Wednesday, January 26, 2005

As an OCW

Ruth Mabanglo is currently a professor at theUniversity of Hawai‘i at Manoa. She has beenpublishing poetry for over 30 years and has receivednumerous literary awards and honors, and is known forher politically inspired poems. Through “As An OFW”,the author was able to show us that when a Filipinoleaves to work as an OFW, he/she is not only acceptinga job but a life where the foreign employers takesadvantage of him/her in more ways than just strenuouswork. This poem addresses the poor economy of thePhilippines. In particular, the lack of decent jobsand the minimum wage that is clearly insufficient fora living.

Melinda Yoingco

Ruth Mabanglo

Poverty brought me to Hongkong,
Singapore, Saudi Arabia, London and Italy.
I infused into my tongue the different idioms.
I tuned my body to the different beats,
Movements and sounds of submission,
I studied how to show
I understood the explanation,
The order,
The instruction.

Careful, might make a mistake--
This is the destiny of one who has a servant,
Now to serve in a foreign land.

The memory clenched in mind
That afternoon at the airport:
Do you have a visa for your destination?
Where is your passport?
Hurry, show me! Show me!
Maybe your documents are fake,
Maybe you are illiterate,
Maybe you are stupid.

Lucid in memory
That afternoon at the airport:
If short, dark, and flat-nosed,
Surely a servant!
You cannot make a mistake
IDs decorate the luggage,
Bringing only boxes.
Departing to/Arriving from Qatar, Iraq, or Bahrain,
Wagering/Wagered their honor
For riyals or dinars.

Lucid in memory
That afternoon draped across the airport:
A widow awaiting a decapitated corpse,
Refusing to answer queries.
Who asks?
Friend or foe?
Can this shame be revealed?
They say he was accused.
One dark night he smuggled
The cruel employer's money and jewelry.

But, but, but
The truth wails.
Wanting to be heard and pampered--
One dark night
The hairy employer sneaked out.
The hairy employer
Approached his bed.
Come on,
Come on,
My wife has her period now.
Come on.
Sir, I am also a man...
Come on,
Lie on your stomach, and raise your butt,
Let me caress your butt.
Smooth, smooth.
Clean, clean.

He was terrified at the scratch of the touch.
This won't be long!
Come on,
Come on,
Lie on your stomach, and raise your butt,
The employer violated him.
The servant was horrified
As he felt something sticky.
A hardness thrusted
While curly hair Grated his skin.

The repulsive odor whirled
In his room.
Pig! Pig! Pig!
He shoved the hairy employer.
Pig! Pig! Pig!
(A swine among people who do not eat pork.)

A sharp obscenity lodged
Into his ears
When the employer left the room.

The military came,
Arresting him.

Lucid in memory
The images at the airport--
Sir, only loose change there.
Ma'm, take care of me!
Don't we have anything for Christmas?
What can we serve for dessert?

They seem like enlarged frames of experience
Tears and laughter from
The search for a destiny.

My tongue remembers your wounded taste.
Under the cover of my face
Your shadow hides;
My shoulder
Your suffering stabs,
Forge me to hasten
My search
For my true colonizer;
Smoothen me to further soften
The conquest of my own fears.
Worry and grief.
The search
For a dignified means of survival
Is a myth.
For a heron's egg,
A rainbow
To bring home a pot of gold.

I will wager everything I can,
I will erase my accent,
I will change my personality
To assimilate to you
My colonizer.

Open your door
Let me in,
To your country,
To my cell,
To my tomb.


Chia said...

While we aren't in any position to call the bluff (or the exaggeration, as the case may be), it does seem a bit over the top. But then again, aren't these poems meant to make us realize things?

Chia Roxas

Anonymous said...

i like the poem. it perfecly tells the readers how OCW's feel. the OCW is like the coal miner pablo neruda met, and this poet, like neruda, is telling the world about it so that they would know and be able to understand. :)
- annalou maxine l. pagador

Anonymous said...

I feel that this piece truly expresses the plight of the overseas workers. Are the abuses of their employers really worth the money?

-Michael A. Chua

Anonymous said...

I think this poem is kind of exaggerated. I believe there are some OFW's out there who are treated fairly by their employers and it's unfair for us to generalize that all OFW's "suffer".

-ria lao, friend of thea cuaso

Anonymous said...

The poem talks about how poverty forces people to endure the hardships of being an OFW. This main idea is clearly presented at the opening lines of the poem. However I think that the poem is really a bit exaggerated to the point that it generalizes things. The poem even describes the employers as colonizers!

Tucky Go
Friend of Juan Paolo Bermundo