Barcelona, Spain – To many Filipinos, working abroad is the ultimate solution to their economic problems in the Philippines. Most of them worked abroad due to lack of meaningful employment back home.
Due to the lack of local knowledge and lack of system to have their professions accredited even before they leave, they are forced to accept jobs that are far from the professions they practice in the Philippines.
How can OFWs practice their profession abroad?
Assimilating the local culture
Antonette Marasigan, 40 years old, has been in Barcelona for the past 15 years. She came here to try her luck in employment.
“When I first came here, I had to take on whatever job was available to earn income. I cleaned houses and offices.” Marasigan shared.
The first part of migration for OFWs is the most challenging. They really do not have a lot of options because they lack local knowledge and skills that would match the profession they practiced in the Philippines.
In addition, they are away from their family members which make it even more difficult.
“I used to be an program analyst for a Telecom company in the Philippines. When I started cleaning houses and offices, I made a promise to myself that I should improve to get better jobs. Thankfully, this only lasted for two years”
Marasigan is now an administrative staff in the IT department of an American company in Barcelona. Prior to this, she was a receptionist in a hotel.
“The first thing I did was to learn the local language. I also tried to understand how locals think and behave,” she said.
“Sinong maga-adjust?” (Who will adjust?) she jokingly added.
For Marasigan, she even took it upon herself to distance herself from the Filipino community to give more time for her to interact with locals. It is not about not wanting to be with fellow Filipinos but she had to make that difficult choice to fast track her assimilation in the local community.
Dr. Heric Penetante, 43, had the same experience as Marasigan’s. According to the records of the Philippine Consulate in Barcelona, he is the only Filipino physician registered to practice in Barcelona.
“There is no way to be able to retain or practice your profession in the Philippines in Spain if you do not undergo homologacion,” Dr. Penetrante emphasized.
Homologacion is the process of having your profession in your country of origin be accredited in your host country as migrant. You must take additional trainings, seminars and exams to achieve this.
“The main challenge is to learn the local language since the trainings and exams are all delivered in the local language.” Dr. Penetrante said.
He immediately enrolled to learn the local language to be able to address this.
“I have no choice because I will be working with people who speak Spanish. It is common sense that I should speak Spanish too,” he added.
For Marasigan and Penetrante, they achieved their dreams through local integration. They both employed two common strategies – learn the local language and culture; and continuing education.
Since they can practice their profession, they can earn more that allows them to realize some of their financial goals.
I asked Dr. Penetrante whether he feels guilty leaving the Philippines knowing that we lack doctors.
“My patients are primarily Filipinos. It’s as if I did not leave the country,” he explained.
“I would even encourage Filipino doctors to come here in Spain because Filipino community here is growing and I would need all the help I can to serve better,” he added.
Marasigan and Dr. Penetrante now volunteer for the Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship in Barcelona. Both are alumni of the program.
They lead the secretariat to mount trainings and workshops for OFWs based in Barcelona who would like to improve their knowledge and skills on financial literacy, leadership and social entrepreneurship.
For them, this is their way of giving back to the community and become instruments in providing opportunities to Filipinos in Barcelona seeking to improve and change their lives for the better.