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17

I am now 17 and I hate the future. It always butts
in on my 3 am fantasies; family trips, sentimental photographs of graduation
days and birthday parties she should be in, and mother-to-her-daughter talks. I
always thought that if it weren’t for the future, I am happy right here, right
now— just living right in the moment. 
The future menaces my existing life. “Who will pay for your tuition fees
someday?” “Where will we live when we ran out of money to pay for our rent?”
“What will we going to do with my mom’s minimum wage salary when one of us got
admitted to hospital?” They keep worrying about the future to the point that
they have neglected what is in front of them and the how-about-nows. Who is
going to be there when I have my first menstruation? Where should I run to when
things get out of my hand? What should I do with my own problems when my
father’s still hooked with his vices? My whole self was being compromised over
a mere anticipation.

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Well, perhaps she has never watched the Dead Poet
Society film and has never learned of Robbie Williams’ “carpe diem” scene. Or
maybe she has a total different style of plucking a day; a style that
approximately 1.1 million Filipinas have adopted as if seizing the moment is
securing one’s future. These Pinays, including my mom, make up to 53.6 percent
of the total population of Overseas Filipino workers (Philippine Statistics
Authority, 2016). It suggests that one in every two Filipino women working
abroad are unskilled and employed as domestic workers, cleaners, entertainers,
or in the service sector. These sectors represent some of the highest risks for
modern slavery making the 0.2655 percent of the entire population; a subject
for physical, sexual, and labor exploitation (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2016).

 

16

At
16, I could hear people praising my mom as a hero. It made me think that it’s
their way of being smarmy in order to receive imported soaps and chocolates,
but later did I know that there’s this “migrant heroism” representing overseas
workers, particularly women migrants, as self-sacrificing, nationalist martyrs
to normalize migration, and their faithful remittance-sending to the homeland. As
a matter of fact, Philippines’ remittances was accounted for 8.5% of GDP in
2014 (Commission on Filipinos Overseas).

However,
the hideous reality cannot be hidden at all; Filipino women now have
distinctive racialized and gendered characteristics making our nation as a country
of DHs, entertainers, and even prostitutes. It is said that even in a certain
dictionary, the latest definition of the word “Filipina” is a “housemaid”
(Beltran & Rodriguez, 1996). Domestic workers play a significant portion of
Filipinos who go abroad for employment. In 1974, the institutionalization of
labor export as a developmental policy much contributed to the 12% of total
labor outflow of Pinays in the following year. Since then, there has been a Filipina
diaspora that began in the mid-1980s, prior to which the Filipino migrants were
comprised mainly of male Filipinos undertaking construction work in the Middle
East. Feminization of migration is defined as “the growing phenomenon of
migration of women from all over the world looking for economic independence,
mainly through working in the domestic and care sector, but often assuming an
invisible social role in destination societies” (Montefusco, 2008). By 2002,
women were accounted for 73% of total labor outflow. (Rodriguez, 2005).

 

 

15

I thought it would have been the greatest day of my
life, being reunited with my mother.  But
maybe that was too much to ask. So many things have changed, I grew my hair
longer than usual. I was busy understanding the changes in my body. Accepting
these changes was the hardest part of this since there was no one who told me
that everything happening to me was just ‘normal’ and fine. Then I woke up to
the sound of a familiar voice, it was the same voice that sang lullabies to me
to sleep. It was the voice of the woman I waited all these years. “Honey, I’m
home.” Something felt wrong. Would she ever leave us again? Would there be a
relapse of care drain— the loss of care for
her child left behind? This gendered division of labor in combination with the
feminization of international migration contribute to shortages of care for a
Third World children like me. Care drain is an analogy of brain drain that best
describes the importation of care and love from poor countries to rich ones
(Hochschild, 2002). Consequently, it
creates new social tensions, especially within families, among children and in
gender relations and is clouded by the fact that feminization contributes to
changing socially constructed and traditional status of women (Khusenova, 2000).

14

I realized that despite having similar desires with
my friends, our lives had become too different in other ways. I came to the
point that my mind analyze everything to an extent where I get terribly drained
and tired from all the thinking, I feel like I should isolate myself from
others because I can’t be a true friend if I can’t truly trust them.  It is really hard in other ways. It is really
hard to accept that everyone abandoned me. I saw my father riding his
motorcycle with other woman. I want to tell it to my mom but I know it will
only cause her pain and increase the heaviness she has in her heart. I want to
shout the shame I have for my father and punch all the resentment I have in me.
Halfway, I also want to blame her for not being around, and for causing this
family to be not a family. Is her migration also an escape route of
fleeing an unhappy marriage? We are now considered by the scholars as
“transnationally-split” family that underlines the increased probability of
negative effects on children left behind in the case of an absentee mother. The
Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted a national survey entitled “Public
Attitudes Towards Female Overseas Workers: 
Implications for Philippine Migration Policy” that found that nearly a
majority of respondents believed that the absence of Filipina women from their
families’ produces “many more problems and misunderstandings in the family”.
One study also concludes, in fact, that women’s migration leads to “values
disorientation,” in families and the neglect of children (Beltran &
Rodriguez 1996).

