Category Archives: Stories

MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE

By Maria Allen Cellan

I’ve always been scared of making decisions for myself. Sometimes I just want my family to make decisions for me because I am afraid that my decision will be wrong. But I’ve realized that you have to trust yourself and your plans.

It’s been 6 months now since I made a huge decision for myself and left Singapore. Working as a domestic worker for four years was a big challenge for me. From office employee to domestic worker, that seemed like a big shift in my career. From ledger to mop, computer to vacuum, bookkeeping to cleaning windows. But hey, I don’t have any regrets at all. It was a good experience for me. Working away from home has taught me a lot of things, especially how to be independent.

It took me a year before I decided to not renew my contract. I made a long list of pros and cons, talking things out with friends and making choices and sleeping on it. But in many situations, there is no clear “right” answer or even a best one. I kept asking myself: “Who do I want to be?” I lingered on that question for a while. I needed change. I was tired of being discriminated because of the job I was in. And yes it’s important to know and think about all of the practical pros and cons of any given option. I had to consider the benefits of leaving my job as a domestic worker. Asking myself “Who do I want to be” is not easy. But it’s the question that brought me closer to the right decision and to the life that I really want to live.

Six months have now passed and I am perfectly happy with my decision. I admit that I miss my friends in Singapore, the church that I normally go to every Sunday, the kway teow noodles, fried carrot cake, the local coffee shop, and of course the easy transportation. Having a good memory with good friends in Singapore has changed my life.

Now that I am in the next chapter of my life I believe that something exciting is waiting for me as long as I am open to opportunities. As for now I am enjoying my jobless life, discovering myself in paints and canvas while waiting for my next visa from the Australian government.

I would say that if we are not happy where we are, if we want more in life, if we want to pursue our dreams, then it is time to move and make a decision. A decision that can make us happy and satisfy our soul. Let us not be afraid to make a decision for our dreams, let us trust our guts and our heart, and discover who we really want to be. As the saying goes: “The world is a place to explore, and it will embrace you if you embrace it.”

REFLECTION

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.

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Juliet and her son

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.

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Fresh local produce

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.

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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.

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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.

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Juliet and some of her Singapore friends

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.

My Struggle and Hope

By Michelle T Cain

My Struggle and Hope

Struggle is the best way to describe my life since I started secondary school up until now.

Struggle is my best friend, struggle never leaves my side.

It started when my father found another woman and broke up our family. When he didn’t support us anymore I could see the pain on my mother’s face. I appreciate how my mother supported our everyday needs. I could feel the overflowing love of my mother. Every time I saw her sacrifice, I told myself that I would try to have a better life and a happy and complete family of my own.

Then I started a family on my own. But struggle hugged me again. My husband’s family didn’t like me to be part of them. They said I wasn’t worthy. The feelings and dreams I had imagined fell down again. I felt so alone. I felt hatred inside, that the world could be so unfair.

That is why I decided to work abroad. I felt that everything would change if I could earn well, even if I had to leave my family. I always thought that my husband’s family would accept me if I had a lot of money and went abroad.

I went abroad and found work in Singapore, and I felt so happy and hopeful. But then struggle hit me again. I experienced abuse from my employer. She shouted at me and I felt so nervous that I couldn’t handle the shaking anymore. Without anyone I felt so alone. I even blamed God for giving me this kind of problem. I always asked God: What have I done?

But I am not going to give up. I try to fight this struggle in me. I never lose hope. I am still praying that I can overcome this struggling life of mine.

 

Michelle is staying at HOME shelter, where she wrote this piece during a creative writing workshop run by volunteers

Treat domestic workers as well as your dog

By: Rosita Madrid Sanchez

One Saturday afternoon while everybody was having a nap, I was at my balcony sitting down while my legs were up against the wall and my hand was holding a pen and a notebook. And this is the story I wrote:

“Liza! Don’t forget to bring my dog Sally outside this afternoon,” said Liza’s employer. “She needs some fresh air and she needs to mingle with some of the dogs here at the condo so she can get familiar with them. Remember you are not allowed to talk to anyone outside, especially with all the helpers in this condo.”

“Yes Mam!” Liza answered quickly.

But by the time Liza finished her work and it was time to bring down the dog, she heard loud thunderstorms, followed by lightning, and the sky was very dark.

“Madam! Madam!” said Liza, looking for her employer. She found her in her room, sitting down while having her food.

“Madam, I think it is better to bring down Sally tomorrow instead as it might rain very soon”, said Liza.

“WHAT?” roared her employer. “Are you a weather reporter ah? You see black clouds it will rain ready ah? Lazy maid! Go and bring the dog for a walk outside!”

Liza couldn’t say anything after those insulting words and just followed what her employer asked her to do. Soon, a strong wind started howling, followed by heavy rain and thunderstorms. Sally got frightened and ran as fast as she could, enough to drag Liza’s small body.

