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Good pay lures Pinays to illegal work in China

14 April 2016

By Vir P. Lumicao

This month, Rita, a 30-year-old former supermarket saleslady in Manila, is returning to her employer in China after a two-month vacation in her hometown in Bataan.
But unlike any other OFW who has to go through normal government procedures such as obtaining an overseas employment certificate to be able to board a plane at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, she is leaving as a tourist for Kuala Lumpur.
If she plays her card well and with luck on her side, Rita would be able to fly to the Malaysian capital without a hitch, taking advantage of the two-week no-visa arrangement between the Philippines and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members.
From there, an agent of her mainland employer would meet and hand her a six-month multiple entry business visa obtained from the Chinese embassy. A day or two later, she should be back in Guangdong province working as a domestic helper in the house of her employer, the general manager of a Chinese provincial bank.
Rita’s story is replicated by hundreds of other Filipinos who have gone to China as “tourists” and found jobs as workers in Chinese homes, in food and beverage shops, in factories and farms.
China bans the importation of blue-collar and menial workers, and many Filipinos who have taken on the illegal jobs have been jailed, fined or deported, but many still take this dangerous route.
Many others, however, have been lucky to find employers who treat them well and pay good money. Among them are Rita and Chet, a 28-year-old BS Nursing graduate from a Catholic college in Abra.  
“My employers (husband and wife) are very good to me. They are generous, they treat me well and I have no complaints against them,” Rita, hired by the wife as helper in the couple’s Hong Kong home in January 2013, told The SUN in a recent interview.
Rita was initially deployed in Hong Kong, where she had a working visa. But her old friend Margie, who recommended Rita for the couple’s Shatin home while she would be based in Guangdong, ran into trouble with Hong Kong Immigration and was sent home.
That left the employer with no choice but to deploy Rita for a few weeks in Hong Kong and then take her across the border for two months to serve the couple in the Guangdong home. Rita was paid RMB5,000 for doing this, had her own big room and enough time to rest and relax, and do crochets in her free time.
When Rita’s Hong Kong work contract ran out last year, the employer applied for a multiple entry tourist visa for her at the Chinese consulate in Wan Chai but was rejected. The employer found a placement agency in Guangdong that got her the same visa in the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur, so, Rita traveled there at her boss’ expense and obtained a one-year tourist visa to China with the condition that she exited every three months.  
Last November, Rita took her vacation in her hometown for the first time with instructions to return to Guangdong via Kuala Lumpur, where this time around the agency would get her a year-long business visa at the Chinese embassy.
Chet, also a lucky ex-worker in China, told The SUN in an interview on Jan. 3 that she was recruited in 2009 by a mainland agency known to her aunt who had been working there since 2008. She had just finished college and was asked to go to the mainland as a tourist.
“I went there after graduation in April 2009 on a one-month tourist visa via Hong Kong and when I got to Guangdong I started looking for a job,” Chet said. She found one and when her 30-day visa expired, the employer took her passport to Singapore to secure a business visa for her at the Chinese embassy there.
“When I got hold of my passport again in July of that year, it bore a one-year multiple-entry Chinese business visa that cost RMB8,000,” Chet said. Her boss was a Chinese businessman with a two-year-old son whom she taught conversational English daily.
“My only work was to teach the child to converse in English. At night I would take him to a special school for his English lessons. Everyday I searched online for English words and taught the boy how to pronounce them correctly. For that I received RMB4,000 a month, half of which went to the agency for six months,” Chet said.
After six months she left her job but the agency did not give the two months’ worth of salary her boss told her to collect. She said she couldn’t do anything, so she looked for a new employer and found an old, sickly Dutch businessman and his Taiwanese wife who paid her RMB5,000 a month.
Chet traveled to Hong Kong with her employers once a week. When her business visa ran out, she traveled eight hours by bus to Xiamen to renew her visa with a man who did the application for her.
“I didn’t have to go to Chinese Immigration myself, I just filled up and signed the form,” she said. When the visa ran out and her employer died, she went home.
Her worst experience happened at NAIA Terminal 3 in April 2010, when an immigration officer offloaded her because of questions about why she was in and out of China, what she had been doing there for almost a year, etc.
Just half an hour before the Cebu Pacific plane was to take off, she called the Manila travel agent-partner of the mainland agency that recruited her for another job, which  allegedly gave the immigration officer RMB1,000. He let her board after that.
Another harrowing experience for Chet was when she was meticulously searched by a mainland female immigration officer at the Shenzhen border on her way back after she exited to Hong Kong because her visa was about to expire. She was let go after the search yielded no contraband.
Back in China, she worked for another employer and lodged in the agency’s dormitory. But when her visa ran out, she decided to go home for good.
“I couldn’t overcome my fear. Other Filipinos would choose to overstay but I decided to go home. I was afraid to overstay,” she said when asked what had prompted her to go home.
Chet admits it was the high salary in China that attracted her. Now it has even risen to RMB6,000 a month. When she was working for the Dutchman, her salary was equivalent to Php35,000, she said.
One time, when the employer was in Holland for a month, she worked part-time for a playing card factory below the dormitory and got paid 35 cents per deck of cards packed, making her even more money.
Rita says it’s also the good money she earns in China that motivates her to return to her employer. She says she works from 6am to late in the evening when her employers go to bed, but she is happy with her job because her employers are kind and generous, bringing her presents every time they come home after travel abroad.
She eats the same food as her employers and she is driven to the market or to Hong Kong by her bosses’ chauffer.
“I’ll keep working there for as long as my employers keep me because I’m helping my family,” Rita said.
She is sending her younger sister to university and helping her farmer-parents in their daily expenses.
On the other hand, Chet, now a domestic worker in Hong Kong for the past five and a half years, said she is putting up with her Caucasian female boss of four months with an attitude problem until she finishes her contract.
She plans to return home afterwards, enroll in a review course and take the board exam for nurses.
She hopes to eventually work as a nurse in her homeland, no matter how low the pay, but is still setting her sights on going abroad —maybe to Canada, where she can continue practising her profession, and ultimately, become a permanent resident or citizen.

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