One such OFW is Cristeta Bercasio, 45, of Lanas village in this town. After working for several years in Hongkong, Dubai and Jordan as domestic helper, she came home and ended up as “agturtor ti pagay,” or as a gleaner of leftover rice stalks in the fields.
Worse, she was separated from her three children for six years whom she left in Sultan Kudarat where her parents and siblings migrated to in 1970s in search of a better life.
According to records of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Bercasio, already living in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat and married with five children, went to Hongkong to work as a domestic helper in 1990-1992; to Dubai, United Arab Emirates from 1994-1996, and to Jordan from 2001-2003.
As the sole breadwinner, she provided for all the needs of her family. When she finished her contract in Hongkong where she earned HK$2,800 a month, she bought farm lots worth P90,000 in Sultan Kudarat. But the insurgency problem in the province denied her access to her properties.
A year later, she left for Dubai where she earned US$150 a month which was just enough to support her family’s needs. She went back home again. In 2001, she went to Jordan but her earnings of $150 was not enough for her family so with no savings at all, she went home not to Sultan Kudarat but to her relatives here in 2003.
Her relatives were surprised but welcomed her nonetheless and gave her work as a nanny. She contacted her husband Benito in Sultan Kudarat, telling him to come to Mangaldan. Benito and their two children Benjie, a high school graduate, and Pearl, a high school student, arrived two years later.
Bercasio longed for her other three children – Aileen, who is already married, Airec, 21 and Lorejie, 18.
But money was really scarce and she cannot provide for their fare. Bercasio’s relatives lent her P40,000 to construct a 25 square meter house in a relative’s lot – a house which could hardly accommodate the entire family.
Bercasio has even lost her job as a nanny, from which she earned P1,500 a month, after she broke her hip.Thus she and her husband ended up as “Agturtor ti pagay,” – one of those whom the Bible mentioned as “afflicted ones and alien residents” for whom landowners must leave the gleaning of their harvest.
But OWWA has come to Bercasio’s rescue. On January 12, OWWA regional officials came with a “bounty” which hopefully can turn the tide for Bercasio’s family.
Maria Luisa Reyes, Ilocos Region OWWA director, handed to her P10,000 cash, P5,000 worth of grocery items, an Equitable ATM card with P10,000 deposit, A Globe Auto load pre paid SIM, a P50,000 insurance certificate from Sunlife and a Tuloy-Educational Assistance to her youngest daughter May Pearl.
But the biggest gift that Bercasio received on that day was the presence of her two sons – Airec and Benjie – who were flown in by the OWWA from Suldan Kudarat as surprise gifts. The eldest, Aileen, who is married, was left behind.
The two boys were supposed to be presented to their parents during the program, but when they heard their father’s voice, they could not contain their emotion and went out of the vehicle where they were held and run into the arms of their parents.
“This is the most beautiful day of my life. Thank you very much,” Bercasio said between sobs. And the audience, too, cried with them.