Financial problems are the most common (if not the only) reason for domestic workers to leave their country to find a job. This was the same for me. I come from the Philippines and I have been a domestic worker for about 21 years: the first 13 years I worked in Singapore and I left 8 years ago for Hong Kong.
After all these years, I just want to give one piece of advice to all employers: be consistent, especially with the kids, by following the same rules you ask your domestic worker to follow and always try to get both sides of what happened. I was lucky I had good employers (thank God!) An open communication with the domestic worker and the respect of her privacy help provide a good environment for everyone.
My current employer is kind and understanding, we communicate a lot and she listens to my suggestions. All the family treats me really well. I am so lucky to have them! What is great too with them is that at the beginning of my contract, we both agreed that if I make a mistake, I should tell her straight away no matter how big or small it is (so far nothing serious happened). However, there is still one thing I don’t dare ask them: if I could already receive half of my long service payment (please…).
I have just turned 48 and my source of happiness is still and will always be my family. They are in the Philippines, waiting for me: my dad (who unfortunately has kidney issues), my 3 younger sisters and my younger brother, my husband and my daughter. And I am proud I have been able to support them until this day! I graduated from college and I am proud that my daughter finished her studies too. Now I have my own house and my daughter is working, so I just support my dad for his medical treatment.
I think the biggest challenge I had to face was the cultural differences. When I started as a domestic worker, it took me some time to adjust: food, social behavior and cultural aspects of the city. It is very challenging to deal with all of this because we were not prepared for that…We came from our countries with dreams for a better life especially for our families. But now the Philippines Consulate of Hong Kong organizes Post Arrival Orientation seminars for the new Filipinos domestic workers. I think it is very useful and the new generation is lucky because they can attend this kind of seminar twice: one in the Philippines before leaving and another when they arrive here in Hong Kong. I have been volunteering at the Consulate for 6 years now (by helping to check contracts, for example) and I like attending other seminars like child or elderly care. Many people attend them: for example, last Sunday there were 42 people for the one about the elderly.
I’ve always been a straightforward person, often saying how I feel and what I don’t like in a person – in a nice way of course. For example, I always told my employers how their children had behaved (well or bad) and I would tell them if they had asked me to do something impossible regarding the time and/or my skills. My dream now is to retire soon to be with my future grandchildren and see my Dad get better!
Interviewed by Chloe Bothorel in May 2018
Edited by Rachel Voce