Here is the transcript of Antivirus Episode #8 on May 11th to help our community of migrant domestic workers go through COVID-19 challenges.
I am Jenely, Uplifters Community Building Officer. Thank you for joining me tonight.
Uplifters is a non profit organization dedicated to empowering underprivileged communities with online education and peer support. We offer a free online money management course for domestic workers. You just need to click “ Send Message” on our Facebook page to enroll. https://www.facebook.com/uplifters.community/
This is the eighth episode of our Antivirus series and we are very happy to be here with you tonight.
Our objective with this Antivirus Video Live is first to reply to your questions if we can or collect them and consult with professionals afterwards so we can answer them later. Secondly, we just want to be there with you. Uplifters is first and foremost a community and we will go through these difficult times with you.
Today we want to take a break from the sad news and get to know one of the strong and courageous women in the Filipino community in Hong Kong.
Our guest for tonight is Admin Mocha as she is popularly known on her page. She is the creator and admin of OFWS (Overseas Filpino Workers) in Hong Kong Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/OfwsInHongKong/ Mocha and her team of moderators provide free advice and assistance to her 240,000 followers. She is a staunch advocate of domestic workers’ rights. Through her page, she encourages them to know and fight for their rights.
Hi Admin Mocha, welcome to our live broadcast. Thank you so much for joining us tonight.
Q. Your page is one of the most active pages for Overseas Filipino Workers in Hong Kong with a large following. Your followers turn to your page for work-related and personal advice. What led you to create this page?
Mocha: Well, first of all, you are absolutely right. I can say my page is a huge page now, huge members of the OFWS in Hong Kong page and in fact I don’t expect many to notice this page, because you know, first I truly understand how difficult the lives of domestic workers or the OFWs are. I know most of my fellow OFWS, I feel them, the burden or the dilemma that they’re working abroad for the sake of their families and their needs. I’m sure no one wants to be away from their family or even their loved ones. But they need to sacrifice because we want to give our very best for our families back home. So here in Hong Kong or even in other countries, I’m sure we have different rules and regulations to be followed and not everyone knows their rights and not everyone is brave enough to fight for their rights but I believe through helping and through some information we can help them. So, I think this is one of the reasons why I like and will continue serving through the OFWS in Hong Kong page.
Q. Has helping other people always been your passion?
Mocha: Yeah since my elementary days I loved helping even in a simple way. I really started when I was, if I’m not mistaken, I think when I was 15 years old when I was in high school. And I loved to share even simple and small things and I love sharing, talking and discovering new things in life. Even until now, I’m in my 30s, but still for me, I’m not going to stop to discover what’s the best skill I can develop. Because for me, I know I’m a domestic worker, I don’t want us to be just a domestic worker. If there is a chance to be more than a domestic worker, why not? So, I think the way of helping each other or my fellow OFWs, I think this is the one of the reasons that you are not just only a domestic worker. You are a person who can encourage, who can help fellow Filipinos in other countries or wherever you are working currently.
Q: In one of your interviews, you mentioned that you want to help educate both domestic workers and their employers so that their relationship can be strengthened. What do you see as the biggest challenge in achieving this goal?
Mocha: Well, I can see at first maybe the communication. The communication is really one of the problems, because not all employers can speak or understand English. Even here in Hong Kong, sometimes I feel it is really difficult when I work with other nationalities and even my current and previous employers, I find that one of the problems is communication. The lifestyle, we need to understand that we are here to work and that for me we are the ones who need to adjust to them, to their culture, their accent when they are talking to us. But of course, we have to always remember and bear in mind that we are the workers.
Q: Can you explain to me further why that is important?
Mocha: Of course, it is really important. First, respect. Respect is really important for me, because even if you are working as a domestic worker, some of my fellow domestic workers think that when you are working in the Philippines and a professional, they assume that when you are here in Hong Kong as a domestic worker, it will be the same but it’s not. What we should remember is to respect our employer and of course the key on how to build good communication with your employer is to know and understand the rules and regulations inside the house of your employer, follow it and respect it. Not just having to do your own rules inside of their house, of course you’ll need to follow and respect what are the rules and regulations inside the house of your employer. And of course the most important one is the communication between you and your employer. How can you tell your employer your problems, your needs inside the house. Because a lot of my fellow domestic workers don’t know how to tell or even to ask for food, they don’t know how to tell their employers., But if they have good communication with their employer I believe that it’s gonna be easy for them to ask and to talk to their employers about their needs and concerns.
