Coming back home

Home is where you grew up, and where the amazing smell of childhood memories lives on forever. It is where you’d want to eternally rest someday, though hopefully not that soon – with the graves of family and friends just a whisper away.

In my travels abroad, I have met Filipinos who thought and dreamt of home like an ethereal rainbow, after a cold shower of rain. For them, the golden pot lies at its end, when weary bones could finally retire with full financial security. One’s journey to reach that pot has taken quite a few OFWs to places that one gets to read about only in Arabian fairy tales.

Still, the idea of home beckons and that thought is made easier by the prospects of having fallbacks ready once a migrant worker’s journey ends. It is in this light that I welcome the creation of a Php 2-Billion OFW Reintegration Fund by the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration in partnership with the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines. This fund was launched with no less than the full support of President Benigno Simeon Aquino.

Under this program, a former or current OFW can borrow amounts ranging from Php 300,000 to Php 2 million, to put up a business of his or her own. The business loan is payable up to 7 years at an annual interest rate of 7.5%. People in business tell me that these terms are quite good, especially for a start-up enterprise.

What would it take for an OFW to obtain such a loan from OWWA? First, he or she must undergo a business orientation seminar from any of OWWA’s regional offices. This would prepare the applicant in formulating a feasibility study that is an essential step when putting up a business. The applicant only needs to show proof of previous or current OWWA membership.

From seminar mode, the OFW entrepreneur will be referred to the nearest Land Bank or DBP branch that would evaluate all of these applications. Approval would rise and fall depending on how carefully the business proposal was put together, because the Php 2-billion Reintegration Fund also needs to be sustainable.

Recently, the Blas F. Ople Center and the Sagip-OFW Program of Sen. Manny Villar together with the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration’s National Reintegration Center for OFWs with the help of such corporations as Fortune Life, Seaoil and the Passenger Accident Management and Insurance Agency or PAMI launched its first ever OFW Reintegration Fair at the Star Mall along EDSA, Mandaluyong City. Special mention goes to DZXL Tatak RMN and DWIZ for serving as our media partners.

We expected around a hundred participants. Much to our surprise, a line has formed even before the doors of the Mall officially opened. One OFW said that he came all the way from Bataan just to listen to the talks of our resource persons. Our simple program started with an overview of the OWWA Reintegration Fund courtesy of Director Maria Luisa Reyes of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs.

It was followed by a reinvigorating talk by franchising guru and noted businessman Paul Tibig of V. Cargo. Myrna Padilla flew in from Davao City to inspire our OFWs and their families with a searing rendition of her life as a former domestic worker turned entrepreneur. Myrna is a spectacular example of the proverbial rags-to-riches story, as she now runs her own business process outsourcing company.

Former journalist and a friend of all, Peter Sing, gave our OFW friends a snapshot of what it takes to leave the safe cove of employment to foray into the more unpredictable waters of entrepreneurship. His personal advocacy is on savings and investments particularly among OFWs because his mother worked abroad to support her family as well.

Randell Tiongson who is a business columnist and registered financial planner anchored all the preceding discussions with pragmatic tips on financial security. Randell has been lecturing about financial security from Hong Kong to Singapore, and in different corners of the country.

Finally, our OFW Reintegration Fair ended on a high note with the prospective entrepreneurs asking our panelists from the Development Bank of the Philippines, Land Bank of the Philippines and OWWA.

Indeed, there are horizons to be explored beyond just leaving our shores. Windows on entrepreneurship have opened via the Reintegration Fund put together with the economic liberation of our overseas workers in mind.

We all have it in ourselves to define our lives. One cannot and should not be an OFW forever. But as in all things, going into business requires due diligence, perseverance, and the desire to learn endlessly, unceasingly along the way. It is for the adventurous heart and a detail-oriented mind.

My father once said that overseas employment is and should be just a temporary program. In the end, his dream was for foreign capital, technology and our world-class workforce to converge in an industrial explosion within our own geographic boundaries.

Today, we might just see that dream happen, even without the foreign capital, as thousands of OFW families now turn to entrepreneurship as their roadmap to home. (Visit my blog at www.susanople.com. Follow me on Twitter via www.twitter.com/susanople. Add me on Facebook via www.facebook.com/susantootsople. Send your comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com)

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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  • Dear Ms. Susan Ople,

    Just want to ask if the 2B reintegration program is still open ?
    I am a former OFW and has been displaced due to economic crisis in dubai.

    Thanks

  • For more info about OWWA’s reintegration fund, best to visit the OWWA office or any of its regional offices. You’ll need to attend a 2-day seminar on business planning. After that, you’ll be given a list of requirements including a template for a business plan to help you in your application. I understand that this is still going on. Good luck!