Thursday, September 27, 2007

Proud of Our Filipino Domestic Helpers

My friend Jerick Aguilar, who is on vacation in the United States, wrote another piece about OFWs which i have posted below. A few weeks back, Jerick wrote about the Kindness of Filipino Strangers. That article got positive response from readers when it appeared in the Reader's Corner of, and i am sure this new article from Jerick will receive the same acclaim.

You can repost this story as long as credit is given to Jerick T. Aguilar who wrote the article and where the article first appeared.

Proud of Our Filipino Domestic Helpers

By Jerick T. Aguilar
Thursday, September 27, 2007

I have this one photo album where I place a picture of a country, territory, or autonomous region I’ve visited and it is usually of me with its famous landmark as the background – Bagan in Myanmar, Petra in Jordan, Djenné in Mali, Statue Square in Hong Kong. Yup, you read it right – an unassuming square in the island of Hong Kong which is not at all historical or was once eventful.

As a matter of fact, my friend from college with whom I travelled there had to confirm and reconfirm, while we were still in the hotel, that I wanted a photograph taken of that place. And when we got there, she finally understood why.

Statue Square is where thousands of our domestic helpers congregate during their day off from work (well, not all of them at the same time).

It was like a fiesta over there! Our “kababayans” transformed the concrete pavement into a grassy park – they were lying on either a piece of cloth or “banig” they brought with them from the Philippines and fanning themselves either with a newspaper or “pamaypay” (that went with the “banig”) while exchanging stories of how their week went, “tsismis” concerning their “amo” (i.e. employer gossip), and how their loved ones are in their respective hometowns.

My friend and I also saw family pictures strewn on the ground and, being away from my mother and siblings myself, it struck a chord when I saw them proudly showing off these photos to each other such as their children in toga, the tricycle a husband just bought, a newly-built house (with the husband and children as the background), etc., etc.

It was also very grounding to hear different Philippine dialects spoken in just one place. I only know Tagalog but my friend who is from Mindanao understood what some of our “kababayans” were talking about.

Of course I wasn’t only there for a photo opportunity. I instantly became an interviewer and asked my recently found “entourage” questions such as where they were from, how long they had stayed in Hong Kong, how old they were, and what their occupations were in the Philippines.

Their response to the first question was like listening to the jingle of “Eat Bulaga” – “mula Aparri hanggang Jolo”, since they came from everywhere in our country. There was also a huge contrast between those who had been working there for decades and the ones who had just started at the young age of 18. And among their previous professions, most were, as common knowledge, teachers; some worked as food servers; and there were a few who were homemakers.

But whether or not they have a college degree, I find these Filipino domestic helpers, not just in Hong Kong but around the world, to be intelligent and resourceful. I mean, I for one who did doctoral research did not even know that I had to separate white from colored clothes in the washing machine until a Filipino domestic helper in Singapore pointed this out to me.

Somebody I met in Qatar told me to simply gather the rubbish from a trash can with one pull of the plastic bag without having to empty and then clean the bin each time.

Our Filipino domestic helpers can also be feisty, if need be. A number, unfortunately not all, of them know when they have to argue with their employer about a pressing matter and how to do it.

I came across someone in Syria who only finished her elementary education but can speak in straight and perfect English every time she has a verbal argument with her boss. And there is another one in Tunisia who talks diplomatically to her boss’ mother when she has a complaint about her boss’ wife. The mother then discusses the matter with her son who then tells his wife what not to do or what to say next time to their “kasambahay”.

If rich people outside the country have their Jaguars instead of Kias, they also have their domestic helpers from the Philippines rather than from anywhere else in the world. In England, for instance, there are celebrities, royalty, and millionaire-businessmen who have Filipinos in their households. Mind you, they are really well-paid because the British know that they have to spend a lot on quality.

In Italy, our Filipino domestic helpers tell, not ask, their future employer the salary they prefer to receive. In some instances, they even tell their bosses when they want to go on vacation. And in Greece, it is a status symbol to have a Filipino domestic helper. A Greek family is considered middle-class if the household help is from Albania, for example. This is sadly not the case in most countries where there are Filipino domestic helpers (go Europe!), but it is great to know that some of them are being recognized and rewarded for their decent work.

With the relatively high salary they earn in countries such as these, they and their families get to live a good life in the Philippines. It is both amusing and ironic that they work as domestic helpers overseas but they simultaneously hire their own domestic helpers locally in their homes. And I like the way some of the people I asked view this irony. They said they did the same household chores in our country anyway so it’s better that they get paid to do them overseas! They also said they don’t want their husband and children (and/or mothers) to do the housework while they’re away so they hire someone else to do it provided they can afford this additional household expense.

