in-laws that is in kind rather than direct financial help

A success story that was shared in the group is about a couple whose assistance to their in-laws is not a cash remittance to their in-laws but rather in the form of building a bakery business. The business serves many purposes. When the seafarer is at sea, all proceeds from the bakery goes to the family-of-origin, adding to their source of income. When the seafarer comes home, the bakery is ran by the couple and a source of bonding for them.

Sometimes, an investment is better than direct financial assistance because it prevents one from feeling drained at the same time there is the provision for sustainability.

It also might help to find negotiate a way of assistance that has concrete termination point. For example, it may be pre-agreed upon that the assistance is the tuition support of a younger brother for only high school. Planning and pre-agreement is crucial.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Pagninilay sa Panahon ng Adbiento

ni Kay

Naririto na ang panahon ng Adbiento, ang simula ng Kalendaryong Liturhika ng Iglesia Katolika. Ang Adbiento ay mula sa salitang Latin na nangangahulugang "pagdating." Sa simpleng salita, sa panahon na ito tayo ay inaanyayahan na kilalanin si Hesus na dumating na, kasama natin sa kasalukuyan at darating pa lamang sa wakas ng panahon.

Maraming aspeto ang pagdating na ito: andiyan ang pasasalamat sa pagkapanganak ni Hesus sa sabsaban na Kanyang unang pagdating. Sa pangyayaring ito nasasalamin ang katapatan ng Diyos sa Kanyang mga pangako, na ang paghihintay ng Israel sa kanyang Hari at Mesiyas ay hindi binigo ng Diyos Ama. Nandiyan din ang pagpapaalala sa ating mga sarili na si Hesus ay araw-araw na kumakatok sa ating mga puso. Siya ay makikita sa Banal na Kasulatan, sa sariling katahimikan at sa mukha ng ating kapwa lalo't-lalu na ng mga nangagailangan. Nandiyan din ang Kanyang pagdating sa wakas ng panahon, kung saan ipakikita niya sa atin ang ganap na pag-ibig at kaligtasan. Kung kaya't ang sigaw natin sa panahon na ito ay "Maranatha!" na nangangahulugang "Pumarito ka, Hesus, Pumarito ka."

Bilang mga seafarer, o di kaya ay mga asawa o anak ng seafarer,hindi na bago sa atin ang konsepto ng paghihintay. Siguro ay maaari nating gawing salamin ang ating personal na eksperiensiya sa ating panandaliang pagkakahiwalay sa ating pamilya ng mga katotohanan ng ating pananampalataya.

Ano bang uri ng paghihintay ang inaasahan sa atin ng ating Panginoon? Ito ay paghihintay na hindi balot ng kalungkutan, ngunit ng may pag-asa at kagalakan. Ang pananampalataya ay isang paghawak sa katotohanan na: "ako ay minamahal, at ano mang mangyari sa aking buhay ako ay may kasiguruhan sa pagmamahal na ito. Bagamat ako ay nag-iisa sa kasalukuyang panahon, ang aking buhay ay may saysay, sapagkat ito ay nakasalig sa isang pagmamahal na nakahandang magsakripisyo para sa aking kapakanan kahit na ang kapalit ay kamatayan." Hindi ba't ito ang ginawa para sa atin ng Panginoon Hesukristo? At hindi ba ito ang ating salig sa ating pang-araw-araw na buhay bilang seafarer o kaya ay asawa/anak ng seafarer?

Ang ating kagalakan habang naghihintay ay mula sa katotohanan na ang ating hinihintay ay mahal natin, mahal tayo at may katapatan sa Kanyang mga pangako.
Habang tayo ay naghihintay tayo ay inuudyok ng simbahan na tingnan ang ating sarili at kilalanin ang mga sagabal sa ating pagkatao sa pagtanggap ng buo sa Diyos. Tayo ay inuudyok na pagsisihan ang ating mga pagkakasala--- katulad ng paanyaya sa lahat ng magkahiwalay na pamilya ng seafarer na gamitin ang panahon ng paghihiwalay bilang isang paghubog ng ating pagkatao.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ang Santo Rosaryo: Libreng Download

Ang Santo Rosaryo ay isang paanyaya para sa atin na pagnilayan ang Ebanghelyo at ang kanyang mga misteryo sa gabay ni Maria na ating ina. Isa itong paraan upang mapalapit sa Panginoon at maalalim ang ating pananampalataya.

