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Saturday, June 02, 2007


Tonight our 3 kasambahay lead a mystery each in our rosary. It was the first time that two of them (a twin) lead a mystery though they have joined us in some of our prayers. They did not want to lead but I was kidding them that it is a good way to practice speaking so they could apply to a call center!

Just what is a kasambahay? It is from a two Tagalog word kasama (companion) and bahay (house). The whole term is actually “kasama sa bahay” or house companion but actually refers to househelpers. Even if The Philippines is a third world country, many homes actually have kasambahay. I like this new term better than the word katulong (helper) for it seems to be a more appropriate term considering that in many cases they are more than helpers but considered already part of family, ah okay in some homes they are not treated as such, not even helper but as “alila” or slaves… hmmm in which case those should not be called homes but just houses, even prison???

Why prison? Because I remember getting a cousin from a home before who would not want to release her to my aunt. My aunt came to our home one time telling us that she went to fetch a cousin who was being badly treated by her employer and not even being paid but they would not release her, even threatened to charge my aunt for trespassing if she insist on getting her. My brother in law was in our home that time so that we accompanied my aunt. The employers were supposed to be educated people, one was even a doctor but we were surprised to see my cousin. She stayed in our home before and I remember her to be chubby with a nice smile. But there she was so very thin, with her teeth damaged and very dirty and flaky bad skin. I learned later that they do not even give her toothpaste and soap and they kept hitting her for being clumsy and slow. I knew she was slow but that’s no reason for hurting someone! Anyway, they did not receive us well and also threatened us like my aunt but we knew she had no right to do it so we asserted what was right, then they changed tone telling us how can we get her when they had a baby and there would be no one to care for her since they had to go to work? And I answered that why would they want to keep her when they say that they could not trust her with the baby (that’s the reason they said they hit her, because her clumsiness almost caused injury to the baby) and they begged to let her stay till they get a replacement. But seeing my cousin, no way, should we allow her to stay there longer! They were scared now since they knew what they were doing is wrong and I got bold and also asked for her unpaid wages but they would not give any saying that they still had to check with a relative in the province before they could give an amount. Ah, that’s one of the problem of some kasambahay here, their parents brings them to Manila to work and get an advance from the employer (sometimes they keep on asking for all their wages so that nothing is left for them). We wanted to settle it so we made a contract for the amount they were supposed to pay and took my cousin. We did not get the full amount but at least we were able to get some PLUS that she got out of that prison!!!

Some kasambahay I know are really better off than where they come from. Some are not just treated as family but actually runs the household already. Well, they are so trusted by their employers that they just give them the budget and they take care of everything. Some even have a chance to go abroad. Our biggest boss in the office takes some of their yayas (nannies) when they go abroad. I remember, one of the girls in the office saying that she wished she was in their household instead of the office so she could go too! My friend has taken her kasambahay to Hongkong (not to work as domestic helper there but for sightseeing) and other places in the country, she even taught her how to check the stock market (something I’m a dummy at) so she could watch her stocks for her. Of course, those are more of the exceptions since a lot of households here with househelps could not even go abroad but also struggle in their day to day life. They get help because they have to go to work and no one would take care of the house and the children. Their net pay after deducting all their expenses to work and paying all their bills and loans are almost nil that they delay the pay of their help.

Anyway back to my home. The tres Marias (that’s what we call them sometimes, we don’t really call them kasambahay too but just call their name) assist 3 households actually since there are 3 families in my home – my mom (that includes me and a nephew), my sister’s family and my brother’s family. I have found a poster last year in Sto. Domingo church on a study program for kasambahays and factory workers wherein they could study computer, kitchen management and other courses for free during Sundays. So instead of taking day offs and spending it malling, they go there. They have interacted with other schools run by the same congregation thru sports fest. It is a good way to learn and interact with other people. We have also started making contribution for them in Social Security System (SSS) so they would have something to look forward to in the future. Actually we did it on the prodding of my other sister (who does not live with us) and she is right, it is better to give them that benefit than immediately increasing pay. I used to think that it was better to just give it to them everything and let them decide what they want to do with it but realized that if they have money sometimes it just gets spent on unimportant things (including celfone loads) or sent home. It is okay to send money to their parents but not everything! I believe that since they are the one’s working then they should taste the fruits of their labor too!

I know that they will not be staying with us forever and I hope that they learn some skills before they finally leave us. I just hope that they don’t leave immediately since it is hard to get good and trustworthy kasambahay!


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