Juliet Ugay worked in Singapore as a domestic worker for ten years before retiring back to the Philippines. In the book ‘Our Homes, Our Stories’ she reflects on her time in Singapore, what it was like to return to the Philippines after all that time, and of course, on what her future might hold. Juliet has always loved to write, and is an active member of the HOME MyVoice team, both as a writer and an editor.
We asked Juliet what it meant to her to be part of the book project.
My story is just one of the thousand stories that domestic workers in Singapore have to offer. I will take you to where I started, how that went and what it was like, as well as my background and my reasons for leaving. I share some details about my wellbeing during the ten years I worked in Singapore, until the time when I decided to go home for good. Most people think that working abroad is all about earning money. Through my story, readers will hopefully gain a better understanding that my life abroad was not a bed of roses at all.
Being part of this project has given me the opportunity to share my story with the readers. The project also helped me a lot with my writing, thanks to our very patient and hardworking volunteers who made every part of the process easier for us. The whole experience has been a great way for me to spread awareness; the ups and downs of being a domestic worker abroad. We are women from different backgrounds and all have different perspectives on what it is like for us, from the start to finish.
The book will be my treasure for the rest of my life: something that I could be proud of and share with my family and generations to come.
Does your story have a special message, anything you like the reader to learn from it?
I think that this book will serve as an eye opener to everyone, most especially to employers and domestic workers. I am hoping that through this book, lawmakers will have a better understanding of what is the real situation of domestic workers; hopefully it will serve as a guide to them in providing better protection for us.
At the same time I am hoping that through my story, my fellow domestic workers can learn to prepare better when they decide to go home for good. Returning home needs a lot of preparation, good planning as well as emotional and physical adjustment. Saving is one important thing to do, especially for older domestic workers, as age is an important factor when applying to jobs in the Philippines.
With the help of organizations like HOME, other domestic workers can be made aware that there are people who are willing to give them a hand when they are ill-treated or abused. This book can play an important role in that.
What are your own plans for the future now you are back in the Philippines?
At the moment I am still fulfilling the motherly duties to my son, in exchange for all the time with him I lost when I worked abroad. Aside from that, I am preparing myself to join the workforce again, hopefully soon. If I can’t get a job in my country, it will have to be in another country.
Will you continue to write?
Writing played a crucial role in putting things together for me, not only in my story but in my life basically. Writing has always been something I wanted to do. It doesn’t require much pressure and I can do it at any time.
I will continue writing as long as I can. If I get a chance to be part of a project similar to this again, I’ll be more than willing to put my effort in. I did some writing classes a few months ago, and now I intend to write a novel, a short story and a collection of poems. And I am writing any time I want.
You have been part of the MyVoice team as well as editor the MyVoice blog for years. How do you look back on this period?
HOME started doing an online newsletter years ago, and later we had printed copies. During this time, there were many cases of abuse and issues concerning domestic workers. One big issue was domestic workers falling to their death out of windows, and the compulsory weekly day off another. The newsletter served as a voice for us. We gathered signatures and filed a petition for a ban on cleaning windows at a height, and a weekly day off. I think we really made a difference, as there is now new legislation for both.
As technology improved and with the help of volunteers we came up with the MyVoice blog. The blog serves as a platform for domestic workers to share their experiences, stories, talents, trivia et cetera. Writing for MyVoice is not just about me, I am writing with a purpose.
A blog like MyVoice is very important especially for domestic workers who are having a difficult time getting help and information. MyVoice gets domestic workers together, and encourages them to share, be it through their stories, poems, talent or any other form.
Thank you Juliet, and good luck with your further writing!
For a video where Juliet introduces herself, and tells us about her great passion, join the Our Homes, Our Stories Facebook page.
If Juliet’s story inspired you, and you would like to join the MyVoice team, please send Karien a message at Karien@home.org.sg