The axiom absence makes the heart grows fonder might be true only if it will only last for a while. But prolonged separate living of couples due to migration had brought about some inadvertent alienations to both of us. In the whole duration of separation, I learned that my husband had his own share of concerns. He was working hard to cope with homesickness within the estranged neighborhood and co-workers, new language and culture, and new-found friends. Likewise, he was adjusting to the new set-up of tending for himself from dusk till dawn. On the other hand, back home was the life who was concerned with her role as mother and father to the daughter left behind. The challenge was to ensure that our relationship will become much stronger. With the separation, updating and sharing of each others activities, concerns and problems were always important so that the both of our worlds meet.
I kept myself busy with my work (NGO for Consumers Empowerment), and with my involvement in our parish during that time as one of the BEC volunteer coordinators, and eventually to the migrant ministry in the parish.
In the middle part of 1997, my daughter and I had the occasion to visit my husband in Singapore for the first time. I got to know my husband’s world… the places he frequented during his off days, the eateries where he would munch some favorite meals when cooking was usually impossible, and even the friends he goes with once in a while. The short visit was an exciting reunion for our family. But as short as it was, saying goodbye was the most difficult. Comparing in to the time when we sent him off, leaving him behind at the airport alone was even more painful to me.
On board the plane my attention was caught by the unusual loud conversation of some women passengers. From what I could gather, they were Filipina domestic workers in Singapore. They seemed to have met only for the first time, but they were so outspoken to relate their miserable stories to each other. What a struck me were their common sad and tragic work experiences. I learned that some were going home that day without prior notice to their employer. I was so moved hearing them weep, sigh an expression of anger, frustrations and hurts. Earlier on I was so concerned with my own hurts and pains but now I realized that there were other Filipino migrants who were suffering even more, and women migrants at that.
When everyone was settled, I noticed one Filipina in her mid 20’s two seats on my right side. From the time she sat in there I never saw her interacting with anybody. She was very quiet with a blank stare. I cannot help but glance towards her direction every now and then, and notice that she never touched the meal served to us on board. Moved by curiosity, I sat beside her and started talking to her. At first, she just stared at me blankly. But as kept on asking question, with hesitation she started answer some of my questions. I found out that she was allegedly allowed to go home by her employer through the help of a neighbor after six months of locking her up inside the house. That very day was the completion of her six month with the Singaporean employer, receiving not a single cent from her supposed six-month salary. Her long hair was cut short without her consent, worked till dawn, and deprived of a decent meal.
Despite what happened to her…