An OFW’s oath this Christmas 2023: ‘I’m giving back to myself’

Consolacion, CEBU – The Christmas season, as known by everyone, is the heightened time of gift-giving.

People from all over the world go to extents in order to gift their loved ones their most-wished objects, experiences and travels to explore.

For Filipinos fortunate to celebrate this year’s Christmas, thoughts often gravitate towards our families—whether by blood or bond—especially during this time. We invest time and effort into selecting gifts that match their preferences, sometimes stretching our budgets just to bring joy to our family members.

Patrick Mondal Salinas also believes in this Filipino tradition in gift-giving for he is a family-guy himself. But now, as a budding Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) with over a year of overseas experience, he shares a rather unique “suggestion’ for those Filipinos out there who are currently looking for something to gift themselves on Christmas Day.

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For this Christmas, Patrick wants others to experience the growth and freedom he found while working abroad, especially those young “breadwinners” who allotted their time and efforts towards their families at the span of their entire life.

Mind you, this isn’t a mere passing idea for Patrick, for it is the present he granted himself for this year’s Christmas celebration.

OFW Christmas

OFW Patrick Salinas

Patrick’s life in Cebu, Philippines

Before teaching abroad, 32-year-old Patrick Mondal Salinas, originally from Simala in Sibonga town, southern Cebu, developed his educational expertise in Cebu City. He pursued a degree in Secondary Education, Major in Math, at Southwestern University- PHINMA (formerly known as Southwestern University).

OFW Christmas

Patrick Salinas on his way in getting registered as licensed professional teacher back in 2012. | Photo from Patrick Salinas’ FB

As the eldest among five siblings, Patrick felt a responsibility to assist his parents, Papa Pet and Mama Lisa, in providing for their needs.

“Our mother was a labandera before and my father was a construction worker. Pag college nako nag balhin balhin ko og lugar, they even called me ‘NPA’ (no permanent address) kay wala man kaayo koy relatives sa city so struggle jud sya. Even my parents, they discouraged me to study sa city kay wala man jud silay ika support,” Patrick shared with CDN Digital.

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(Our mother was a laundrywoman before and my father was a construction worker. When I was in college, I was always transferring from one place to another. They even called me ‘NPA’ (no permanent address) because I don’t have that much relatives in the city so it was a struggle. Even my parents, they discouraged me to study in the city because they didn’t have any means to support.)

At just 16 years old, Patrick took a gamble by enrolling himself in university. He found ways to make ends meet by getting sideline jobs such as being a “boy” or a helper in his auntie’s work site, to teaching online classes in his third year of college. He moved from one apartment to another, staying with distant relatives, all in pursuit of his dream to complete his studies

OFW Christmas

Patrick Salinas’ graduation pictures for his Masters in Education and Doctor of Education degrees.

This has been then paid off when he finally finished his studies for his undergraduate studies in which he then started working under the college where he finished his schooling.

Financing His Siblings’ Education

Patrick’s determination knew no bounds—he began supporting his younger siblings’ education immediately after securing a stable job. Balancing work and studies, he pursued his Master’s degree, eventually embarking on a journey towards a Doctorate in Education.

As an OFW at present, he continues to act as the linchpin of his family’s financial support, ensuring the fulfillment of his siblings’ educational needs and daily necessities.

He took his responsibilities religiously, even forgetting to include himself at most times, just to make sure his siblings were in a good place.

OFW Christmas

Patrick Salinas with his parents and siblings during their mother’s 51st birthday

In 2016, one of the siblings Patrick financially supported, successfully graduated from college with flying colors, a Magna Cum Laude at that, a testament to his unwavering assistance to his family. Finally, a sibling could help him in aiding with the finances for their family.

Patrick achieved a great feat indeed. However, what lays ahead for him?

What was next for Patrick Salinas?

Patrick described his life in the Philippines as ‘okay.’ Despite the increase in salary resulting from his transition from a teacher to a Principal both in the Junior High and Senior High School department, he noted that along with higher earnings came a surge in financial responsibilities.

