For the Sake of Our Children -
Sacrifices and Rewards of an OFW in Malaysia

By Imelda Roberts

Marilyn Dela Rama completed her high school at Santa Monica Academy in Camarines Sur. She got married when she was only 19 years old to Apolonio Dela Rama, a criminology student. Lyn, as she wants to be called, was 20 years old when she gave birth to her oldest daughter, Carla in 1988. A year after, her second daughter, Jessa, was born. Her daughters were very young when Lyn went to Malaysia in 1993 to work as a domestic helper. One would think that Lyn would simply do household chores in Malaysia in return for a small salary to send home to her family. But Lyn was determined to prove that she was capable of achieving more. She was passionate about her dreams for a good education for her two daughters. "I had to leave even if it was hard. I did not want my children to live the kind of life I had. I wanted a better future for my children," she said. "I trusted and had strong faith in God that despite being away from my family that everything will be for the sake of my children," she added.

Her faith, dedication, hardwork and optimism were soon rewarded, not once but on several occasions. Her dreams for her children and family are now within reach. She is also now living quite a different world inspired by her own faith in God, hardwork, dedication to her family, love for the Filipino people, and her own natural God-given gifts.

Living in a Different World

Lyn was in London when I first spoke on the phone with her to followup on her life story for Pinoy Boomer. From our conversation, she is living quite a different life from when she first started in Malaysia as a domestic helper. Unlike her first job where she does all the household chores, Lyn now lives in a palace. Nowadays, she is also busy traveling in different places - London, Switzerland, Paris, France and other places courtesy of her employer. In addition to her monthly salary, she receives travel expenses and allowances. Unlike many of us who have to go through security in airports, in some cases she does not need to. Sometimes she flies in a private jet. Lyn is living a life only a few get to see closely. As a Personal Aide to the Sultana of Pahang, the richest and biggest state in Malaysia, her work tending to the personal needs of the Sultana is a much easier job than her job before.

Lyn sounded ecstatic as she shared with me how it is to be a Personal Aide to a Sultana, a job she held since 2007. She was quick to say how blessed she was and God has always been with her. As the only Filipina tending the Sultana's personal needs, Lyn said, "My job now used to be held by Malaysian citizens who hold college degrees. I am so happy I got this job and the Sultana appears to be happy with my work. God is really good to me!"

Life Before as a Domestic Helper in Malaysia

There was a lot of authenticity in her voice and very optimistic about life. Even the photos she sent me speak of a woman who is not only gracious in her words, but showed a friendly smile, grace and happiness. No wonder, the Sultana adored her that in a short time she was hired she was quickly entrusted with sensitive and personal needs of the Sultana. She was also quick to say that though she loves the family she first worked before as a domestic helper, and added, "It was quite a sacrifice and lonely to be away from your family."

This is certainly not the first time Lyn has expressed such sentiment. In reading an article she wrote in The Star Newspaper Malaysia awhile back entitled, "Missing Their Growing Years," Lyn revealed a deeper sense of yearning for her own children and family.

With the more than eight to eleven million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), Lyn, as her friends call her, is not alone in her struggles and sacrifices. Having experienced how it was to be away from my family in the Philippines, I understood the loneliness that comes with living a life far away from family, especially our own children. Just like many OFWs who leave the Philippines for the sake of her children's future, Lyn also took the chance after learning from a friend about opportunities in Malaysia.

In Malaysia where she worked as a domestic helper from 1993 to 2007, Lyn's quest for a better life for herself, her children and family is shared by close to 250,000 OFWs currently working in Malaysia. It was not easy for her, but she wanted to help her husband ensure a good education for their children. Lyn has within her shear determination to shape her own destiny, give a better future not only for her children but her mother and five siblings.

Her generous heart extended to her fellow Filipinos in Malaysia. Active in El Shaddai and the Filipino community, Lyn in many cases helped other domestic helpers to escape from the abuses of their employers. With sadness in her voice, "There are many victims of illegal recruiters and sometimes they don't have places to go or food to eat, so I have to help. There are also cases where I personally drove fellow domestic helpers just to escape from their abusive bosses." Though she wasn't making a lot of money then she felt the obligation to help. No wonder, many Filipinos in Malaysia love her. For her outstanding contibutions to the Filipino community, dedication to her work and for being the Valedictorian in her class, the President of the Philippines personally gave special remarks for Lyn.

