Who are you?

I am 32 years old, from the central part of the Philippines.
To describe myself in one sentence I like to use the quote “work hard in silence, let success make the noise”.
I had to leave school early. My father passed away when I was 14 years old and our life became miserable. My mother worked too hard and she got tuberculosis so at the age of 17 I had to take care of my mother and younger sister. Fortunately I met a man who helped me. I married him when I was 19 years old and we have two awesome sons.

Why did you decide to become a migrant domestic worker?

It was almost 8 years ago but I can still remember as if it was yesterday. Life was really tough being a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother…

I saw from a distance my sick mother carrying a bucket of fishes to sell them in the villages around. I looked at my 3 and 1 year-old sons sleeping and I told myself “I need to do something. If you want a brighter future for your children, you need to create it.” I did not want them to have the same life as myself and I was hurt to see my mother working so hard in her situation.

By coincidence, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to come work abroad in Singapore. I immediately grabbed the opportunity.

How did your financial situation evolve over time?

I took me 9 months to pay back all the employment agency fees and our debts back home.
My first investment was to buy a tricycle for my husband and he has now a source of income to help me to 1support financially the family. Then I bought a piece of land (under my name) and finally I’ve been able to rebuild my house.
Now, I am still supporting 5 people back home but as my husband is helping too I manage to save most of my salary ($700 SGD, 515 USD) for my emergency fund and my business project (pig farm). I plan to go back home for good in 18 months.

Can you please tell about your life as a domestic worker? How difficult was it to adjust to your new life?

Being a domestic worker changed me a lot. It opened many doors for me, gave me a lot of opportunities.

At first life abroad was really hard. My first employers were a Chinese family with 3 couples and 3 children in a 4-bedroom house. I slept in the study room.  When my employer was working during the night I would be behind him on a mattress on the floor. I really suffered from the lack of privacy. After 3 years I told them that I could not cope working in these conditions anymore and wanted to find new employers. Thankfully they understood and allowed me to do so.

I have been fortunate to work since for an adorable Swiss family. We are respectful of each other and they support me through my ups and downs. What I appreciate the most is that they believe in me more than I believe in myself.

To be honest the work is tiring because they have 3 very active daughters (2, 4 and 6 years old), all food has to be home-cooked and the house of course properly cleaned up. But they are amazing, give me a lot of benefits, help me reach my goals and don’t forget to thank me for my effort and hard work.

I also learned from them the importance of time management, organizational skills and professionalism.

Are there some advice you want to give to all employers?  What do you like/don’t like about your employers? Is there something you secretly think but don’t dare asking or say to your employer?

My advice: respect, trust your helper and be a role model for her. And everything will follow.

 What I like about my employers: their positive attitude, their time management skills and lastly how they acknowledge my work, encourage and trust me.

There is nothing I don’t dare telling them. For me it is necessary to communicate openly to avoid misunderstandings.

What do you when you make a mistake at work (breaking something for example)? And how would like your employer to react when you make a mistake?

I will honestly tell them about it, say sorry and assure them that next time I will be more careful.

And I would like them to be honest and say how they feel about what happened BUT in a calm and respectful way.

If you helper does the same mistake several times, then I would recommend to ask her why and if there is anything that you could do to help her to avoid doing this mistake again.

What is your favourite activity on a day off?

Learning and discovering new things to improve myself. And also this is my chance to give back by volunteering.

For you, happiness is….

Having a purpose in life and working towards it.

What are your dreams and hope for the future?

My only dream is that my sons become good men, have stable jobs and incomes.

Interviewed in October 2017 and edited by Marie Kretz Di Meglio