Q: We have a question from Ody. How do you manage your time between work and helping us? She’s wondering if your employer is Chinese or Westerner. She admires that you have the time to do all of the work and you can still manage your page and are always able to help.
Mocha: That’s a good question! Thank you so much! First of all I just want to inform everyone that my employer is Chinese. He’s really from China. Before I work and sign my contract, I tell everything. I tell the truth that I am a domestic worker and I am also really active for my fellow Filipino community. So I want to stick to my Sunday off. So when they ask why, I tell them that I run a Facebook page as Admin Mocha and help my fellow domestic workers either via phone or in person. What I have to do first, everyday I have a lot of messages, text messages from the inbox of OFWs in Hong Kong, but you need to balance. I balance my time also. First of all I am a worker here. I have my responsibility, I have my boss/employer, who pays my salary and of course since I am honest, she already knows what my rules are as Admin Mocha on my OFWs in Hong Kong page. So it’s easier for me because I told the truth to my employers. I think that is the thing if you are open to them, it’s easier. For example, sometimes even late at night and someone calls me needing my help, it’s easy, I can freely answer my phone. So we should really remember to be true to ourselves and as much as possible we tell our employers what our Sunday off activities are to lessen the problems.
Q: We admire your contribution to the Filipino community in Hong Kong. What is your advice to Filipino migrant workers to make their migration successful?
Mocha: First of all I have to let them know that Hong Kong is Hong Kong, the laws in Hong Kong are absolute law. So the one thing that I also admire here is our freedom. I have worked in Kuwait before, and there is a big difference. Hong Kong for me is the best. It’s not because we have the pandemic, it’s not because of the protests, but it’s because of the living conditions in Hong Kong compared to other countries. Hong Kong is one the best places where you can start your dreams and to fulfill them as well. Well, for the first timers, you have to remember that you came here to be a domestic worker. The life of an OFW is not just about you’ll never know who’s gonna be lucky or unlucky, but at least in your own self, you need to remember before you come, you should be brave enough and be prepared for the behavior of your employers and expect the unexpected. It would be why sometimes they say “Oh, expect the unexpected.” What we mean by this is maybe you are thinking life abroad is just so easy, of course not. You’ll feel homesick, especially for the first timers and one of the reasons why I have the Facebook page, because through it we can give advice, we enlighten them, share thoughts, comments, advice, ideas about how to develop your skills being a domestic worker. And of course you should have to understand the laws here in Hong Kong and you need to know your rights as a domestic worker. Also don’t forget that now in the internet, it’s really easy, if possible, when you have time, don’t just do Facebook, don’t just go to YouTube, take time to read more about life here in Hong Kong, the rules and regulations and your rights as a domestic worker. In that case, you can get more value from your time through the information from the articles you read. In OFWs in Hong Kong page, we tell them if you are a first timer, you should remember to know all your rights as a domestic worker. You should remember that when you’re abroad, no one can help you, but yourself. Don’t just think because you have your family with you so it’s gonna be easy, no. You are abroad, you should remember you came here alone, you should be able to solve your problems alone. Don’t just rely on others every time because even your friends can make you suffer one day. So always remember you came here alone so you need to be able to rely on yourself. If you feel bad, bored or if you have a problem, remember that God is always with us and He will never give us trials we cannot solve.
Q: What for you are the most important rights that migrant workers should know about?
Mocha: Contract. You should understand when you’re a domestic worker here in Hong Kong, you should be able to understand your contract. Where you are working, the address, you should follow if you are not allowed to work in other places that are not stated in your contract and of course if in case of termination, we cannot avoid that. Every day and night I receive those inquiries of my fellow workers who have been terminated or have their contract finished because maybe they can’t handle the work inside the house of the employer. So what they have to know is their rights and what they have to do, if they are terminated or if they want to terminate the contract themselves. They should know the contract details because sometimes the employer may ask you to clean or work in places that are not in the contract. You can communicate your rights so that it’s clear that only the address and nature of work that is stated in the contract is the only work I should do.
Q: If one doesn’t fully know her rights, what do you think are the problems that could arise from that?