A few months back, there was an article published in a magazine about the author’s brief summer vacation abroad in which she mentioned being on a plane with Filipino domestic helpers. She was trying to be funny and witty at the same time by recounting how their cheap colognes had overpowered the scent of her expensive and exclusive fragrance, among other things. But the readers weren’t laughing. Amazingly, almost everybody reacted negatively and passionately to her article in defense of our “kababayans.” They adamantly asked her to apologize and so she did.

But she actually forgot to thank these Filipino domestic helpers for her international trip. Were it not for the billions of foreign currency remittances that they, along with the rest of our OFWs, regularly send to the Philippines, the instability and depreciation of the peso-dollar exchange rate would’ve made the dollar costlier in peso terms. In short, the value of the dollar would be much higher so airfares that are quoted in US currency would be much more expensive in Philippine pesos – probably prohibiting her from traveling abroad and from writing about it in the first place.

It is sad that there are overseas Filipinos who have to work as domestic helpers, but it is the reality. It is much sadder that some people look down on them because they don’t consider it a professional job. What they probably fail to realize is that it is a demanding and difficult occupation nonetheless, like any other work in the office. Yes, it is manual labor but it also entails intellectual thinking and a common sense of basic things a white-collar worker like me doesn’t even know of. From the point of view of our Filipino domestic helpers (and mine), their job is a noble one – providing valuable household help to their employer and employer’s family overseas while giving more valuable financial aid to their own families at home in the Philippines. This is why I have always looked up to them and believe that they deserve not only our respect but also our appreciation and praise. So to all our Filipino domestic helpers out there – keep up the good work! You definitely make us proud!

Mapangurirat's reply:

Those who look down on filipino domestic helpers don't understand that these people are the ones who send much-needed dollars back to the Philippines. Yes, it is sad to see our countrymen working as domestic helpers. I remember your article about ofws who had to be naturalized citizens of their host country just to get work., in a brief bio of Rizal, said that (Rizal) always regretted the naturalization of his countrymen abroad, considering it a loss to the country which needed numbers to play the influential part he hoped it would play in awakening Asia. Rizal may be speaking at a different time and under different circumstances, but the regret is the same. However, i think that the filipino domestic helpers and OFWs in general deserve our respect even more because of this. They are the true heroes of our nation. Cheers to all our OFWs and domestic helpers abroad!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Avilon Zoo

The barkada planned a trip to Avilon Zoo on September 22. So come 9:00 am, we were ready and raring to go to Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) to visit the famous Avilon Zoo.

Around 9:30, we left in two cars (Noel's and Poppo's). We arrived at Avilon around past 10 am. We were toured by Aubrey's brother who has been to the zoo many times. We first saw the birds, then the crocodiles and other members of the reptilian family (i also thought i saw a senator in one of the pens, but it was just an ordinary croc. tsk.). We got to see a malaysian tapir, some tigers, a tarsier, a tree kangaroo, a jaguar (not the one with fourwheels ha) and a whole lot of arapima (those big fishies that look like giant tilapia).

We had lunch around 12:30 and were joined by "gaggle" of esager young kids (read noisy) who had to have their field trip the same time as our tour.

All in all, the visit to the zoo was relaxing, although i did get a tad bit tired. Anyway, here is the link to the photos. Enjoy1

Friday, September 21, 2007


I received a while ago a letter of apology from Watson's regarding an incident a couple of days back. The apology was sent as an attachment via email. The attachedapology letter itself was written using a .LWP file.

For those unfamiliar with .LWP files, it is an extension used with Lotus Word Pro, a program which has long been overshadowed by MS Word. Big companies still use word pro but hey, if you're issuing an apology letter, is it not safe to assume that most people don't have Lotus Word Pro at home? Duh. That speaks volumes about their company.

Rudeness has no place in a personal care store. That is why it is a personal care store in the first place. People who go to Watsons go there to procure medicines or other health-related products. I am not a hot-headed person but this incident can be chalked up as one for the books.

I have downloaded a program to open the .LWP file containing the apology letter. Here it is for all of you to read.

Date: Friday, September 21, 2007

Mr. Rodel Banares
14 St. Claire St., Provident Village
Barangay Tañong, Marikina City

Dear Sir,

Good day! This is with regards to your concern regarding the untoward incident on the telephone with one of our employees here in Watson Mall of Asia Department Store.

