Friday, April 3, 2020

Towards a Wiser Decision Essay Contest - 1996)


BY: Felisa Daskeo
Published: TNT- (Hong Kong)(1996) 1st Price
Winning Entry in the TNT BAYANIHAN TRUST essay contest

When Filipina maids get together, you often hear them say something like: “I wish I could find an employer who would let me live out. I would feel like an office girl with that arrangement.”

Another will say, “I prefer a stay-in arrangement. It’s more economical.”

Still another might say, “It’s fun to be a stay-out. There are lots of adventures. You’re free to do what you want while you’re out of your employer’s house. And you don’t feel suffocated or locked in a cell.”

Before you can decide whether to stay-in or stay-out, of your employer’s home, there’s a lot to think about. You have to weigh the pros and cons, so that you can finally arrive at a decision that is most advantageous to you. Either way there is a certain amount of risk involved.

Consider this situation. Imagine yourself serving your employer’s dinner at 9:00 pm, tidying up the house then leaving at 11:00. By the time you’ve settled yourself comfortably in your seat in a bus – if you can get one, chances are that you’re already drifting off to sleep.

Once home, you don’t have the strength to glance at the clock, or even take a bath. You’d wake up early in the morning only to discover that you’re still wearing your thick jeans. No wonder your bottom aches.

A little cleaning up, and another change of clothes to add to the heaps of clothing already in the laundry basket, and out you go again, to queue up for the bus that will take you back to work. You’re hungry as hell, but you have had to go without breakfast because your employer has warned you to arrive on time.

Or it could be this situation. It’s 11:00 pm plus, a time when most of us are curled up in the comfort of our beds. But somewhere out there, in a park, perhaps, a group of Filipino men and women drown out their sorrows with boisterous laughter. While the rest of us are enjoying our nights in the security of our employer’s home, this group has created a world of their own.

If I were to put myself in a stay-out situation I can see as clear as water that I would be in trouble. I don’t know whether I have the strength to resist the pressures that this freedom would bring me.

It is safer, more economical, and more practical to stay in. In Hong Kong, there’s too much temptation to go down the wrong path.

Someone told me once, “Good for you, you’re stay-in. Many of the girls I know who are stay-out have two or more men in their lives.” Others involve themselves with married men. Then there are others who live together like husband and wife in a rented room. This is surely not possible in a live-in situation.

There are discos, there’s night swimming, overnight drinking sessions, the usual things that the stay-outs do. Even the Maria Clara type, who is so lonely and has so much freedom on her hands would sooner or later be pressured into joining a group like this. It takes very little persuasion by a friend to be lured into this kind of behavior.

A friend will only accept rejection three times. After that she will think that you are not a good friend and just leave you alone. And who would want to be left alone in Hong Kong?

Stay out is more expensive, even though you might be on a special allowance from your employer. Although most employers pay for the maid’s board and lodging, still there are many little extras that come out of your own pocket, not to mention the extra entertainments during your free time. It also means shopping, because your room is yours to fill with whatever you like. No restrictions, no control. As for me, just spare me the extra bills.

Then there is the matter of clothing. Like all women we are so concerned about dressing well. Well, do you blame us? Once a week we get the chance, during our day off. In our employer’s house you don’t bother to wear nice clothes. The “sap man” legging and T-shirt will do. And if you take a bath every day, which I’m sure you do, your work-clothes can also serve as night wear.

In that way, nice clothes are ready for you on your day off and for the time that you return in the Philippines.

If you stay in, when the day’s work is done, instead of rushing out to catch a bus, you can take a rest, relax, write some letters, curl up and read a book. You’ll be thinking only of your loved ones back home, and your breakfast the following morning, not about how you’re going to get home, whether it will be safe out there in the streets, your unwashed laundry and the still wet jeans that you can’t wear the next day.

And is it true that there is more fun staying out than staying in? What kind of fun do you want? It all depends on your priorities. For after all,, we came here to work and provide for our families.

If we appear conscientious and capable, our employer will be considerate towards us. Many employers allow their helpers to stay overnight in another’s house. Those evenings when I am with my few well chosen friends are always important to me.

So stay in or stay out. Give me a place in my employer’s house anytime.

END    -

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