Saipanpreneur Profile: Riza Oledan-Ramos
Saipanpreneur Profile: Riza Oledan-Ramos
The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!
Saipanpreneur Profile: Riza Oledan-Ramos
and the boy who dreamed to be with his parents on Saipan!
Riza Oledan-Ramos is a staff nurse at the Commonwealth Health Center on the island of Saipan. Like many guest workers here on Saipan, Riza had to make the heart wrenching decision to leave her son in Manila, Philippines, while she came here to work. It’s a story shared by millions of such “long distance families” around the world. It’s a story that deserves to be told. It’s a story that Riza has decided to tell.
The Boy Who Dreamed to Be With His Parents on Saipan is a children’s book about a little boy left in the care of his aunt and grandparents in Manila, told from the perspective of the little boy himself. I had the chance to interview Riza just prior to the book’s publication.
Walt: How did you get the idea for the book?
Riza: Last year, my son, Emmanuel—who was eight at the time—asked me to help him with a school project. He had to write his autobiography. So, we started collecting his baby pictures and revisited events that had occurred in his life. He shared his thoughts as we looked at the photographs. As I input his words into the computer, he told me things he remembered, things he actually felt, and things about his life that I had missed while I was away from him. I was surprised and touched by all the strong emotions and perceptions he had about his life back home while his father and I were away on Saipan preparing a better life for him.
Walt: That must have stirred quite a mix of emotions. How did the writing of the report affect you?
Riza: As I was typing, I kept thinking, "Oh, my gosh, what have I done? How could I have left my child for the sake of my dreams? Because I also want to work abroad. I told my son what parents always tell their children: "This is for your best."
The day I left, he said to me, "Mommy, how could you say it's for my best when you have to leave me?"
That made an imprint on my mind and my heart. And even on the airplane coming to Saipan, I thought to myself, "Maybe he's right. How CAN it be for his good when I’m leaving him?”
It was very difficult, but as we finished my son’s project, I had the idea that we could actually make a real book; a book worthy enough to share with the world. Every day in the Philippines and around the world, many parents are leaving their home countries to find work elsewhere to give their children a better future. I felt a book like this could help many families. As a parent, there are things you know in your mind, and then there are things you can only hear in your heart when your child tells you in their own words.
Walt: Who is the book for?
Riza: I have two purposes for writing this book. First, it’s for the children, to help them understand why mom and dad leave for a job far away. I want them to know that what their parents are doing is really for their best.
Second, it's also for parents. This is like your child opening his feelings to you. My aim is not only to make reading memorable to children, but also to touch a parent’s heart with simple words from a child’s point of view. One thing parents should remember is that a promise is very important to a child. If you promise something to a child, you should keep that promise. You can’t understand how much that promise means to them—especially if it’s a promise to come back to be with them and be a whole family again.
Walt: I can attest that the book, as simple as it is, is also powerful reading for adults, too.
Riza: Rodante Guarda, the illustrator referred to me by Donna at Elite Printing, told me he cried when he was illustrating the part of the story where the mom is going to the airport. He told me he couldn't actually see his brush because he was crying so much. Even though he is back in the Philippines now, he was once on Saipan for three years, and he could relate, and recalled just how much he missed his wife and family while he was here.
Walt: Riza, this book represents not just Emmanuel’s dream, but yours too. How does it feel now to be a published author?
Riza: After writing this book, I feel like I now have something of value. I didn't just exist. I have a value on this earth. I did this! I can go beyond! We can all go beyond if we want to. The work schedule may be difficult, but if we really want to, we can really do it. I was able to create something of value that made me a little different from who I was before.
Walt: Congratulations! Was the actual writing process difficult for you?
Riza: No. Actually, it just came naturally. It was really my son's project. I didn't actually plan to write this at all. I call it my "accidental book." It took two weeks to finish the school project, and took another year for it to be realized.
Walt: Even though the book has universal appeal, it also teaches people a little bit about Filipino culture, doesn’t it?
Riza: Yes, for the world as a whole, I want people to know Filipinos are hard workers. As a culture, Filipinos leave their families, but it’s not just for the dollar. There are real sacrifices; we leave our children, we leave our parents, all to make better lives and a better future.
Walt: What’s the most important message that Emmanuel can teach the book’s readers?
Riza: The most important thing for a child is his parents’ time and attention—love and care-- material things are not really what a child needs or wants.
Walt: As the inspiration, and “as told by” author of the book, what does Emmanuel think about his mom’s book?
Riza: He doesn't have a deep understanding of it all yet. But, he said, "Mama, we're going to be rich!" I told him money comes as a bonus when you do something that really helps people.
Walt: I saw all the drafts and photos for the school project. He put quite a lot of work into it.
Riza: Yes, his teacher gave him an A+!
Walt: How has your family responded to your new identity?
Riza: My husband, Ferdinand, has always been very supportive. Every time I am stuck with my writing, he reminds me to think only of the story and the momentum. If I’m working on different projects, he's the one who cooks for us so that I can keep working on my writing. He even bought and installed a backup battery for my computer so that I wouldn’t lose my work when the power goes out.
Walt: Any final words?
Riza: You know, I think about this a lot. There's a lot of children being left by their parents not only in the Philippines, but all over the world. What kind of children will we have in the future? What kind of families? My brother worked overseas. Now his daughter also wants to go away. It continues from generation to generation.
But it's a lonely thing, for everyone involved, you know? I was thinking about my sister who took care of Emmanuel when I first arrived on Saipan. When you leave a child with a sibling like that, they get attached to that child. My sister was telling me, "I didn’t have children, but at least I was able to have your son for a while.”
One day I called her on her cell phone in Manila, and I heard the sound of children playing in the background.
I asked her, “Where are you?”
“I'm at your son's school,” she said.
“What are you doing there?” I asked. I was surprised.
“Just dropping by,” she said. She couldn't say directly to me, "I miss your son,” but I know she’s been hurt. She misses Emmanuel. She was his “mother” while I was away and now that he’s gone, she visits the school she used to walk to with him.
Walt: Any advice for other writers?
Riza: Walt, you have a saying in your articles and in your book about raising your standard of living using your talents. If people really understood what you are saying in those words, they would do what I have done. For writers, I would say keep writing as much as possible every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s only 50 words, 20 words. There's 24 hours in a day, find the time to practice your talent. It's possible. Decide what you want….and then dream it, and then do something every day to create that dream!
Take it from Riza, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a child’s dream to be with his parents far away, or a dream to pursue your passion and do something unique in your own life. Dreams do come true.
To order copies of The Boy Who Dreamed to Be With His Parents on Saipan by Riza Oledan-Ramos, visit www.rizaramosbooks.com
Note: Fans and followers of the book, Jamaican on Saipan, may order a copy on jamaicanonsaipan.com.
Note: Ever wanted to direct your friends and family to a set of websites that revealed the best things about Saipan? Do what I do: send them to www.bestofsaipan.com!
Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!--Walt
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