The Tertiary Education Subsidy for the Dependents of Repatriated, Displaced or Deceased OFWs otherwise known as the Tabang OFW program is a tertiary education assistance that provides grant-in-aid to currently enrolled college dependent of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been affected by the health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each repatriated or displaced OFW is allowed to elect one of his or her dependents who shall be included to receive a one-time Php 30,000.00 grant. This initiative is provided under the joint memorandum circular signed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

One of the beneficiaries of Tabang OFW is Sarah Mendoza Marasigan, a land-based OFW in Kuwait, where she worked as a cashier in a restaurant. According to her, she lost her job because she was not able to go back to Kuwait because of the imposed lockdown measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Being the breadwinner of the family who is supporting a child through college and being displaced in the middle of a pandemic is tragic. Thus, the Php 30,000.00 assistance from the Tabang-OFW program not only ensured that her child will not miss a semester in school, but also provided her relief and hope as she endeavored to look for other job opportunities. The financial assistance helped support the logistical needs of her child, especially now that schools have migrated to online learning.

Marasigan took a leave of absence from work for medical reasons. She underwent a medical procedure in the Philippines and was due to return for work on March 7, 2020. While at the Manila International Airport ready to depart for Kuwait, there were no flights available enroute to Kuwait. As the whole world stood still due to the COVID 19 pandemic, all outbound and inbound flights in Kuwait were cancelled. She had no other option but to stay put for health and safety reasons.

Marasigan has been an OFW since 2003, a work that supported her family for the last 18 years. She started as a Household Service Worker and eventually worked her way up to work as a cashier at Marina Thai Restaurant in Kuwait for the last 10 years.

The Kuwaiti government was among the first countries in the Gulf Area to impose lockdown to protect its citizens from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The lockdown included the prohibition on the return of its foreign workers who were on vacation. Because of this delay, her working visa and resident permit in Kuwait already expired due to her inability to return to the jobsite as scheduled.

“Sobrang pilay na pilay po ang aming pamilya dahil marami pong umaasa sa akin. Hindi ako nakabalik sa trabaho dahil ipinagbabawal ng Kuwait dahil sa lockdown dulot ng COVID 19 pandemic. Isa sa higit na naapektuhan ay ang pag-aaral ng anak ko na nasa kolehiyo.”

“Nagpapasalamat ako sa Tabang OFW program ng DOLE at CHED-Unifast para mga OFWs na nawalan ng trabaho dulot ng COVID. Dahil dito, nasuportahan ko ang pag aaral ng aking anak na kumukuha ng BS in Tourism sa National University kahit sa gitna ng pandemya. Sana marami pang OFWs na tulad ko na nawalan ng trabaho ang matulungan ng programang ito,” she added.

END / Genevieve De Castro