“I’m sleepy now. Good night. I love you.”
The message repeats, page after page, but in eleven different languages – from Ilonggo to Italian, Kapampangan to Cree, Cebuano to Swedish.
These are children, siblings, parents all wishing their loved ones in various corners of the world a good night.
The Filipinos abroad are mostly OFWs: engineers, nannies, cooks, nurses, musicians.
These “good night” conversations are held over Skype, Facetime chat, old-fashioned phone calls.
The aim of “Good Night Philippines, Good Night World” is to
“celebrate the diversity of places and languages in the Philippines, as well as the courage and versatility of Filipinos who have had to embrace other cultures and languages as they travel to study, work, or immigrate abroad.”
The book has a simple premise and it was fun to have a go saying good night in all those languages (there’s a pronunciation guide at the back).
But I found my thoughts drifting.
It’s not that hard to imagine such a “good night” conversation taking place in real life.
As of 2015 there were 2.4 million OFWs working abroad, mostly women (51.1%). As of August 2016 OFW cash remittances totalled $17.6 billion – 10% of the country’s GDP. By ratio to population, the Philippines ranks 1st in the world when it comes to dependency on remittances.
In short, a lot of Filipino families – not just the ones who have OFWs in the family – have OFWs to thank for the Philippine economy’s resilience.
What the statistics don’t show, however, is the day-to-day sacrifices they make. The hotel worker waking up alone the next day, after hearing her daughter’s voice in a call the night before.
It can be very lonely, especially this Christmas season.
Hubby and I are OFWs ourselves. We’re very lucky indeed to have Squishy with us here.
Not everyone is as fortunate.
When Squishy’s old enough maybe we’ll talk about books like these. How he thinks the kids in the book feel with their parents working so far away.
We’ll talk about all the languages the people spoke – how different they sound yet how in the end, they all mean exactly the same thing.
Good night. I love you.
Good Night Philippines, Good Night World (Anvil Publishing)
By Mila Bongco-Philipzig
Php 150 at National Bookstore