Mocha: Well it is a big problem if you don’t know your rights. That’s why it’s really important to know them. Before we go abroad, we do our PDOS (Pre-departure orientation seminar) and we learn from that the lifestyle, culture and laws of your destination. So I don’t think that there’s someone from my fellow OFW who does not know what their rights are because of the PDOS. They even give you all the contact numbers and details where you need to call or go in case of emergency. But sometimes, I must admit, some of my fellow workers here in Hong Kong don’t know what to do and I wonder why they don’t because since the beginning we all had to take the PDOS. That’s why I always advise them now about the proper use of the internet, instead of social media, try to do some research, study, and learn about the law, culture and lifestyle of the country you are staying in. It really helps. I believe it can help you to develop your skill and improve your relationship with your employer.
Q: I have heard that the government orientations like PDOS, is not well understood by many. Is it true?
Mocha: It’s not because it’s not well understood, but there are few of my fellow domestic workers. They just sit there and listen and but don’t really focus. Maybe it’s the excitement of going abroad, being abroad, earning dollars. It’s not supposed to be like that. What we need to be doing when we are in PDOS is to learn, we should understand and get information that will help us going abroad and help us on how we can work nicely with our employer. It’s not because it’s not well understood by all but I have to admit that during the PDOS, a few of my fellow Filipinos are just too excited going abroad so what they do is forget what they’ve learned by leaving or losing their notes or information they may have written down or collected during the orientation shortly after departing the country. It’s not the PDOS facilitator/organizers fault as they really give the information needed.
Q. Can you give us some tips on how to cope with changes and stressful situations at work due to Covid-19?
Mocha: Well this is a hard question, but in my case I know and I believe that most or all of the employers, most of the time because of the Covid-19 we are inside the house or shall we say stay at home employees. And I’m sure that many of my fellow kababayans don’t want to stay at their employers, especially those employers who are perfectionists who don’t want to see any dust at home. Even those who are taking care of little children and they can be naughty at times, so a lot of patience is needed for your “Alaga” for your employer. And always remember that it’s just because of the Covid-19, just like me, it’s natural. We don’t like those employers who are perfectionists and strict, for me, I am thankful because I am lucky with my employer. I’m still open with my employer. I can go, I can take my rest day, I can go out, you just have to remember to take good care of yourself and of course to avoid those crowded areas. For those of you who are asked by their employers to stay at home, I can understand that it’s unfair. Resting might be difficult without having your own room to rest and with everyone inside the house, children being naughty, your employers being very busy, it leaves you no choice but to just work on your supposed rest day because you’ll feel embarrassed. It is very unfair for us but this is life. We have to face reality, we need to understand that there will be changes because of Covid-19 but remember that it’s only temporary. So don’t feel bad, don’t feel sad when your employer asks you to not go out on your day off, just ask your employer and be clear, for example you can say “Ma’am, if I’m not gonna be taking my day off today, when will my day off be?” or when you’re lucky maybe your employer will pay you. Because of the pandemic, it’s really hard, I feel for those who are experiencing the changes happening in their work situation. Especially those stay at home employees, what I’m gonna say to you guys is that just enjoy your work and always remember that this Covid-19 is just temporary. It’s not forever. So that’s ok, just stay at home and love your work, enjoy your work, even with those perfectionist employers, even at times when they are loud and seem like they’re just talking nonsense, but since you can’t do anything, you just have to accept and listen to them. Accept the reality, but always remember that you should really take care of yourself for no one can help you the best but only yourself. So don’t be sad if you weren’t able to take your off day, just try to understand that your employer cares for you and doesn’t want you putting yourself at risk by being in a crowded area. Also, I believe that there are some or maybe a few employers who are watching now. And I’d like to take this opportunity to tell them that they also need to respect the rights of their workers regarding their rest days. Don’t think that just because your workers are inside the house you still should not ask them to work if it’s their rest day. Because, in a week, we only get one day to rest. And because of the virus, some employers don’t let their workers out, due to the fear that their workers might catch the virus and bring it back home with them. We should all try to understand, both employers and workers, we are the same, all human beings. We respect our employers but of course the employers should also respect us. It can’t be just because you’re the employer, you’re always right. We have our rights also. There are so many cases from my OFWs page that their employers don’t allow them to take their off day because of the virus. But the employers don’t even consider that, they are also going out, they go to parties with their friends and come back home most days of the week. Unlike us, we stay at home the whole week and only have that one day for ourselves and can only go out for a few hours as we need to get back home. There is really a discrimination and it’s unfair. Employers need to remember that we are all the same, all human beings.
Q: Who is your role model?
Mocha: For me, it’s my fellow domestic workers, from whom I am encouraged. I have developed myself into who I am today. So I can say that they are the role models in my life especially here and being a domestic worker myself.