When Filipino women leave their families to find work abroad, they view migration as a necessary sacrifice to obtain the two things that will secure a future for their children: a home and an education.

But for the some 96,000 women who left the Philippines in 2010 to work as domestic workers, this simple aspiration comes at a cost that cannot be translated into monetary terms.

A mother’s presence is deferred for the promise of economic gain. Years that would have been spent seeing her children grow up are spent watching over other people’s children.

And for the many who are working as undocumented migrants, there is no option to travel back to the Philippines to visit. The separation drags on for years.

Roughly 10 percent, or $18.6 billion of the country’s GDP, comes from remittances sent home by migrant workers. Almost half of the migrant workers from the Philippines are women, filling vacancies in the service sector mostly as nannies and domestic helpers.

Over the last several years, the Philippine government has posted the highest GDP growth in the region—but the country continues to have the highest rate of unemployment.

For many women, migrating to find work becomes a cycle of leaving and coming back, only to leave again when economic opportunities in the Philippines prove to be insufficient.

And even if they want to come home, what do they have to come home to? In this project Ana P. Santos, the Pulitzer Center's 2014 Persephone Miel fellow, documents the plight of these women and the families they have left behind.

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Ana P. Santos is an independent journalist based in Manila, Philippines. Her work focuses mainly on HIV/AIDS and reproductive health, gender issues, and the inequalities that arise from being the...

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