“Sally, Sally stop! Please don’t run anymore! It’s only rain and we are going home soon.”

Liza was dragged to the ground. It hurt her so much that she ended up with bloody knees and bruises on her face and arms.

“Oh my God, oh my God! Sally, please come over here. You are so wet, what happened to you sweetie? Oh my! Come here baby!” called her employer to the dog, not bothered about Liza.

“Liza, go straight to the kitchen!”

Liza was about to change her wet clothes but suddenly she heard her employer shouting, “Where is the towel for Sally? And bring her some hot milk. Faster! Later on Sally will get sick I tell you!”

When everything was settled, Sally was already in her bed and it was only at that time that Liza took a look at her bloody knees and bruises. She felt like crying and told herself, “You are okay Liza, go ahead and change your clothes then prepare dinner for your employer. You are here to work so be strong.”

Thinking about her situation, my tears came flowing from my eyes and I realized what a cruel world we have. Sometimes some people don’t care about others, especially when they are domestic workers. We may be domestic workers, but without us our employers wouldn’t manage going to work, taking care of their kids and their household. Us domestic workers can do all the chores like looking after kids, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the elderly or pets and yet we are taken for granted.

 Why can’t you give us the same love that you give to your animals? Is it because you are only paying us in exchange for our work and you think that you own us? We are humans too, with feelings and emotions and sometimes we feel tired, we feel happy or we feel sad just like everyone else; thus, we deserve your respect.

 

 

Story of a Philippine Childhood

My name is Myrna and I am 49 years old. I am married, with 3 children and 2 grandchildren. I am a simple person who is a dreamer and who has a positive attitude in every aspect of life. This is the story of my childhood in the Philippines.

I grew up in a small village in Sison, in the province of Pangasinan. My father was a farmer and my mother was a housewife. My father was a very hard-working man. He worked every day on our farm to provide for his children. Even though the work was very tiring, my father was a very responsible husband and a good man.

My father planted a lot of things on our farm: corn, sweet potato, peas, spinach, eggplants and tomatoes. He also planted rice and tobacco. Sometimes I would help him on the farm, along with my brothers and sisters. Every morning, my mother would cook breakfast, prepare coffee for my father, and pack food for all of us before we went to school.

We had all kinds of animals on the farm, like goats, pigs and carabao (a type of water buffalo). We even had a fishpond, where you could see tilapia and milkfish swimming. But my favorite thing was to play with our lovely cats and dogs. People were always surprised when they saw our farm, because it looked like a supermarket! My father loved growing lots of fruits: banana, star fruit, guava, papayas, pomelo, and mangoes.

Every morning was busy in our village, with people either going farming or fishing. But the busiest day was every Saturday, because of the village market. On market days it was so noisy, with people laughing, shouting and selling their pan de sal. I used to go with my mother so we could buy clothes for my brothers and sisters. I remember the strong smell of garbage in the air on market days, and I was always happy when we got back home. Our house always smelled nice because of all the flowers in our backyard: orchids, roses, sunflowers, and many more. My family was very happy and contented, and we lived a peaceful life. Now that I am in Singapore, I miss those peaceful days, and my family, so much…

Cherry’s Fairy Tale

During a writing workshop at HOME shelter, one of our shelter residents Cherry (not her real name) wrote the fairy tale of her life. In the workshop the participants were encouraged to write their own happy ending. Cherry has now left HOME shelter, and we hope her happy end came true, and she and her family are living happily ever after.

Once upon a time two beautiful ladies and one handsome boy were born in the province of Iloilo, in the Philippines. Their mother’s name was Cherry and their father’s name was Wilbert.

One day at dinnertime Cherry and her husband talked about their financial problems. Cherry decided to work abroad again. At first Wilbert did not want Cherry to go, because of their three children. But even though Wilbert had work it wasn’t enough to support their family. Cherry chose to go to Singapore, and her husband supported her. The children cried, saying: “mama, we love you and will miss you every single day”. Cherry was strong walking into departure. Her husband told her “whatever happens, I support your decision because I know you do this for our family… I will take care of our children.” Cherry cried as she got on the airplane.

When Cherry started working in Singapore, the communications with her family were good, and she felt happy and not too tired. But after a couple of weeks she felt uncomfortable because of Grandpa, so she changed employers. Cherry found a new employer in two days, and they were also good and kind. But she was only working one month before they accused her of being a ‘thief’. The case of Cherry is not finished. She has chosen to stay in the shelter of HOME. She hopes that soon her case will be finished and she can continue to work here in Singapore for her children.

Cherry’s favourite happy ending: Cherry chose to work in Singapore to have a good life for her family. She worked so hard to earn money. Finally she finished her two year contract in Singapore and went home to her family. She was very excited and happy to go home. Cherry’s husband and family were waiting at the airport, happy to see her. Finally she left the airplane and walked into the lobby and when she saw her husband and children she ran and hugged them and kissed them… after two years they were back together again and happy to live united as a family.