Upang mapalaganap pa ang debosyon na ito, si Padre Stephen Cuyos, MSC at si Jun Asis ay nag-record ng Santo Rosaryo sa Tagalog at ito ay kanilang ibinukas para sa libreng download.

Kung ikaw ay seafarer, maaari mong i-download ang gabay sa Rosaryo na ito sa inyong Ipod o di kaya ay mp3 player o cellphone at gawin itong gabay sa inyong pagdarasal habang kayo ay nasa gitna ng karagatan. Inaanyayahan din ang mga pamilya ng seafarer sa gawain na ito.

Para sa inyong libreng podcast, click here.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Lord and the Storm at Sea

For a seafarer, "storm at sea" is both literal and figurative. It can be the real storm that makes voyage at sea dangerous, or it can be storm inside of yourself: the problems you encounter, the worry, the helplessness and even depression and despair. Either way, there is only one anchor that should keep us still: trust in the Lord God.

It helps to remember the words to Psalm 107:23-32. It reminds us that God's love and power is greater than any storm.

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits' end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The parents, a child’s sanctuary

By: Merne S. Natividad

“…but ma’am, I want my mother’s hug more than the money she sends me from Chicago each month. I am having difficulty with my friends now and I miss my mama’s counsel…I think I am pregnant too…I miss my best friend. My dad is nowhere. I think he has a mistress…”

“…I got hooked on shabu a month after my father left for Qatar to work there ma’am. My grades are no better than an idiot’s. I don’t like going home because my mom is always shouting at my younger sisters. She’s alone raising us. I wish my father came home. We don’t really need money. We used to be happy. There’s always public school…”

These are some disclosures from the many college students whom I have counseled through the different difficulties they experienced as they tried to adjust to a life with an absentee parent.

It is sad that the payoff for working outside of the Philippines for a parent who only wants to give the best to his children brings more harm than good. I cannot utter more distinctly why I have said this. Every Filipino knows what this portrays. This is an unassailable fact.

In the beginning, there is excitement. A parent goes off to work in a more lucrative place. Earning in dollars is seen as the key to ensuring a bright and successful future for the children left at home. Visions of the future flashes through before one’s eye like painted caricatures depicting a “better life”. Children’s tuition paid-off, branded clothes and shoes, and the house looks exactly like the ones from real estate advertisements.

Everything is laid out very nicely and successfully. No need has ever been thwarted when a child has a dollar-earning parent. Tangible needs, that is. More money means more “meaning” to the family. More happiness. More fun. More. More. Of the good things.

However, as time passes the creeping loneliness sets in upon the child who is left behind. The price of leaving a family for better pay comes in a more insidious fashion. The first months are difficult because loneliness sets in. As a parent tries his best to swallow every lump of tearful longing to be home the child he has left behind has to displace his yearning for a parent’s physical presence. A child always finds sanctuary in a parent’s physical presence. Take out this refuge and you might as well cut the umbilical cord from a fetus in a mother’s womb.

The setback begins when the need to fill up the gaping hole left by the lost sanctuary starts to set in. More unconsciously than otherwise, the child left behind starts to find another sanctuary. Another gap-filling-in-the-hole situation comes along figuratively, a child who seeks security, which obviously, the money of a parent working abroad can never fill in.

In all these years however, not one of my college counselees have been ungrateful for what a parent working abroad has given them. They are aware of how difficult it can be for their parents to temporarily cut their ties with them. These counselees are very appreciative of this loving deed a parent does for them. And yet, they are emotionally restless. They are lonely. Having counseled numerous college kids over the years, it makes me terribly sad, that a child gets lost because a parent is physically absent.