“Enough ra guro sya for my manghud and all, but unsa man ang para sa akong self?” he added.

(It was enough maybe for my sibling and all, but what will be for myself?)

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This is when he started having ideas in going abroad for greener pastures, and for choosing his wants this time. A silent oath he has been keeping to himself.

“I want to travel, I want to explore and I want to give something to myself because for the past few years, it’s been family– I’ve been working so hard for my family, and this time I want to give something for myself.”

OFW Christmas

Patrick with his former workmates in Fremont Professional Development Middle School, and Academy of Medical Sciences

For two years, Patrick considered working abroad. In July 2022, he commenced teaching at the Fremont Professional Development Middle School & Academy of Medical Sciences in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, kicking off his journey in the United States.

Patrick was like a freshman, lost in the corridors of his new university. But nonetheless, he was eager for the future that awaits for him. And the refreshing liberation he felt for the very first time.

Patrick’s journey as a teacher in the US

Teaching in the US, Patrick faced new situations, feeling both liberated and fearful, especially in encounters with disrespectful individuals.

This made him realize the contrasting dynamics between life in the US and the Philippines, notably during the Christmas season.

“Of course mingaw gyud na ikaw ra mag celebrate sa Christmas… ma feel gyud nimo ang emptiness ug loneliness especially padung na sa Christmas.”

(Of course it’s lonely to celebrate Christmas alone… you’d feel the emptiness, the loneliness especially going into Christmas.)

He emphasized the need for aspiring overseas workers to have mental and physical strength, supported by a solid support system, to handle demanding jobs and manage the unavoidable loneliness.

“When you are going to be in the US, you’re on your own. You should have a good support system, not just your family but also the people in your circle. You should really have that because they will really make you sane.”

OFW Christmas

Patrick Salinas with his fellow renters inside their host family’s house in their mini celebration for the upcoming Holidays.

During his time in the US, Patrick rents in a house owned by a US Citizen while he searches for a more permanent place to stay.

Patrick is lucky to live in a house owned by a fellow Filipino, specifically a Cebuana! Here, amidst Filipino boardmates, he finds solace in conversing about home, easing his nostalgia for Christmas in his homeland.

How will Patrick spend his Christmas in the US?

In a brief interview with CDN Digital, Patrick mentioned that during his initial year spending the holidays away from his family, he established a tradition of video-calling them and celebrating together despite the time zone difference. He intends to uphold this practice this year, ensuring his family feels his presence, even across miles.

Patrick is excited about joining parties and gift exchanges arranged by Filipino communities in his area, as well as participating in holiday events organized by Las Vegas High School’s faculty, where he currently works.

Through joining these social events, the loneliness and longing for the Filipino holidays subsides, even for a little time.

“Anything that can relive the vibe of Christmas back in the Philippines, among gipangbuhat dinhi aron dili ma (focus) ang ka mingaw”

Christmas is also a season for prioritizing oneself

During this season, Filipinos prioritize family, highlighting the value of togetherness. This tradition holds particular significance among Catholic Filipinos, influenced by our belief in the love that surrounded the birth of Christ—born humbly in the manger, cradled by his Mother and Foster father, while Wise Kings foresaw his future greatness.

But let’s face it, these times are different and we ought to make hard sacrifices in order to get what we deserve in life.

And that became Patrick Salinas’s path. He ventured away from his family, seeking to transform a ‘humble manger’ into a stronger, more efficient haven capable of sheltering and comforting a family, providing warmth and fulfillment. Perhaps even adding an extra touch of luxury along the way.

Although feeling all the loneliness at one breeze, he knows, deep in his heart, that this is for his own good and for the future of his family.

Proving that spending Christmas is not always happy and warm on the inside, but also accepting that the holidays may feel less warm to others, especially for those who chose to endure it alone for the sake of saving up for a great future that waits ahead.


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