Spending Friday night within the cold confines of an emergency room

MY family during my brother's wedding two years ago

MY family during my brother’s wedding two years ago

COUNTLESS articles have been written about the sacrifices and hardships overseas Filipino workers and immigrants regularly go through as they eke out a living abroad. Although these stories are heartbreaking and thought provoking, we’re only seeing one side of the equation.

Indeed, wherever you’re based, it’s no joke to earn an honest living. That’s probably one thing many of our erring politicians and corrupt bureaucrats will never understand.

I would imagine that it becomes doubly harder to earn your keep in a strange land away from family, friends and everything familiar you grew up with and often take for granted at home.

MY younger siblings Ronnie and Farida

MY younger siblings Ronnie and Farida

Four times

Not even the prospect of earning four times as much as what you could earn in the Philippines could probably compensate for the loneliness and alienation one experiences in a foreign land. For the sake of family and the promise of a brighter future, our kababayan abroad plod on.

But it’s no less difficult for those of us left behind, as we face a different set of challenges: from budgeting and spending wisely the money being sent from abroad, to assuming dual roles to make up for the absence of certain family members.

In my case, for instance, I’ve virtually become the only child looking after and making major decisions for my two aging parents.

In the last two years or so, there hasn’t been a month when we didn’t go to the hospital either for a routine checkup or Herceptin infusion (my mother, 78, is still under treatment for breast cancer).



And I’m not even counting the times when I lined up early in the morning to seek financial assistance from PCSO, or drove either parent in the middle of the night straight to the emergency room.

Just late last week, I was forced to cancel a dinner appointment when my 83-year-old dad’s pulse plummeted to an alarming 40 beats per minute.

Making small talk with doctors

Instead of making beso and exchanging pleasantries amid the posh ambiance of a chichi restaurant, I found myself in the bright, sterile confines of a busy emergency room making small talk with doctors and nurses as they attended to my ailing father. It was just my way of calming my frayed nerves as I face again the unknown.

Lest you get the wrong ideas, I don’t live for parties and evening events. Wining, dining and socializing are for me just means to an end. But given a choice, no one in his right mind would probably ditch the chance of spending Friday night almost anywhere but the emergency room.



Wasn’t it only less than three months ago when I was in this very same emergency room worrying about my mother? Well, there I was again exchanging smiles, fielding questions and filling out the same forms handed by the same set of people.

Just the night before, my dad’s blood pressure shot up to dizzying heights. The anti-hypertensive drug he took soon after was probably way too much that it caused a calming but life-threatening effect on his pulse rate.

I was even pursuing one of those on the spur-of-the-moment stories about two politicians getting married earlier in the day, unmindful that my dad was feeling weaker by the hour as he wasted away in the next room. Apart from holding irregular work hours, it was a good thing I worked from home that day.

After spending four nights in the hospital, my dad was discharged Tuesday morning. I hope we won’t be coming back to that place anytime soon.

More difficult

I could only imagine how more difficult and dreadful it is for others who are in a similar situation, but whose jobs require them to be physically present behind their desks from eight to five.

I’m not begrudging my US-based siblings and their spouses who have never been selfish with their time or remiss in their duties and financial obligations. It’s just that when I’m faced with emergencies and even the daily drudgery of looking after and making decisions on behalf of my parents, I wish they were here, too, to share the burden with me.

A RARE meal together some years back in Manila

A RARE meal together some years back in Manila

Money isn’t everything, although, like most of you, I can never have enough of it. I salute people abroad, including my siblings, whose greater earning power and their generosity to share these blessings with family back home prop up the country’s economy and make up for an inefficient government and an almost non-existent healthcare system.

It’s just that being physically present and taking care of elderly loved ones while still pursuing a career and living your own life are never easy. And unlike looking after a child, the dividends of looking after aging parents, from a practical standpoint, become less and less as the years go by.

As they age and become diminished and sometimes more difficult versions of themselves right before your eyes, there’s really nothing much you can expect and look forward to. Only your love, sense of mission and your ingrained idea of what’s right and wrong propel you to move forward. Giving up is never an option.

JUST the three of us, we can make it if we try.

JUST the three of us, we can make it if we try.







7 thoughts on “Spending Friday night within the cold confines of an emergency room

  1. alex, only you can put it so succinctly and beautifully. extra props because you were able to write this right after going through something that any child dreads. prayers and virtual hugs!

  2. I can very much empathize with you, Alex. I never thought I’d see the day when it would be my turn to take care of a sick and dying parent (in my case, my mother). My older sister is the only one left back in Manila to take care of our remaining dads (my uncle and my dad). Actually, we now call our home the Senior Home these days because it has two senior citizens, and our housekeeper who also doubles as my dad’s caregiver isn’t exactly getting younger too. And even my pet cat is an old lady! Ang ate ko na lang ang “young.”

    Now I know how it feels to be far away (even if it’s just 1.5 to 2 hours away) and to fear getting THAT phone call in the middle of the night or day. The emotional and spiritual toll, not to mention the financial one, is huge. But what choice do we have?

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