Wounded Sparrow’s Journey
Life is full of surprises and difficulties. How we face them will either build us and made us stronger or destroys us and made us crimpled, either way it is our choice. Sometimes it will not always goes as we planned or dreamed it would be. Sometimes our dreams will be shattered and broken into pieces but take heart, pick a piece out of it and start all over again. I am a Filipino domestic helper and never planned nor dream to have this job but circumstances brought me here. Domestic helper is a job that are being look down by others. A job that others might even ashamed to admit they had as I remember one acquaintances kept on boasting about her job or position in the Philippines and hesitant to admit that she is a helper in Hong kong. When I first accept the job order, I admit that I was reluctant but I didn’t have a choice during that time. I can say that at first, it was just a way to escaped from home, to escaped in order to protect my parents from the bad decision I’ve made. I want to solved the problem I’ve created by myself. Yes, working as a domestic helper at that time help me to cope up with the betrayal I received from a friend. Betrayal that lead me to a dead end, I was I scammed, my savings and some are loaned from others as well. During that time, the only way out for me was to leave my country as soon as possible and to leave my family and abandoned my dreams and plans. In order for me to continue to support my family and siblings who were studying in secondary and college without them knowing what happened. I felt like a wounded sparrow. I have to abandoned my dreams, unclipped my wings, open widespread and conditioned it to fly. I still remember when I confirmed that I was scammed,I felt that iciness drowned me. It hurt that no words can describe.
In Sept 11,2007 as if it was just yesterday, it was the moment I step on a foreign land. Yes, as if I was dreaming cause a few hours back I was in my home country but on that moment the spectacular view of Changi Airport welcomed me. Dreamed of an administrative or corporate job but now here I am alone in the Lion City to work as a helper without any guarantee if I can survive. I remember the agent who came to pick me up that day, he gives me the vibes of anxiousness as I remember the movies I watched before about human trafficking, he looked like one of them, bald and big bellied. He is very kind man actually far from the traffickers. When we reached the apartment where the new arrival helpers lives until verified and approved by the ministry of manpower in Singapore, I saw the dreadful situation of the people there or I’d rather say the helpers who arrived first. No beds, they had to sleep on the floor with less beddings, there wasn’t enough food either. I felt a pang of pain in my heart as I remember some of my classmates before who had a helper’s parents, their allowances sent to them usually used for their vices. I wonder if it crossed their mind how many heartache, difficulties and humiliation their parents received as so to send that money. I remember as well two ladies who were distraught and exhausted because they failed the English assessment given by the Ministry of Manpower and warned to be sent back home if they fail the third time.
Singapore became my training ground as a helper as my lady boss once told me but indeed it was. I look after 3 kids and stayed in the highest floor of that block in Yishun Ring Road. Through the balcony you can see a glimpse of Malaysia. Life there had its ups and down but I can say that they became my second family though we quarrel and fight sometimes. I remember my first 6 months, it was full of ordeal, homesickness, heartbreaking and hardship to adapt to the culture and personalities of the people I am serving. How to adjust to their standard and to cope to the work that some I’m not good at it, especially cooking. All I know was to cook rice and boil egg. Sounds funny but that was indeed the fact. Actually my elder brother once told me as a joke that someday my future ex husband will divorce me because I don’t know how to cook.
I remember during those days in my first 6 months, toilet was really my comfort room and I think most of the helpers as well, cause it was only the place that I can hide to cry, to relieved the burden and pain in my heart due to my homesickness and self pity. During that time, I don’t have a holiday and phone was not allowed. The four corners of the CR was the sole witness of my agony and battles, and battles won as I picked up myself and determined to survive.
I remember one helper opposite our block before, we manage to communicate through sign language.
Time flies and my first 6 months was nearly come to an end but I got received a bad news from home telling that one of my brothers was stabbed and was sent to the hospital and nearly death. Chills come within, the feeling of frustration and despair that I might not see him when I got home someday made my heart beat stopped at that time. Hatred to what my friend did to me ignited again, (I forgive him and entrusted him to God already). I was really scared during that time but I thank God he survived the attack.
Being a helper in Singapore taught me a lot. I realized that being a helper is not a degrading job after all as long as you put your heart into it. Maybe my friend intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. I have learned to see how children Are longing for their parents time, love and guidance. I remember my girl in Singapore, she was a product of a divorce family, she was 12 years old then, she will stay with us every 2 weeks and we became friends. It broke my heart when I heard what she gone through living with her father, when no one can save her when she was beaten due to her mistakes, when no one to ask to when she got her first monthly period. She was longing for a whole family. You can see the sadness in her eyes when she spoke about her father and mother. As helper, by God’s grace, it became my goal to guide them not to rebel against their parents. It ignited the desires of my heart for kids hurting and feeling abandoned. That’s why I may not be a good helper but one thing I’m sure about, is that I am considerate and I always treat my employers as my own family. But one thing is for sure domestic helper’s life is very difficult especially if you land to a family who treat you and look at you like a slave, I thank God for all my employers though, they are a blessing to me.
Helper’s life is like a hell sometimes, you missed your home, your family and children if you are married and the worst thing is that you are not allowed to contact them frequently. And yet your husband or family accused you of cheating and there is also hardship in your employers house. I remember the heartache of one of my friend I met here in Hong kong, she got a bad temper employer, not enough rest, not enough food but when she called home during her rest days she was scolded by her husband, accusing her of having an affair.
In July 8, 2010, I surrendered my work permit in Singapore and boarded a plane bound to Hong kong. I remember the very depressing weather that day, it was raining heavily as if it understand the pain in my heart as my tears keeps on pouring like the rain outside, knowing that I have to leave the people who for me became my refuge during the time I was lost and broken.
I remember when I land in Hongkong International Airport after checking out, I was held by the custom officer. It scared me to death.
I remember the first kid I look after, I called her “Mei mei”, she taught me to love unconditionally.
As COVID-19 come to visit the city at the end of the year of 2019, it affects a lot of plans. My yearly vacation was cancelled. And during this time of pandemic it made me realize that I’ve been away from home for a long time. How many special occasion I’ve missed. The supposedly family reunion is gone. My parents are old now. My father is getting old. Mom is getting old. The clock never stops ticking. I’ve scared of the possible outcome of this Covid-19 to my family as we watch news it brought all around the world. I pray that God gives me enough time to give back and show how grateful I am for all their sacrifices.
Covid-19 caused a great dilemma to most of the helpers in the city. I remember one helper crying desperately who lost her father but can’t go home to attend the funeral because of the lockdown. I remember one as well who doesn’t have enough rest during working days and again not allowed to go out for the excuse of the pandemic during her rest days and her employers take advantages to order her around.
I remember being stressed at home because there was no school and we have to attend to our very energetic kids.
As I was looking down in the highway below our flat while taking my coffee break, I suddenly missed home. Almost 2 years already. I wanna go home.
I remember my siblings. How naughty we were before. The fun we have together.
I remember the mango tree that we used to climbed and savour its fruit. I remember the sparrow that had been shot and fell on the ground wounded but chirping. And I remember my big brother fell from the tree bruised and bloodied nose staring at me. I felt as if the world stop spinning knowing what awaits us at home. My father is a disciplinarian. As expected cold and piercing eyes is waiting for us together with Mr. Cane.
Reminiscing of the memories I have with my family brought me smile and tear as well and at the same time it gives me courage to go on. I can surely overcome.
I hope that COVID-19 will go home already so that I can go home.