It’s (Not) More Fun in the Philippines

The Philippines love their acronyms, so here are a few that I’m dealing with at the moment:

OFW – Overseas Filipino Worker

OEC – Overseas Employment Certificate

POEA – Philippine Overseas Employment Agency

DOLE – Department of Labor and Employment

Sample sentence: I’m an OFW in need of an OEC that’s issued by POEA but requires clearance from DOLE before issuance.

First of all, well done to POEA for having your evaluator mislead me into thinking that the 2-3 week waiting period was DOLE’s fault. Her display of empathy was convincing as she spoke about how awful she felt that we were being forced to wait on one person’s signature as we risked losing well-paid work. I fell for it when she told me that they, at POEA, work quickly and efficiently to serve and support OFWs.

What she failed to tell me, however, was that before my documents could be sent to DOLE, they would need to go through several departments within POEA to get signed off. Two weeks have gone by, and those signatures still haven’t been collected. She did inform me, though, that they made up the figure of 2-3 weeks and they sort of just hope that it gets done within that time.

I had to attend the mandatory PDOS (Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar) as a requirement for receiving my OEC. When it started, the woman facilitating it asked for a show of hands for first-time OFWs, to which roughly half the room raised their hands. She then asked if there were any veterans in the room — anyone who’d been an OFW for ten years. One man raised his hand. She then went on to say that the seminar was really meant for first-time OFWs so the rest of us were free to day-dream for the rest of her presentation, as long as we didn’t day-dream about her.

A few people laughed, but I was far from amused. She basically just told us that we didn’t have to be there, but we didn’t have a choice about it either. Plus the fact that I’d just sat in rush-hour traffic for an hour and fifteen minutes to travel the 5 kilometres to get there — a ten-minute drive without traffic.

The two things I took away from the seminar were:

  1. Don’t become a prostitute
  2. Buckle your seatbelt on the plane

The other thing that I’ve had to deal with is the medical. They’re asking me to provide this even though my visa and employment pass have already been approved with a previous medical that I’d already done. This can’t be done at just any clinic either, it needs to come from a DOH (Department of Health) accredited clinic.

The first piece of advice I was given was to look for the one closest to me and just get it done. The closest clinic turns out to be 10 kilometres away. The second piece of advice I was given was to do it once my clearance was released so that the medical wouldn’t expire again (because I should expect another three months to pass before you release my papers?!).

I called the clinic to enquire. The woman on the phone tells me that she’s unsure if they do medical checkups for Malaysia-bound OFWs. I’m confused. What does that mean? So now it’s not even about finding the closest clinic, but finding the closest clinic that caters to the country you’re bound for. The ridiculous thing is that it’s not even an international requirement but a local one. Malaysia is never going to see this medical, it’s for POEA. She then tells me that results are given after a week. I was under the impression that I could get the results within the same day.

I must have called over ten clinics before I found one. The prices and release of results varied for each one, but none of them were cheap. And to think that every single OFW has to pay that just to leave.

It’s coming up on three weeks now since this whole fiasco began. I’ve been lucky enough so far to have an employer that tells me they understand that it isn’t my fault, but I know they’re suffering, too. They hired me for a reason and they needed me there weeks ago. They’re losing money for every class that needs to be cancelled because the teacher who was meant to be there to teach it isn’t there. They’re potentially losing credibility because of it. They’re possibly regretting hiring me now because hiring someone else could have meant that they could have avoided this entire situation.

I don’t know if it’s nearly over. I don’t know what sort of place takes over two weeks to process a document. I don’t know why it’s so difficult to get this done. This entire thing is meant to be for the well-being of the OFW, but it really feels like it hurts a lot more than it helps.

Finding a decent job isn’t easy. POEA and DOLE need to fix this insanity. When people tell me that there’s a delay because there’s been a change in signatory, reorganisation in departments, and lots of meetings going on, that is not acceptable. The people shouldn’t have to suffer for your lack of organisation. How many people have lost jobs because of this? How many companies have blacklisted Filipino employees because of this? How many qualified, talented Filipinos have lost opportunities because of this?

People say to be patient and wait it out because leaving without compliance will cause problems for me in the future. Being unemployed causes some pretty big problems, too. That’s the trouble with this country. The people are told to just bear it and they do.

Don’t even get me started on the Grab/Uber lunacy happening right now.

It is definitely not more fun in the Philippines.

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