It was Mr. John Raymond Viros, one of our newly hired stock clerks, who spoke with you on the telephone. Sir, Mr. Viros was very apologetic when I asked him about it and he admitted his faults that he failed to speak cordially to you because he was not used to speaking on the phone to customers, being a stock clerk and assigned at the stockroom only. He was merely trying to help out our sales associates who were busy assisting customers in the selling area because it was a high trading that day (3Day Sale event at that time).

I asked him to prepare an explanation letter and served a Violation Report for his misbehavior.

On behalf of my team, I am committing that this will never happen again and I would like to sincerely apologize for the inconveniences we’ve caused. Rest assured that the next time you need to make a phone call with us or other Watsons branch, due courtesy would definitely be extended. We hope that this experience has dampen very little of your loyalty in Watsons and that you would still continue to consider us as your Personal Care Store.

Thank you.

Very sincerely yours,

Jonah Grace H. Reyes
Area Manager - Central 1

Lousy Customer Service

My glucose meter was almost out of test strips and i decided to search the net for the website of Watsons. No luck. I then tried getting the number of SM Mall of Asia which hosues the biggest Watson's store so far. The admin officer was nice enough to connect me to the Watson's store of the mall. RRRRiiiing! The person who answered on the other line was rude, didin't even bother to say "good Evening". He just said "Hello" in a very discourteoous tone. So i asked point blank if they carried Accu-Chek Advantage II Test Strips and he said "sandali lang". After an eternity, he came back. He said "Meron ho". So i then asked if he could give me the number of the watsons Store in Blue Wave or Riverbank Mall. He seemed to have been taken aback by the request, but still begrudgingly said in a very fast tone "9413610". So i said thank you, but im quite sure he didn't here it because he was quite eager to put don the phone. So i called the number up, and lo and behold! The number he gave me was a dedicated fax number for Watsons! I decided instead to check Roche's website since Roche is the maker of Accu-Chek Advantage II. It was about 8 pm when i got the number. I called up Roche and the guard said the offices are closed. He politely asked if he could assist me and i told him my dillema. He then said he would connect me to someone who might be able to help. He connected me to a girl named Marife who got my number and promised to get the number of a store nearest my abode which carries the strips i need. 15 minute later, she called back and gave me the number for Watsons Riverbanks mall.

I am deeply upset that a big company like SM and their subsidiary Watsons does not even offer a directory of their stores. Mercury Drug has a far better website. I am dependent on the web for information, and SM seems to have concetrated on the business aspect of their malls and not the needs of their clientelle.

Businesses like Watsons should have a directory of their stores so that their customers wont waste time going to their store for non-existent or out-of-stock items.

My hats off to Roche's Corporate HQ. They really provided the assistance i needed. I forgot to ask a's surname so i can mention her in my blog. Sayang.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


So upon consultation with my doctor, i was allowed to eat chocolate for as long as the chocolate content doesn't go any lower than 76%. Guess what? I found a chocolate bar from Meiji that actaullay offers 72%, 86% and 99% cacao. The 86% and 99% will definitely need a lot of getting used to because there is no sweetness at all... but bitter chocolate has its advantages. Meijii 86% is available in most big groceries, while the 72% is only available at SM Snack exchange.

I found out about Meiji Cacao 86% when i went to Robinsons Supermarket at Blue Wave Mall in Marikina. I then wrote Meiji Singapore an email inquiring if they carry 76& cacao. It was Miss Letty Chua of Grand Dragon Enterprises, Inc., local distributor of Meiji in the Philippines, who answered my email and told me that SM Snack Exchange carries the particular chocolate bar of Meiji.

Bitter or dark chocolate are rich in flavonoids. Dark chocolate contains more flavoniods than any other food -- including green tea, black tea, red wine, and blueberries. Flavonoids provide important protective benefits to plants, such as in repairing damage and shielding from environmental toxins. When we consume plant-based foods rich in flavonoids, it appears that we also benefit from this “antioxidant” power (source: According to, "one of the recently identified virtues of chocolate is its lofty ranking as the third largest dietary source of antioxidants—those chemicals beloved for their free radical-fighting properties that preserve cell membranes, protect DNA, prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol that leads to atherosclerosis, and prevent plaque formation within arterial walls".

No wonder the Mayans worshiped chocolate. They even called it the Food of the Gods. Now we know why!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hoy! Gising!