But the question still lies suspended in the air. What does a child whose parent is working abroad really need from a parent? I cannot answer, as I am not a parent. Of one thing I am certain though. In all these times, I have repeatedly seen that a child’s greater need is parental affection and not material things. The happiest college students I have encountered are those who are intimate with their parents. Those who get regular hugs from by their sanctuary, their parents.

*Merne Natividad is from the Department of Psychology and Guidance of Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Spirituality of the Sea

by Kay

Peter Kreeft, Catholic Christian speaker and writer, talks about the Spirituality of the Sea. You can download his talk here.

Some excerpts from the audio:

God, our hearts, and the sea: three inexhaustibles. No surfer in history has ever been heard to say: "Now I've had enough of waves." No lover will ever say, "Now I've had enough of her." And no saint will ever say, "Now I've had enough of God."...

When you live by the sea, everything changes, and the change is the same as when you believe in God: you are never alone. There is a Greater Presence next to you every minute. You have to take account of this Presence every day, at least unconsciously....You always have this large, unpredictable wild animal in your neighborhood. It's like having a 500-pound mother-in-law living in your back yard....

An endnote:
We strongly recommend seafarers to download Christian audio resources and save them on mp3 players. You may play them in your private moments on board and may be of great help in deepening your faith while at sea. Peter Kreeft has more on his site for free.

Loneliness at Sea

by Kay

Life at sea can be lonely and extremely difficult; it means being separated from our loved ones and isolated from everything else for months. Homesickness, burn-out and even boredom are just the tip of the iceberg, for often there are also regrets for missing birthdays and graduations, guilt for the fact that your work prevents you from really knowing who your family is and sometimes even bitter resentment that after a while you have become less of yourself and more of just a mere breadwinner.

True, this is the life that we have chosen freely and that there is also a sense of family among fellow seafarers. But remember that it is normal to feel alone and sad sometimes, even when you are surrounded by many people.

There are many different ways to deal with loneliness at sea. Some distract themselves: working hard and harder so as not to attend to the loneliness, entertaining one's self with camaraderie and music, or thinking of the many creative ways one can spend free time on board. All of these are well and good, and with the amount of time spent at sea, it is good if a seafarer is aware of the moments of loneliness in him, and exert the effort to snap himself out of it.

But it is also good once in a while to accept the loneliness and sadness rather than be distracted by it. One need not wallow in these negative emotions, so much so that it affects one's work and relationships with other people, but there is a lot of merit to recognizing, acknowledging and accepting this loneliness.

A "lived" life doen not mean one no longer feels uncomfortable emotions. Instead living means being able to feel realistic emotions. That we get lonely and sad at sea only means that we are still people --- "tao pa tayo" --- and that we love our family and we miss them. If we try to repress these things we may become too hard on ourselves or too cynical.

A balance of two things can help us face loneliness better: (a) moments of solitude to recognize our feelings and (b) moments of reaching out to others.

Moments of Solitude:
It is okay to withdraw once in a while from others and just experience the loneliness. It is okay to cry too and be ourselves.

Solitude can offer us time for reflection on where we are right now and what is the meaning of our life experiences. By taking the moment to be alone with ourselves we can come to terms with the aspects of our situation that we need to change or mourn as loss. This solitude is not to torture oneself with what-could-have-been's , but rather to replenish our energy and be able to look at each day as a fresh start.

Solitude is also a means to get back into our spiritual life. Prayer is more than just conversation with God, it is being with God. It is being guided by His presence.

Moments of Reaching Out to Others:
It is helpful as well to have our fellow seafarers as our support group at sea. Moments of "real conversations" among peers can be a great help while at sea. Too often we talk about our problems in a joking manner or in a casual way. Too often too we do not develop the environment and atmosphere among our co-workers where we can relay that we are willing to listen in respectful silence.

But simple opportunities of being open to disclose one's self with our peers, without neccesarily feeling the need to solve each other's problems, can lift our burdens significantly.