13

Laughter and songs surrounded me with the basics,
enough space to move about and freedom to express oneself. I don’t mind my
unfinished businesses and tasks in my academics, all I know is that I’m just
living my life to its fullest. I feel like I’m totally free from being controlled
by my dad. The next day, I feel something unusual. I already lost my interest
to try new things. I noticed that my grades in school have declined I even
limit my actions because I became overly concerned or sensitive about other
people’s opinions of me. I usually exhibit and frustration to everything. I am
tired of blaming myself for my mother’s hardships and always thought that there
must be reasons other than my future that my mother has decided to flee abroad.

In
scholarly view, there are theories that may explain the Filipina diaspora, one
of which is World Systems theory (Sassen 1988) which argues that international
migration is a by-product of global capitalism. Contemporary patterns of
international migration tend to be from the poor nations to the rich nations
because factors associated with industrial development in the First World
generated structural economic problems, and thus push factors, in the Third
World. In the Todaro-Harris theory, the decision to migrate is largely
determined by the individual’s expectation of earning a higher income, with
expected income being defined as actual urban income multiplied by the
probability of obtaining employment (Ullah, 2004). Also, one of the theories
that best describes the outflow of Filipino women abroad is the theory on
globalization, a process of transformation of local or regional phenomena into
global ones. It can be described as a process by which the people of the world
are unified into a single society and function together. It is often used to
refer to economic globalization, that is, integration of national economies
into the international economy through trade, foreign direct investment,
capital flows, migration, and the spread of technology.

12

I wasn’t actually ready to enter High School. I was
a naive and clumsy 12 years old girl. So before the school year started, I told
myself to become my best self. I became so determined to keep my grades high, I
was only thinking of my performance in school. It felt good for once, to know
you are good at something. But I forgot what it feels like to have a friend
whom I can talk about anything life throws at me.  I just had my first menstruation and I totally
freaked out. I don’t know that to do. I can’t tell it to anyone because I am
totally ashamed of it; but deep inside I know, I am one step into being a
woman. Perhaps, something so good can feel so lonely at the same time.

11

My first graduation day without my mom. I could
hear people at my back cheering and the marching song awaits me at the aisle. I
walked towards it and made myself believed that I make my mother proud.
Perhaps, aside from scholarly explanations of her migration, this is the sole
reason, my education. Still, my anxiety still haunts me. I can’t win.

10

I
got teased by my classmate saying my mom’s a “Japayuki” and works as a
prostitute in Japan. I cried a bucket into almost believing them. She works at
a chicken factory in Japan. It is like a 24/7 job hearing my mom complaining to
my father over a phone. She has to wake up early and go off work late at night.
She said that they have to clean the whole factory with huge machines every
week without even a pay. One day, she almost got her fingers into four after
being caught in an accident with a dangerous grinding machine. Her safety is
also being sacrificed for my future. My mother and many other Filipinas
experienced discrimination that frequently leads to the de-skilling of women
migrant workers, who find themselves in employment below their skill level. Abuse
and exploitation, illegal recruitment, contract substitution and debt bondage
continue to be experienced by domestic workers. This is the result of
discrimination which allows the domestic work sector and domestic workers to be
viewed in non-labor terms; compounded by the conditions women migrant domestic
workers face in the private homes that also act as their workplaces
(UNWomen.org).

9

I
was in my 3rd grade, I am at the airport instead of school at that
time but I had the most remarkable lesson that I have; not seeing your mom for
boxes of chocolates and toys. I cried for a fact that I would never see her for
a week as she promised but I got more excited with her pasalubong when she came back. At least, she will never have to
wake up every 3 am in order to get to work and sell French fries at a small
stall in SM Fairview. She shares common experiences with domestic helpers in
the Philippines as a fact that she has to work outside our province, Quezon and
be in NCR region being the top destination. It is found out that most of these
low earner workers came from Eastern and Western Visayas, Southern Tagalog, and
Northern Mindanao— these regions are considered as economically depressed
regions of the country, characterized by a scarcity of livelihood and
employment opportunities and an oversupply of unskilled manpower making poverty
as a primary push factor. (BWYW, 1988). Filipinas experience low salaries and
limited opportunities for employment in the Philippines. Moreover, extended
kinship relations prevail in Filipino society making many women feel
responsible to provide for their wider family. They also have more autonomy
than in various developing states. For example, it is my mother who manages the
household finances and she is not inhibited from making independent decisions.
In fact, it is believed that one-sixth of Filipinas never consult their family
members about their decision to migrate. This makes migration a necessity for
many women.

Beginning

When
I was born, I got my umbilical cord around my neck. I got both eyes, both ears,
and the first voice I uttered was crying. Is it a cry of knowing that 9 years
from now, my mother would leave me? Or is it a cry of knowing that I’m a girl
and I possibly end up being a domestic helper? Either way, I hate the future.

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