News reports today are too biased, too leading. I don't like their anchors, most especially that filipino-chinese guy called Anthony Taberna. He may look and sound intelligent, but all his questions for his guests are too leading. PEople should watch the news and be able to form their own opinions -- not force-fed with the anchor's own views. If they don't like the government (and this guy obviously doesn't, because i have heard him several times on DZMM poke fun at the administration), then they should not influence the people with their own, self-centered, biased opinions.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Our world has suffered numerous hardships the past few years. We can put on a show and play the blame game, or we can appeal to our Creator, our Architect of Being, to guide us and give us peace. I found this hindu prayer from and i hope you can include this little prayer, no matter what religion you may have.

Prayer for Peace (Hindu)

Oh God, lead us from the unreal to the Real. Oh God, lead us from darkness to light. Oh God, lead us from death to immortality. Shanti, Shanti, Shanti unto all. Oh Lord God almighty, may there be peace in celestial regions. May there be peace on earth. May the waters be appeasing. May herbs be wholesome, and may trees and plants bring peace to all. May all beneficent beings bring peace to us. May thy Vedic Law propagate peace all through the world. May all things be a source of peace to us. And may thy peace itself, bestow peace on all, and may that peace come to me also.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Guilty beyond reasonable doubt. This is the finding of the justices of the Sandiganbayan's Special Court on ERap's plunder case. Erap's camp cannot cry foul over the decision. During the trial, most of the requests of Erap's team of lawyers have been approved. The jsutices themselves have an above-average track record for fairness and are topnotchers in the field of law. The poor showing of support by Erap's supporters and their dwindling numbers is proof enough that the former president's clout has greatly diminished, and with the promulgation of jeudgment will further dwindle his support base. To Erap, i offer an unsolicited advise: Show remorse for your actions. Only then can the people and God forgive you for your sins. Now, let us all move on with our lives. This chapter of our history is finally at an end and we should all look towards the future for our country and our people.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Kindness of Filipino Strangers

My very close friend Prof. Jerick Aguilar sent me an email regarding an article he wrote for In his articfle, he discussed the Kindess of filipino strangers. Jerick, or Jake as we fondly call the old bloke, is a professor for the University of Bath in England and a researcher for the UN. I wish to post his article for others to read.

The Kindness of Filipino Strangers
By Jerick T Aguilar
Tuesday, September 4, 2007

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” once said the American playwright Tennessee Williams. Well, Mr. Williams must have traveled a lot because I myself have relied on people I never knew and only met for the first time in my travels the world over. And given that there are Filipinos everywhere around the globe, one is most certainly to come across a fellow “kababayan” whom a traveler can unexpectedly count on.

While I was doing my postgraduate studies in Singapore, I decided to take the train to Kuala Lumpur where I reserved a reasonably-priced hotel owned by an Indian. This happened way back but I can still vividly remember the time I entered the hotel’s main entrance and saw a woman at the reception desk talking to who seemed to be the owner. She smiled the moment she looked at me and so did I because we instantly knew that we are both from the Philippines even without talking to each other. (I guess we all have a “Pinoy-dar” inside of us!)

Just after a few minutes of conversation with her, not only did she become my unofficial tour guide in the capital of Malaysia, she was also able to convince her Indian lover – as a side, she in due course told me that she’s already married and her husband is in the Philippines who she knows has a mistress in Manila (so fair is fair I suppose, but this is something else to write about) – she was also able to convince her Indian lover to charge me half the price for the duration of my stay in his hotel. That was the first time this Filipina and I met and yet she was ever so generous, accommodating, and honest (!) with me.

A couple of years later while working in the United States, I went on vacation in Europe and visited Milan where I stopped at a McDonald’s. I was carrying a lot of shoeboxes with me in separate plastic bags (yeah, key chains don’t count as souvenirs from Italy for oneself, family, and friends) when, thanks again to my Pinoy-dar, I saw a Filipina with this huge shopping bag. After greeting her of course with “Kumusta, kabayan?”, I asked her where I could get a similar bag to hold all my stuff. She told me she doesn’t know but, lo and behold, she started taking away all her things inside the shopping bag and, with a smile, gave it to me. That simple act made me speechless that I was only able to smile back without saying “salamat” before she went out the door.

In another McDonald’s this time in Madrid (whatever the explanation, Filipinos congregate in McDonald’s restaurants worldwide!), I was with my lonesome self sipping a milkshake when, with my Pinoy-dar, I saw a Filipina also with her lonesome self nibbling on some fries. I did not hesitate to join her so we started talking. She found out that I was a tourist and that it was my first time in the city. She asked me where I was staying so I told her at a hotel near the train station.

We were only chatting for a few minutes when she offered her house where I could stay instead. I was surprised at the invitation but even more surprised to have met a “kababayan” who had her own house in Spain. So I just had to ask her her job. Nonchalantly, she replied that she’s a domestic helper but her employers were on vacation. No wonder she was at McDonald’s on a weekday! As much as I was tempted to save on my hotel expenses, I had to politely decline and thank her.

