Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Desperate Housemaids

Ninety-five per cent of 120,000. You can do the math and that is approximately the number of Filipino women domestic workers in Hong Kong with desperate stories to tell.

Choose a handful of that 95% and I’ll bet all my virtual boyfriends in the world that none of them will say that they’ve dreamed of becoming domestic helpers when they were young and in pigtails.

I will never demean domestic work because it is an honest and decent job. Even more honest and decent than the Presidency of RP as it is fast turning out to be.

But if really given a choice, none of these women will opt to be domestic workers. However, when one is desperate to survive, dreams fly out of the window, college degrees remain diplomas on the wall, and licenses as teachers, nurses, midwives and what-have-yous are just mementos in wallets of a profession that can not feed a family.

Desperation can make one leave their own children or old folks to take care of someone else’s brood and parents. Try showing films like “Anak” or “Inang Yaya” to a roomful of our kababayans and you can get the best casts for “Crying Ladies” including hundreds more extras.

The same desperation also makes these women bear abuses to unimaginable point. Like eating noodles and biscuits for two months because her salary has not yet been given and she is forbidden to eat the family’s food. Or being given food but ordered to eat together with the dogs and clean their shit even if she’s not yet done eating.

Or how about being forced to cover her feet and hands with plastic bag all the time because she looks “dirty”? Or being tied up and a panty shoved into the mouth while her employer beats her up? Or being spitted at? Or sexually-harassed? Or raped?

The thought of how to pay the debts incurred in the Philippines to come to Hong Kong, of debts earned while in Hong Kong, of the mouths to feed, of children in school, of needed medicines, of the future – these can drive anyone to desperation.

Desperation comes when a society provides no decent and viable employment. When social services are golds. When golds are the monopoly of the rich. When the rich has the monopoly of the government. And the government is that of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In our rally for a pay hike for foreign maids last Sunday, a colleague of mine heard this conversation when they reached the front of the building that houses the Philippine Consulate General.

Woman 1: Ibuka mo na yang placard mo.
Woman 2: (While lo
oking at the building) Wala namang makakabasa mula sa kanila eh.
Woman 1: Mababasa pa r
in yan ni Lord.

Maybe it is faith. Or maybe it is a last desperate attempt to get the Big Boss’ attention for obviously, the powers that be on earth are not listening.

Ninety-five percent of 120,000. Beyond the math are the desperate stories. Beyond the desperate stories are the reasons why there is a desperate need for change.


cant_u_read said...

Woman 1: Ibuka mo na yang placard mo.
Woman 2: (While looking at the building) Wala namang makakabasa mula sa kanila eh.
Woman 1: Mababasa pa rin yan ni Lord.

nadurog ang puso ko. di ko napigilag umiyak. nakakalungkot. pero nakakabilib din ang tapang nila. at ang pananampalataya.

ngayon ko lang naintindihan ang ibig sabihin ng "mga bagong bayani".

Jericho said...

Rye, they are eh? actually kasama ka rin at marami pang iba..;)

wanderingcommuter said...

i have two aunts who happens to be OCW and i believe they're occupation are one of the most noble and selfless job one could ever have.

i miss them a lot.

gibo said...

naiyak ako, buhay OCW talaga. kadalasan, umalis tayo ng pilipinas na baon ang pangrap. sa ilang pagkakataon, pagbalik ay luha ang pasalubong.

ruff nurse-du-jour said...

i have high regards to OFWs, including the househelpers, construction workers, minimum wage earners, slaves etc., for i know, that sometime in the future, i, too, am destined to become one.

but as of this moment...

i'll still be the nurse-du-jour.

pat said...

so the scene in wenn deramas' apat dapat movie wasn't an exaggeration pala.

but pinas is lousy with low wage din so props to them for taking the leap.

Jericho said...

@wandering: families always do ;)
@gibo: i now recall one OFW telling me she went abroad to have her daughter finish a degree. she did. and now she's also here. vicious cycle.
@nursie ruff: you'll always be one .. at least sa blog world.;)
@pat: i haven't seen the film so i'll take your word for it ... hehe. yup, they are brave for taking that step.