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Yearning for Home . . . and to Never Leave Again

Ehrlickman (Erick) Pacheco is only one of the hundreds of Filipinos working in the dining rooms of cruise ship Holland America. I met some of them on a cruise to the Caribbean last week.

I have always admired OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who leave family and home for long periods of time to work in foreign countries just to earn a living for their families at the cost of much sacrifice.

I purposely requested to interview Erick for a few minutes when he was serving my group at the ship's Lido buffet area.

I learned that his family lives in Binan, Laguna, Philippines. He and his wife Seila have been married for 17 years and they have two daughters, aged 16 and 7. Sheila used to work in the cruise ship manning agency but resigned to take care of the children full time when Erick decided to work on a cruise ship abroad. I asked what made him decide to work away from his family. He said he grew up with grandparents who were poor and he did not want to raise his children in poverty but wants them to have a much better life.

Erick comes home after nine months on the ship and stays with his family for 2 to 3 months after which he embarks again for another nine-month stint. Each time he comes home is precious time to spend with his wife and daughters. He savors every moment with them and wishes he could stop the clock so he can be with them longer. When it is time to leave again, he prefers to just take a taxi to the airport to avoid the pain of emotional "till you come home again, Dad."

According to Erick, the first time he went to work on a cruise ship, he suffered from extreme loneliness and almost resigned after four months of trying to adjust. But the future of his family was always on his mind and he could never give up for their sake. He communicates with them via Skype as much as possible and feels that a one-hour Skype session is not enough. The company of his fellow workers and his faith in God sustain him. This is his 14th year on this overseas job.

From his earnings he was able to put his two children in a good school and provide adequately for their needs. He was able to build a 3-bedroom house on a 150 square meter lot. He said he plans to put up a small business when he has saved up enough. He looks forward to coming home for good, but not just yet. In the meantime, the longing continues, the yearning to stay home with his family persists.

The story of Erick is the same story of most of those working not only on cruise ships abroad but in other countries in various jobs around the world. It is also the story of Dave Dagasdas and Erfan Emendi, who waited at table to please us in the dining room of Holland America, and of Agus and Arisal, who ensured to keep our state rooms always clean during our cruise. It is a story of seeking a better life, not for themselves, but for their loved ones. It is a story of love, of unselfishness, of self-sacrifice.

When we get to know people like Erick, Dave, Erfan, Agus and Arisal, we can think of the One who came to this world to sacrifice Himself, in love for us. . . . to bring us to a better life with Him . . . to bring us home, where we will never have to leave again.#

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