BrainTeaser | Sherma E Benosa

Life is a puzzle; we are the clues, and God is the answer.

OFW Phenomenon, Mail-order brides, Prostitution, and More

Domestic helpers. Mail-order brides. Exporters of human labor. Scammers.

These are how people the world over have come to know us, Filipinos. And sometimes, I can’t blame them. For though it’s not completely true that these are what constitute us as a people, it’s not completely false either.

Our main export product is our people. A big chunk of our population — roughly ten percent — are Overseas Filipino Contract Workers (OFWs), many of whom are working abroad either as domestic helpers, construction or factory workers, or health workers. Our OFWs are our modern-day heroes, so they say, because they have saved the country’s economy many times over through their remittances. Without our OFWs, our economy would have long gone under.

And we do have mail-order brides — women who have become wives or girlfriends of foreign nationals through dating sites. I do not think this phenomenon is true only among Filipinos, or SouthEast Asian women for that matter, but our case seems to be out of proportion. Just type in the word “Filipina” in the search engine, and you’d see sites advertising Filipinas as if we were commodities. Being a Filipina, this situation affects me greatly, more so because I cannot claim that the conception that Filipinas are mail-order-brides is entirely false. Many Filipinas have actually taken the easy road to financial security — by marrying a foreign national they met only through the internet, and who they have never met before tying the knot, and someone they don’t — or at least, didn’t at first — love.

And so that’s what our women have come to be known — not just mail-order brides, but brides for sale.



6 comments on “OFW Phenomenon, Mail-order brides, Prostitution, and More

  1. Cheryl Collett
    October 6, 2008

    My daughter-in-law is Filipino and while she doesn’t like to talk about her past or how she came to the United States, we are so happy that God led her into our son’s life when he was in the Air Force stationed in California. Prior to meeting this wonderful person, he had gone through a divorce. He had married a local gal who in turn followed him to Japan where he had been transferred. Their troubles began there while he was away on TDY.
    When he came back to the states he was a very bitter person but our wonderful Anna won him over. Today, we have a crazy, lovable, intelligent 12 year old grandson after the many miscarriages poor Anna suffered through.
    As I said, Anna doesn’t like to talk about her family or past so it’s not discussed. We’re happy and thankful to have her in our lives. and we know our son feels extremely blessed.

  2. brainteaser
    October 6, 2008

    Hello, Cheryl!

    Thank you so much for your post. I am so happy to hear you have a wonderful Filipina daughter-in-law and that thing are great between her and your son!

    I am happy things are fine… although I feel sorry your daughter-in-law had to go through miscarriages.

    //P.S. I’d be re-posting your response to my main blog where this article is posted in its entirety, if you don’t mind… Please let me know. Thanks!

  3. mrloo
    October 7, 2008

    Hi to all the OFW’s who visit this blog, I’d like to invite you to join the new social network of the Overseas Filipino Workers at

    See you there!

  4. Manong
    January 11, 2009

    Hi Ading,
    Ive been trailing all your posts & memoirs(not spying ofcourse) and im inspired, relaxed and amazed everytime i open your beautiful sites. You are such a brainy cute lad! I supposed not to comment but i was touched by your OCW story,,,Its true, its happening and im one of the actual witness in almost every hour of my life.
    OCWs as we says are going abroad as our country dont have enough employment for its almost hundred million population prompting many of us to seek its luck. many are lucky but a lot has been failed. painstakingly even a qualified professionals has gone maids! they are not mad but they dont have choice and simply whispers “better than nothing” Living abroad is not as amused as what we thought, can you imagine being too far from your loved ones? the environment is different, food looks delicious but actually awful! and the worst, time is very fast here, you have to run with it otherwise you will left behind…The face of being abroad is tricky and full of misfits, A maid scapes and eloped with his boyfriend (she had husband and kids in her country) A sales lady dating an old mucho dinero foreigner(reason-she needs more money for her kids back to her country) and a disgruntled employee working illegally(hes not happy as his salary is low so he scaped) and a trying hard be-beautiful lady hostess(forced daw dahil hirap ang buhay) then comes that crying young housemaid complaining that shes was raped by the employer(no! she was caught having an affair with a man)-Then what we see everytime an OCW goes home? she/he had beautiful watch, gold ring and necklace, nice dress and shoes and having very big luggages! and they looks alive!(try to hold her palm, its looks smooth but touch it and its rough, its worn as it was previously overworked! her face is happy as she is hiding her true feelings and sufferings to make her dependent happy, at least in material things, poor little ocw…..But not all are in the same situation, many too has gone success abroad,,,I know one man from bambang who was successful enough to attain his dreams, not yet fully but almost there, Formerly he belongs to a poor family in the town, he sells ice candy and pandesal everytime he has a vacant, they lived in a meager but descent life, almost lacks a complete meal of a day. but despite of all that odds, he was successful to be professional enough to conquer his dreams…He went abroad and gamble with the strange outside world. There he experienced being insulted to his bones, almost maltreated, feeds and gulping any edible to survive, but despite with all of those troubles, he managed to get in line with his best luck, he knows he can be there as hes experienced enough though he was at the bottom before! Look at him now! Hes there on the top! he now manages and owning a very stable company abroad, married to a foreign lady having two cute kids, haves a descent home and happy family, respected and trusted by the ruling people of the kingdom if not the whole arab nations and europe…Why he made to the top?? Because-
    1. He knows how to face the challenges in life
    2. His Dedication to his work
    3. Smart of being not to fool people
    4. He looks all people at the same level for better self confidence.
    5. Self respect and trust of own ability.
    6. Talkative but in an intricate and professional way

