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Even worst employers will change—Daddy Leo

07 December 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

The bad or good treatment that you get from your employers depends on your attitude towards them. Show them goodness and their conscience will change them.

That’s what domestic helper, Filipino community leader and movie celebrity Leo Selomenio told her fellow OFWs when she spoke at the International Forum on Migration in Hong Kong held on Nov 19 at Admiralty Convention Centre.

“Dito ko na-realize na ang ugali ng mga amo pala, depende iyon sa ipinapakita mo sa kanila. Kasi kahit gaano kasama ang isang tao, kapag ipinakita mo ang kabutihan, makukunsensiya siya, eh. Iyon talaga ang experience ko. Kahit gaano kabait ang ating amo kapag tayo naman ang abusado, wala tayong magagawa dahil abusado ka eh,” said Selomenio, chairman of Global Alliance.

Her sharing appears to have impressed one of the groups that attended the event that they invited Selomenio to be their guest speaker at the National Forum on Migration to be held at the Philippine International Convention Center on Dec. 18. The group, Philippine Migrants Watch, will shoulder all her costs, including air fare and accommodation, says Selomenio.

In her Hong Kong speech, Selomenio shared how she had gone through a lot of hardships as an OFW. After graduating cum laude with a BS Education degree major in physical education from the Western Visayas State University, Selomenio decided to go abroad to work, with Singapore as her fist destination. 

While many helpers in Hong Kong complain about going to bed at 1am or 2am and getting up very early, Selomenio said, wala pa sa kalingkingan ng naranasan ko when I was in Singapore.”

There, she said it pained her to realize that she, a college graduate, would be working as a servant. Worse, she had to work until 2am, look after two children, put up with the whims of the stay-in wife of her employer and make do with little, mostly leftover food.

“Hindi naman tayo sanay kumain ng tira-tira, pero no choice ka naman, kung hindi ay magugutom ka,” she said.

Her male employer used to tell her she was his 14th helper, a hint of how unbearable the working conditions were in the household. But Selomenio said she persevered because she dreamt when she was just a child that she would be president of the Philippines. Her patience eventually paid off because she was able to change the attitude of her employer towards her.

“Kung marami kayo diyan na masama ang amo, mas matindi talaga ang amo kong iyon. Hindi ko na lang isa-isahin kung gaano siya kalupit. Petmalu talaga. Pero tiniis ko lang, kasi yun ang purpose ko, eh, na one day yayaman din ako. So I stayed there for six years,” she said.

Selomenio’s “insatiable desire” to prove herself drove her to move on to Kuwait, where she worked as a helper for four years before coming to Hong Kong in 1994. She has been with her present employer for 12 years.

It was in the SAR where her journey as a community leader started, with full support from her employer who allowed her to rest on Saturday, and use her Sunday for community work.

She attributes her leadership to her being top of the class from Grade 1 to her senior year in high school, and then graduating from the university with honors.

“Hindi ako kasi sanay na ako yung sumusunod. I was born kasi to be a leader. Kasi simula noong maliit ako gusto ko talaga yung ako ang nagunguna. Ayaw kong sumunod sa iyo. Why should I? Magaling naman ako sa iyo. Kaya na-instill sa utak ko na kailangan I have to be a leader. I have to do it,” she said.

Then in 2014, newbie director BabyruthVillarama came to Hong Kong looking for a community leader who would play a key role in “Sunday Beauty Queen”, and Vice Consul Fatima Quintin suggested Selomenio.

The Filcom leader agreed, and the director and her crew followed her around Hong Kong, as she did her daily chores such as taking her ward to and fetching her from school, and on to her Sunday community activities, mainly volunteering at the PCG and helping workers.

The movie eventually won the Best Film award at the Metro Manila Film Festival last year, and made Selomenio a star, especially among her fellow OFWs.

Selomenio advises domestic workers not to think of the hardships here, otherwise their lives would be like hell. “Isipin mo talaga na kaya pumunta ka dito para sa family mo, para sa sarili mo… alam natin ang magiging trabaho natin dito. Hindi tayo mga turista rito,” she said. 

It doesn’t hurt either to love what you do, and extend the same to your fellow workers.

“So, love your work, nasa puso natin iyan,” she urged her compatriots. “Pero ang pagmamahal mo sa kapwa, yung integridad mo sa community, they will never forget you. Kasi marami kayong nagawa para sa kanila.”

Selomenio says she will be proud of her many experiences in life as a helper when she returns home for good. “Marami akong pinagdaanan kaya I’m proud of myself. And I’m proud to be a domestic helper.”

She says her fervent hope is that the Philippines “will stop exporting mothers, and mothers will stop exporting their daughters as well “kasi napakasakit talaga sa isang mother na iwanan ang anak niya. So that tomorrow we will have a different perspective of not leaving our families behind.”


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