When the Bagong Bayani Goes Home

The saying “there’s no place like home” holds very true especially for the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). For many, going home for good –hopefully successful is the ultimate goal. 

This is the reason why we live a very disciplined life throughout the many years of being away from the families back home. We get contented with pictures, with short video calls and a narration once in awhile of common gossips back home. We watch reruns of old Pinoy movies and go far to buy Silver Swan toyo for our adobo just to be connected to the taste, feel and emotions of home.

So going back home either for holidays or for good is always an exciting time. We begin to count the days once flight bookings are made. The excitement extends to buying pasalubong for everyone back home. No matter how expensive it is to go home, imported chocolates and sometimes branded clothes and bags fill the luggages. Sometimes, a duty free Chivas Regal can be a hand carry.

All for the love of family.

Bagong Bayani goes home.
Here’s a pic taken by my daughter (she grew up overseas) when we visited Luneta park. They now know Rizal’s significance

But let’s focus on the holidays. Coming home for holidays is always a great time. It is a time not just to see the family but to meet as many extended friends still living back home. Reunions are always part of the holiday itineraries.

The merriments

Being called balikbayan always brings in a great feeling. The fact that OFWs contribute so much to the country’s wealth means that a step at NAIA means that you’ll get to see where all the money is going.

There are many pros of coming home: meet families, see friends, work out documents and sometimes OFW comes home to visit the beautiful islands of the country foreign friends are raving about.

Personally, I have foreign friends who have visited more islands in the Philippines than I ever did. It is an embarrassing fact that they know my country’s geography and bounty better than I do. So holidays are always a good time to do those.

I live in Manila, which means that I have access to good transport system that can bring me to the beautiful Taal Volcano, pristine beaches in Batangas and even the cold mountain of Baguio up north.

Even the famed Mall of Asia is a tourist destination for OFWs like me. And why not when I get to taste great Filipino dish at Razon’s or do the Mang Inasal extra rice challenge. 

Still, the best part of holidays are coming home to a waiting and welcoming family members. After living abroad the whole year, it always feel good to bulalo, pansit and sometimes lechon baboy enjoyed amidst the noise coming from the magic sing sessions.

Challenges of Pinoy Kids abroad

While I enjoy going home, having children who grew up overseas may be a bit of a challenge. I have two girls who practically grew up abroad and going home for them means going to a strange land. It does not matter if they hold a Pilipinas passport because they are having a hard time calling it home when they never lived in it.

The only thing my kids are excited about is Jolibee, which means that I get to eat my yumburger everytime we visit the malls too! So how do you prepare Pinoy kids to the life back home? Here are tips:

Tip #1. Prepare an itinerary. Sadly, they are tourist in their own land so it is important to choose places they can connect to their ethnicity. Appreciation of one’s culture or the Filipino heritage should be in your list of ‘educational tourism’ intended for Pinoy kids abroad. Include museums, national parks of even your own village. 

My kids call Jose Rizal as the “piso” guy so keeping them abreast of national history should be a top activity for them.  

Tip #2. Speak Tagalog. My relatives may like to listen to the kids speaking English but the children themselves get frustrated when they don’t understand what everyone else is saying. So brushing up on their tagalog months before they travel is a good idea. That is if they don’t speak the language already.

Tip #3. Show them a family tree. Filipino families like to be all in one place, asking too many questions out of curiosity but kids (who are used to a different culture) may not understand all the prying. The last thing you want to have are children who would wish to go back to the life they used to be, overseas, just few days after your arrival.

Since I am teaching overseas, we usually go back home during the summer break — June to early August. By the time they are home for holidays, their cousins have started school already. I always let them join half day of school just to be meet Filipino friends and sing the national anthem, a daily routine in most public school system.

For a third culture kid (TCK), attending a local school for a while is a rich experience. They don’t just gain friends but they learn the sense of contentment, humility, and gratefulness for all the good things they get to experience overseas.

Ifugao wedding dance
Museum visits are great itineraries too, for Pinoy kids to learn their heritage.

The Cost of Going Home

The Philippines has plenty to offer to both local and international tourists. Even OFW gets to experience the ‘touristy’ side of life when visiting local recreation sites, theme parks or beaches. 

The cost of coming home is high. Hence, preparation is the key. Aside from the fare, balikbayan boxes and local flight tickets and hotel bookings, you might have to factor in the fact that there’s an extended family waiting for their turn to tag along for the much needed holiday trips. If you can afford it, say Yes but if the budget is just for your own or your immediate family, it is perfectly all right to say ‘next time na lang’. Running out of holiday funds can easily spoil the holiday you have been so excited about.

Here’s a sample breakdown:

  • Air ticket: Php 9,000 to Php11,000 pax (return ticket Cambodia-Philippines)
  • Airport Transfers: Php 1,000-Php 2,000 (within Manila area)
  • Pasalubong: Depends on what you intend to bring but I am sure it will around 300 to 1,000 US dollars worth. Most Pinoys will start buying months before the scheduled departure.
  • Others: Family gatherings, outings, and others will cost between Php 25,000 to 75,000 depending on where is the outing or how many people are coming over.

This is a very rough estimate but with 2 kids in tow, Php100,000 is not enough for a three weeks holiday back home. That does not include shopping.

How many comes back to job site broke after a long holiday in the Philippines? A lot. But despite the cost, there’s still no place to spend the long breaks like the Philippines.


Author: Jovelyn S.

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