Blogger and Nuffnang co-founder Timothy Tiah. Photo from Tiah's Facebook page
MANILA -- A blog post by Nuffnang co-founder Timothy Tiah on the sacrifices of his Filipina help has gone viral online, prompting him to compile stories about other Filipinos.
The original article was written on June 23 and on Saturday Tiah, a Malaysian, posted a new blog post on other OFWs.
Tiah describes his Filipino helper "Geraldine" as "wonderful."
"For the past 2 years I’ve had the honour and luxury of having a wonderful Filipino maid. I won’t say her name her but lets call her Geraldine," he wrote.
"Geraldine first started working with my wife and I two years ago. I remember her first few days with us. She was very shy and quiet. Sometimes I couldn’t help but feel that she might even be afraid of us but I guess having to live for the first time under a stranger’s roof far far away from home can make anyone scared," he said in his blog.
He narrated how Geraldine always looked sad during her first few weeks at work, often looking out of the window, and with tears in her eyes.
Tiah made it a point to allow Geraldine to call her family often.
"When I dialed the number I could see her eagerly waiting….. sometimes nobody would pick up the phone on the other side. Then I would see her turn away disappointed," he wrote.
"At the times when someone did pick-up though, I left her with the privacy of my room to talk and I could always hear her excitedly talking to her family in Tagalog. I never knew what she said but I could sense nothing but happiness in her tone. It was like the only thing she looked forward to each day."
Tiah eventually learned that Geraldine has five children in the Philippines, ranging from four to 17 years old.
Tiah added that Geraldine has become part of his family, and has stopped referring to her as their maid.
"She had become family… so much that I almost don’t like referring to her as our maid. I prefer the word 'babysitter' since she now helps take care of my newborn son," he added.
Geraldine's contract has ended, and she had to make a decision: to stay for another two years or go back home. She decided to extend her stay with Tiah's family but asked for a month-long vacation before starting her new contract.
"Geraldine returned from her month off yesterday with a new hairstyle and looking happy. I don’t know if it was happy to see my son FIghter or happy to see us again but she was happy nevertheless. I asked her loads of questions. Like what she did at home during her month off (she said she spent most of it doing housework, washing clothes and doing laundry for her family… we joked that even at home she had to work)," Tiah wrote.
Tiah also shared one of the stories Geraldine told him about her youngest daughter. The child was only two years old when Geraldine left for Malaysia to work, and didn't recognize her mom.
But after a month and it was time for Geraldine to return to Malaysia, her 4-year old daughter asked her not to go.
Tiah wrote that this story made him realize the sacrifices that foreign workers have to make.
"The cost isn’t just being away from their country. It’s being away and not being able to see their kids grow up. Geraldine would never know what her 4 year old daughter was like when she was 3…. and there are many many more overseas workers just like her," he wrote.
"We often talk about how hard we work. The long hours, the stress we face. But compare it to the sacrifice Geraldine and workers like her make and it’s really nothing. Suddenly the fact that I could see my son every day after work was a luxury beyond anything else I could ever ask for."
"Society has us admire people who work hard and become successful businessmen or artists or actors or any of these things. But what can be harder than having to leave your kids for two years at a time and miss watching them grow up?"
"The worst part is that we sometimes forget. Heck we sometimes even forget that our maids or helpers are mothers to some kids some thousands of miles away. So my hope of this article is that whoever reads this is reminded of the people our maids are and the monumental sacrifice they make. And that they are mothers to kids back home who really really miss them."