Juliet G. Ugay
I am writing this exactly a week after I left Singapore, to go back home for good.
A big step, a big change. I spent 10 years working as a domestic worker in Singapore. They have been years of hard work, patience and a lot of courage. Being in this job has taught me many things, not only about people but also about myself. I’ve become resilient in many ways. Every family I worked with – a total of five over the span of 10 years – was unique. Families with different attitudes, different foods, different languages, and different characters. I learned to adjust depending on their needs. Some were difficult to work with, some not too bad, and some just right. Most of the 10 years were not good times, but I survived. How I admire those domestic workers who can last for 25 years or more.
I hope that, in those years, I have left something in Singapore for people to remember me.Ten years is a long time, especially for someone like me, who has a son back home. Maybe for those who are single, it’s a bit better, as they have less to worry about, except for their parents or siblings. My son is now 11 and he is the main reason why I made this big change.
He is not young anymore. He is more aware now of the things around him, and he is more sensitive. He is beginning to need more care and attention that I, his mother, can only give. He is entering the stage of adolescence, a time where he needs someone to guide him so he’ll grow up responsible, and thinking like a man.
I spent the first few days of my stay here organising our house. The kids are at school during weekdays, so the house is empty and quiet, just nice for cleaning. Our house is old and small, so it took me only a day.
What I like about being here is the fresh air, and cooler temperature. Our house is surrounded by big trees, so the air is fresh all day and night. The local vegetables are fresh and sweet, most of them can be found in the backyard or at the neighbours, much different to Singapore, where almost everything is imported and by the time you cook it, is tasteless and soggy. Local ﬁshes are also abundant and mango season is around the corner. If you like simple living, you can live here. You just need some extra income to keep it going.
In the ten years since I left, so many things have changed in our town. Roads are getting better, Internet is accessible, houses are popping everywhere and there are more people. Some of them I haven’t seen in a long time, and some were born while I was away. People smile at you, and you wonder who they are, and you realise you’ve not lived in this town for 10 years. It is funny, but nice.
Here, you see kids, as young as 2 years old, holding an Ipad or a cell phone.I remember I got my first cell phone when I was in college, Motorola brand, the size of a land line telephone, and the charger a size of a medium sized rock. Nowadays, technology has changed a lot of things. People have gotten lazier and people complain about a lot of things. Sometimes I think life was better way back then.
Though my son is still shy to ask me things or tell me things, I know that he is happy I am here. I brought back my guitar, which he plays now and then after school. My son is unsociable, he does not like taking photo’s and things like that. He doesn’t like someone telling him what to do, what to wear, or what to eat. But he knows what he wants, that’s for sure. He is now in his final year in primary and will finish in early April. The education system in the Philippines has changed too over the years. They have added a few years to the usual time of school. Indeed, time flies.
I must admit I miss Singapore and the people close to my heart. I miss the conveniences of life there, and the hectic lifestyle. I miss the summery weather and the clean surroundings. I miss the kids I was taking care of. I miss my nice neighbours. I miss my friends and our stories, tears and laughter. It is quite difficult to adjust to life in the village after the working routine I’ve been having for 10 years.
At the moment, I have no deﬁnite plan what to do next, but I am thinking of going to another country, and look for better opportunities there. All I want at the moment is to spend time with my son and family, and see what happens after my son finishes school. Or when I run out of savings, haha.