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Tears, fear and cheer for 3 Filipino maids caught up in web of pandemic

15 June 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Marie went home in February and has been unable to fly back to HK, leading to her termination
The five-month-old coronavirus pandemic has brought about mixed fortunes for three Hong Kong-based Filipino domestic helpers who have been caught up in the health crisis.

Just today, Jun 15, Marie received a message from her Hong Kong female employer, who told her she is being terminated effective today because the employer could no longer wait for her return from her vacation in the Philippines.

Marie, 37, remains stuck in her hometown Alaminos in Pangasinan since going home in February. Until her firing, she had been working for her employer for one and a half years in her first job in Hong Kong.

Pindutin para sa detalye

“I’m sorry to inform you that I can’t wait you anymore, as you know Jamey is starting the school now in June and he is going to primary school…I was so busy here in Hong Kong,” the employer said in her letter.

“I stopped my work and waiting for you to back for almost half year, it caused me a lot of trouble and I can’t wait you anymore,” she said.

Marie’s friend Esther said the maid was allowed by her employer to take a vacation after completing her first year to be with her husband and their 18-year-old daughter, not knowing that Covid-19 would become a pandemic and impact their lives.

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The employer said she would pay Marie a sum of $5,728 representing a month’s salary of $4,410, a $290 payment for two days of unused annual leave, another $290 for two days of statutory holiday, $638 one-way air fare and $100 travel allowance.

Her friend said Marie was distraught over her sudden loss of employment and was asking if she could fight her case at the Labour Department.

Another Filipina, Ghie, is bored and is thinking of breaking her contract because she, her employer and her ward, have been in Taiwan for six months now. But her employer and her child don’t seem to want to return to Hong Kong just yet.

In a post on the DWC Help Group’s page on Facebook today, Ghie sought advice on whether to terminate her contract or hang on.

Kasi po 6 months na kami dito sa Taiwan magmula nung pumutok ang covid virus. Dito na kami, sobrang tagal na namin dito ng amo at alaga ko. Pag tinatanong ko siya kung kailan kami babalik ng HK ay puro sagot nya ng ‘next month’,” Ghie said.

(We have been here in Taiwan for six months, since the covid virus spread. It's been awhile since I arrived here with my employer and ward. But every time I ask when we might go back to Hong Kong, she would say, 'next month')
“Naka ilang next month na, nandito pa din kami, tapos wala pang off. Mabait naman sila kaya lang ito ang problema ko, ayaw niya bumalik ng HK hangga’t extend visa daw pero gusto ko ng bumalik ng HK… ang lungkot kasi dito sa Taiwan.”

(That 'next month' has been told to me a couple of times but we're still here, and I don't get to have a day off. They (employers) are kind, but my problem is, they don't want to go back to Hong Kong and keep extending their visas, but I want to go back to Hong Kong. It's lonely out here in Taiwan).

Group members advised Ghie to be patient and to take it easy, as Taiwan is a much better place to be than Hong Kong. Others cautioned her not to bug her employer.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

“Mas maganda diyan sa Taiwan ... Mabait naman amo mo at sinasahuran ka naman ng maayos-ayos. Baka mamaya, kapag nagpumilit kang bumalik sa HK ay iterminate ka pa,” said one.

(It's better there in Taiwan. Your employers are kind, anyway, and you're paid properly. If you insist on coming back to Hong Kong, you might get terminated).

Another commented that as long as Ghie gets paid completely, she should not worry about her employer. 

“Mapalad ka pa din kasi sa dinami-dami ng gustong pumunta dito eh iilan lang ang nakakapunta...kaya swerte kapa din.”

(You're still lucky because of so many people who want to  visit there, only a few get to go. So you're lucky).
Sheena has been quarantining in style at Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore
A third worker, Sheena B. Salero, considers herself  really lucky. Just about a year ago, she was still being called a “slave” by her former employer’s young son. When she scolded the 8-year-old boy, he said that was how his Mainland mom referred to the helper.

But Sheena’s fortune changed when, on finishing her contract last year, she got employed by a generous couple who posted a wanted ad for a helper in a Facebook group page, Social Justice for Migrant Workers.

In the short time that she has worked for them, Sheena has been to Thailand, where the couple has a vacation house; and to Singapore, where they have an office.

When Covid-19 crept into Hong Kong just before the Lunar New Year, her employers decided to move to Singapore. Sheena went with them, but was sent back to Hong Kong to wait for her Singapore visa here.

Even when she was practically doing nothing living in the employers’ flat in Hong Kong, she received her salary and food allowance from her employers, who also checked on her often.

Sheena finally received her visa last week, and her employers immediately bought her air ticket.

She flew out of Hong Kong last Saturday, Jun 13, to join her employers. She is now on her third day of quarantine at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore where she was billeted by her kindly employers, while the city-state’s labour officers monitor her regularly.

Sheena still cannot believe that after two years of hard work, lack of food and sleep, and verbal abuse from her previous employers, she would be where she is now.

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