    Why all of us cannot do all of these? why only few? we should all be the same to make the world look at us in harmony and great respect…….These should be an eye opener….

    Agyamanak adingko ta sika iti nangukag iti nabayagen nga ep-ep-epek a parikut ti nakem. Imbag laketdin ta adda daytoy a site mo nga pangibutakatak iti kapanunutak….
    Dios Ti Agngina….,,,Manong

  5. Manong
    January 17, 2009

    I wanted to reveal on of the reasons why filipinas most likely that they will deal on prostitution as to what ive seen here in the middle east.
    Since i used to visit some social gatherings for a business purposes in and around the middle east, we normaly discussed and jokes about prostitution though we never went with any hookers. Some of the people i met (filipino or foreigner) is talking about a place where they can found a vast number of filipina prostitutes in the middle east. I joked that they are found also in some localities in Dubai (but to be honest, i never found or seen even one except many nationalities from soviet territories, south asia, brazil,mexico and europe) They told “US” that they are concentrated in “KISH ISLAND” an exit or transit point to the GCC countries, an island belongs to iranian country. That was surprised me and i just never believe on it. Until last september 2008, i had a business meeting on that island. Upon landing, immediately i went straight to the place where the meeting shall commence which i came too early. I have seen a lot of filipinos and some asian nationalities around and thinking that, they may just here for a transit for visa change. While ordering a cup of coffee, i checked my wallet and take the money out looking for change, some few hundred US dollar bills and rials ignoring the many eyes looking on me. while sitting on the corner of that ample lit middle class coffee shop, i started to look whos around me, the faces, their movement and their intensions. They are actually trying to attract my attention in almost anyway which surprises me a lot as i know filipinas, they will never do that at any costs and still, they never do that in any foreigners around me. I called the nearest group of filipinas to join me in my table (4 of them) just to have some words from them and with slow and shy movement, they approached me. while having a coffee with them, I started to ask them their purposed of staying in the island, and each of them has different story,
    Liza (not real name) told me that she is here because her visa in dubai has expired and waiting for the new visa to arrive but she is here for 5 months now! she dont have any financial assistance except some few good friends back in dubai sending her just enough for one meal a day or a telephone card…
    Lenny(not real name) is from bahrain, she used to have a job as sales lady in one of the department stores in manama but someone offered her a bigger salary so she resigned, went back to the philippines and go to bahrain again in a visit visa not knowing that that will expire prompting her to leave the country and get refuge in the kish island while awaiting her new visa, and that was 4 months ago!she dont have any financial means except from her friends she met here.
    They revealed that almost all of them here has thesame bad situation and there are hundred if not thousands of them here.
    …Because of the financial distress and lack of support they turn to prostitution as that is the only way they could get, just to survive, at least for the meantime while in the island. and when they leave this island, they tend to just forget it and leave it like a nightmare. I never say that all of them but our image is damaged and our reputation will be trashed…Sad to hear those defeaning stories but i cant do any help as this problem is just coming and going and never stops. I leave them in the island as i had few hours stay there only, my heart was melt by them, i gave them few bucks leaving my pocket empty, they took my mobile number just for any case and when i was back to my base country, they dont stop calling me begging for more financial help but i just close my ears as i simply cannot do it. my wife sometimes catches some of their calls and that puts me in troubles, she dont believe me that they are just asking for help. I tried to relay this in our embassy but they told me that “there is another government agency who is taking care of it” then i just simply keep quite….But how long they will suffer there,,,i dont know……

  6. Ed Bisquera
    May 23, 2010


    The piece you wrote above should touch the raw nerves of the filipinos especially those in the government. We put blame on the government yet it is the filipino people who put those jokers in power. It is a vicious cycle that seems to never end but the country as a whole don’t seem to be bothered by that reality. When I was a kid, we were next to Japan economically but where are we now?

    Until the country as a whole address the issue of self reliance and uplift the lives of the citizens, the next generations won’t be in a better position. So how do we start a grassroots movement to alter the current course?
    It has to begin with the peoples attitudes and their will to change.


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