It’s easy to account for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in terms of the number of those who are deployed each year and the billions of dollars they send back home in remittances—money that keeps the Philippine economy afloat.

But how do we quantify the cost of the years spent far away from their loved ones?

The badge of parenthood

Like many mothers, Mary Beth Manguerra, works hard to give her children the one thing that will ensure a better life for them: an education.

In that sense, Mary Beth would be like any other working mother except that since she works as a nanny in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, she cannot always attend school activities like graduation.

But today is different.

Her son, Jomar, is finishing a degree in automotive technology and her 16-year-old daughter, Johbe Ann, is graduating from high school at the top of her class. Mary Beth flew from Riyadh to be at their graduation.

“When I went up on stage with Johbe and put the medal around her neck, I felt like I was the one getting a medal,” Mary Beth sighed happily, with relief.

Today Mary Beth went through her own rite of passage: seeing her children graduate and being able to wear the badge of parenthood. (Read more about Mary Beth Manguerra and her family here)

What absence does

When *Carlo’s mother left to work in Dubai as a nanny, he was about 5 or 6 years old. He didn’t understand what “working abroad” meant, but he was happy to see his mom go.

“She promised that when she came back, she would buy me a bike,” the 12 year old said innocently.

His mother has been away for some years now and the last time Carlo saw her was last Christmas.

She hasn’t been calling lately and he doesn’t know why. It’s been about two or three months since she last called and they can’t call her because her employer will get mad if they see her talking on the phone.

Carlo’s grandmother and his mom’s sister take turns looking after him, but since both of them have to work, he often finds himself at home alone. Sometimes he doesn’t go to school because there is no lunch money or because no one will notice anyway.

See Ana P. Santos’ full project: Who Takes Care of Nanny’s Children?