An ordinary girl dreaming of the extraordinary

Who are you?

I think of myself as an ordinary girl dreaming of the extraordinary. I am 30 years old, single and I come from the Philippines, the south-eastern part of Davao.

Why did you decide to become a migrant domestic worker?

I started working in Hong Kong 4 years ago because life in my country is too hard. Even with a nice job and good education, the salary is not high enough in the Philippines.

I graduated with a bachelor degree in finance management that took me 4 years to complete. I realized soon that my salary would never be enough to pay off the debts my parents contracted to send me to university and make a better living for all of us.

I’ve decided to work abroad not for my own sake but for my family’s as my parents are not financially stable. Since then I’ve been dreaming of how I can uplift my family from poverty.

How did your financial situation evolve over time?

Before I left, my father provided the money for our daily basic needs while my mother supported us in our studies. My father was only a tricycle driver so sometimes his income was not enough so my mother would help. My mother is a franchise dealer and it was hard for her to send us to university. She was struggling a lot to support us and ended up with debts. After I graduated I didn’t even try to find a job in my country because of the extremely low minimum wage and I arrived in Hong Kong four months later (and having contracted even more debts to come here).
It took almost one year for me to pay off all the debts we had and the agency placement fee.

My father got sick one year after my departure to Hong Kong and had to undergo two operations (because of his intestines/kidney). I didn’t know where to look for money. In order to save my father’s life, I had no other option but to borrow money from a “bank” (note: a lending agency for migrant workers).

I borrowed 25 000 HKD (about 3200 $USD) and paid back 3700 $HKD (about 475 $USD) for 8 months (note: total payment is almost 30 000 $HKD / interest rate: 20%).  My salary at that time was 4110 $HKD per month so I could not save any money as well.

So far, the operations were successful and after two years in Hong Kong I had managed to repay my debts and my father was alive so I didn’t care that I had no savings.

After that I was able to financially support my youngest sister in her studies.
Now that she has graduated, I spend some of my salary on myself and the rest I send to my family as we are building a house together.
I have no savings or investments except for the house.

Can you tell us about your life as a migrant domestic worker?

Currently I start work at 7.30 am. I clean up dishes from the previous day’s dinner and then I take my employer’s baby to play with friends at the playground. During his nap in the morning I do all the daily house chores including cooking baby food. In the afternoon we often go to buy groceries and on the way back we stop at the playground. The rest of the afternoon, I iron clothes and I prepare my employer’s dinner. At 7.00 pm, I give dinner to the baby, 7.30 pm bath and at 8.00 pm my day is finished.

What did you like or not like about your employers?

What I like about my present employers is that they are kind and they treat me like I am part of their family. They are not selfish.  And this may not seem much, but this is really important to me that they always give me my salary on time.

I don’t dare ask them that I would like to start my day 30 minutes later or finish 30 minutes earlier.

What I didn’t like about my previous employer is when they talked badly about their previous helpers and warned me not to do the same as they did. Of course, I understood but I would have liked them to trust me and not always believe I will misbehave.

I also didn’t like that I was not allowed to turn on A/C when they were not home even when I was doing house chores.

What is your favourite activity on a day off?

Hanging out with friends and keeping them motivated when they are down. Sometimes when I’m too tired I love to sleep to revive my energy. I like shopping as well when I still have enough money to reward myself.

For you, happiness is…

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my loved ones and friends happy and succeeding in life.

What are you most proud of?

I can now help people without expecting anything in return. I make my parents happy. In a few words: ” I became a better person than I was yesterday”.

What are your dreams and hopes for the future?

To uplift my family from poverty and no longer live abroad away from my family.

To have my own family and business and live a happy life in the Philippines.

 Interviewed in October 2017 and edited by Marie Kretz Di Meglio

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