And speaking of domestic helpers, I came across three of them in Beirut. I went there a while back from the UK to do some doctoral research. I was checking my mailbox in an Internet station when I overheard three women talking in Tagalog and planning where to go for lunch. I was also hungry and wanted to eat Filipino food in Lebanon so I plainly introduced myself and asked directions to a good Pinoy restaurant. They did not answer my question because I ended up being invited to join them.

After a hearty meal, I had a choice of either spending the rest of the afternoon with them or go sightseeing on my own (they couldn’t give me a grand tour else they would go back late to their employers’ houses). I preferred the former so all four of us went to their weekend hide-away, a small apartment of another Filipino friend who works as a chambermaid. I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me but we spent such a hilarious time watching a pirated VCD of a Regal Films movie while telling stories, exchanging jokes, and eating “meryenda” in-between.

Here in Tunisia, a Pakistani nun in our French language class told me about working with a certain Filipino priest in Tripoli. Before deciding to travel to Libya, I asked for his contact details and as soon as I called him, he was ready and willing to welcome me to the Church of St. Francis. Weeks after, I arrived there just before the usual Sunday service where I finally met the priest who introduced me to the Filipino choir. The lead vocalist and guitarist happened to be from the same province of Quezon as I and, right then and there, she invited me to her house where she lived with her husband and daughter.

I thought it was only for the day while I looked for a hotel, but as soon as we came to her lovely home, she showed me the guestroom where she said I would be staying the rest of the time. I just couldn’t believe it! There I was in another country not expecting anything and then getting a warm invitation from someone I didn’t even know (and who didn’t also know the least bit about me) instead of booking a hotel room. Not only did she let me sleep in her house, but she fed me, drove me around, introduced me to her friends and the Filipino community, took me to different parties, etc., etc. In short, the only money I spent in Libya was going there and getting back from Tunisia! We were not even from the same hometown – only the same province, yet she treated me (and still does) like I were one of the family.

In my travels, I am always in awe by the kindness of strangers who I meet along the way. A part of me believes in quid pro quo, that there is no such thing as a free lunch (as one of my Economics professors would always say), and that I will only scratch your back if you scratch mine. But I guess the word “kindness” is the opposite of the concept of self-interest. Kindness still exists and I often wonder why when people are naturally egoistic. Maybe because Filipinos in particular are generally kind and, for some reason, they express (as opposed to “show”) their kindness even more when they are outside the Philippines. Or maybe because when I met them and they met me, we were never strangers to begin with, but fellow Filipinos.

Del's reply:

aah, Jake. Your mind still works wonders. . :) Very well-written article, dear friend. Even abroad, the magic of Filipino Hospitality never fails. Mcluhann's concept of a global village rings loud and true for filipinos abroad. It is as if the world is one big Philippines and everyone is a relative or friend. Or maybe it's the longing for home that makes us gravitate towards our fellow filipinos. Wherever we are in the world, we have this need, this desire, this longing for home, and since we cannot be home, we try to adjust and make our host country as filipino as possible. Besides, i think it is only ntural with filipinos to feel the need to share, to mingle. After all, filipinos are well-advanced social creatures, more advanced i think than some people in Europe or the Americas, but that is my opinion.

Monday, September 03, 2007


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

i have been searching for a clear dvd copy of the musical Annie for the past two years. Yesterday, as i drove my sister Ruth to the World Trade Center for the International Book Fair, i decided to go to Harrison Plaza's National Bookstore to check the latest PB Book. I passed by their DVD section and decided to have a look -- and lo and behold - a DVD copy of Annie (the original, not the Disney remake) was on the rack, and it was on sale! I didn't hesitate to grab the copy and proceed to the cashier to make the sale official.

The original Annie is really a gem of a find. I asked my brother Ben, an expert in the Quiapo DVD district, to search for a copy, to no avail. I even went so far as to look for old VHS tapes which i can buy and have transferred to CD but still no luck.

Aileen Quinn's role as Annie was well picked. she's an adorable little girl who fits the role of Annie real well. You might even say she was born for the part. Also noteworthy are the performances of Albert Finney, Tim Curry and Carol Burnett as the memorable Miss Hannigan.

The songs too are classic. Who could ever forget the scene at the White House when Annie, FDR and Oliver Warbucks sang "Tomorrow"? Or the song "It's a hard knock life"?

This truly is a must see for kids and adults alike.