A mother’s sacrifice and a family’s pain


Photographer: Mousa AK.

Mousa AK., Reporter

Her family is the most important thing to her. So when job opportunities ran dry in her native country the Philippines, and her sister died, and her son needed to begin elementary school, Lisa made a tough decision to leave her family and take on a new position as a domestic helper overseas.

At the age of 27, Lisa has worked in many fields. She was a waitress, a forewoman in a fish factory and a masseuse. A devoted single mother from Cebu, Lisa had difficulties in finding good paying jobs in her home country.

Her father couldn’t pay for her education, so she was only able to complete what is equivalent to middle school. “It is extremely hard to get a job especially for us school dropouts,” she said. Sitting on a couch on a cold afternoon in late March, Lisa explained, “We have no education, and any job requires some degree of it.”

“This is when I applied to work as a waitress in an old restaurant,” she added, fixing her hair and pulling it neatly towards her head. “These kinds of jobs for the non-degree workers pay roughly 500 pesos and hour.” That amount, roughly $9, can barely support a family. It is less than minimum wage in most countries.

“Soon after that, I decided to become a masseuse. It was a better paying job, and I used to make double my paycheck just from tips. However, my life story changed from a struggle that interrupted my dreams,” she said, tears started pouring out of her eyes. “Tragedy hit us when my older sister passed away due to a heart attack. She was the one who supported our family from her commissions that she earned as a salesperson in Dubai.”

Lisa explained how she came to start the process of filling her sister’s shoes: “My cousin informed me about this job and advised me to apply to a housekeeper office,” where thousands of Filipinos apply seeking overseas income to support their families. Housekeeping, she said, “is considered a high-paying job in comparison to what we earn back home.” Lisa’s cousin, Maria, 38, has been working in Kuwait since she was 22.

Lisa said that she likes her job working for my family. “Yes, I do, because you are nice people who treat me kindly and sympathize with me. I also get paid so much more than what I used to make back home and I am thankful for that.”

My final question made her feel rather uncomfortable. What’s the hardest thing about being a housekeeper? “The hardest thing about being a housekeeper is living abroad and leaving your family behind. This drives me crazy and makes me constantly think about them.” However, she added, “I just want to thank you and your family for this opportunity, I really appreciate you doing this for me.”