Ten Outstanding Filipino in Malaysia ((TOFIM) Awards

Lyn is obviously special. There is a level of admiration and respect gleaned from writings and comments shared by those who personally know her. Who would not admire her? Lyn's life as an OFW garnered her the "Model Overseas Filipino Worker in Domestic Service in 2005" with President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo personally presenting her this high honor in Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur. On the same year, she was conferred with other awards such as the "Model Migrant Employee," for the most successful and deserving personalities amongst the Filipino community in Malaysia.

Atty. Josphus Jimenez, then Labor Attache in Malaysia also presented Lyn with Excellence in Modelling Filipina Dignity. When I asked Atty. Jimenez the reason for this recognition he quickly said, "Lyn De La Rama epitomizes the long and ardous struggle of a mother who has to leave her two daughters to become a housemaid and in taking care of the two daughters of her employer, she modelled the best qualities of a Filipina, - modest, God-centered, family-oriented."

Highest Award for Total Excellence in Both Curricular and Extra Curricular Achievements

H.E. Victorinao Lecaros, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia, also presented Lyn a Special Scroll of Excellence in Character "for manifesting the exemplary character of selfless services and dedication. As Class President of the Filipino Workers Resource Center - Skills Training Program, the Ambassador and the President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, personally congratulated her for her special achievements. As President of the class with 500 OFW students and graduating Valedictorian, Lyn showed remarkable talents and potentials. Lyn's desire for continuous learning and to improve herself earned her several "Outstanding Student" awards in courses like Caregiver, Agribusiness, Computer, Basic Laws for Filipinos, Labor Laws, and Newsletter Publishing. She was also active in the community, a very strong leader of the El Shaddai prayer Community, and the President of the 500 strong Student Council in the Skills Training Center managd in Kuala Lumpur. She was a multi-awarded community leader and a class Valedictorian for two consecutive terms.

Inspirational Legacy For and About Her Family

How do you measure a mother's important legacy other than through her children and family? In "Missing Their Growing Years,' Lyn wrote,

"With delight, I welcome the changes in my daughters. It is rare that an OFW's children turn out to be their mother's pride and joy, but I listen to them proudly as they tell me of their achievements in school. Of course, I give credit to my better half for his effort in raising them in my absence. Under the circumstances, he has ensured that they are well taken care of, thus relieving me of worries when I work."

In the words of Atty. Josephus Jimenez who witnessed Lyn's extraordinary work while he was Labor Attache at the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, "Her life story is inspirational because she struggled through poverty and lack of a college diploma, and she proved that she could support a family, send her two girls to college, and yet remain faithful to her husband. Unlike many others who succumbed to infidelities, Lyn has remained a true Filipina wife and mother. "

What the Future Holds

There is a brighter future for Lyn and her family. Lyn's oldest daughter, Carla, is now a Registered Nurse. Jessa, her youngest daughter, is now on her fifth year completing requirements towards a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering. After many years of helping her own family, mother and five siblings, she was happy to note that "My strong faith in God helped me help my family. Though it is hard being away from them, my faith sustained me," said Lyn. "Now, I am happy my kids are doing so well. My husband who may have not liked for me to be away also sees the future when we all can be together and I don't have to work away from home."

As she reflected upon what the future holds for her and her family, she sees a time in their life when all of them are all together. Though she obviously misses her children there is a sense of pride when she said, "I may have gotten many awards and a good job in Malaysia, but that is secondary compared to what I have achieved with my family. My family and my children are my greatest achievement. I am proud of my daughters and I thank God for all His blessings!"

For now, Lyn foresees a few more years as an OFW, but her writing reveals a deeper sense of balance about life that sustains her positive outlook as an OFW - - - .

"The life of an OFW means trials & blessings, chances & choices, sadness & happiness. There so many things to reconsider. Family life is not normal because you are away from children and loved ones. But once we are held by God's hand, it means we are able and all things are possible. Life is good! "

Source: Youtube as posted by Lyn.

Lyn Dela Rama
Good natured Lynn.
Lyn with other Filipinos in Malaysia during awards dinner.
Yannie receives Outstanding Alumni Award
With Ambassador Vic Lecaros and OFWs in Malaysia, Labor Day 2010.
Lyn with daughters
With HE Ambassador & Ma'am Melissa Lecaros, Consul General Renato P.O. Villa, Atty. Manaquil, and other embassy staff together with Filcom Leaders.
Lyn with daughters and mother
Lyn with with Atty. Josephus Jimenez, former Labor Attache in Kuala Lumpur.
Lyn with daughters
With daughters, Carla and Jessa.
Lyn with daughters and mother
Lyn with two daughters and her mother.
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