In a lot of countries, the word Filipina is synonymous with domestic helpers, nannies, mail-order brides and prostitutes. This we have to accept. I have nothing against people engaged in these trades, hey prostitution is the oldest profession in the world. I cannot argue with that. Obviously, it's necessary for the existence of mankind.
With a risk of sounding like Malu Fernandez, I have to admit that in the beginning of my stay in Switzerland 4 years ago, I did not appreciate being asked if I was a mail order bride or if my husband bought me (yup!) or if I take care of children. I was trying to be a scientist but all I got was judgmental stares as I walk along Zurich's streets. I felt that I was being dismissed and belittled just because I was Filipino.
Just paranoia? I don't think so. Once, while collecting insects in a field just outside Zurich with my husband (who is Swiss) for a biological experiment (we used to work together), a Swiss farmer on a tractor saw us. He immediately jumped out of his tractor and ran towards my husband. The farmer while staring at me, excitedly asked my husband where he found me, if I cook well and if I have a sister! I felt like a cow for sale getting appraised.
In Rome ( in Italy, not in Switzerland) while
vacation, I was refused entry to a McDonalds! I felt so humiliated when a crew pushed me out the door while shouting at me in Italian. I bit back the tears as I went back to my husband waiting outside for his food. I couldn't comprehend why I was treated that way. Is it because I was Filipina?
For a few months, I resented Filipino mail order brides and OFWs all over the world who I thought was responsible for my difficult time in Switzerland. I resented them for not being proud enough to refuse to sell their souls only to be second class citizens of another country. I blamed them for my inability to get respected in my new world and for being stereotyped as a domestic helper. I went as far as to pretend to be South American!
Please don't burn my blog just yet and continue reading.
Perhaps because of my indignation when a Lebanese colleague remarked to me that she was very surprised to find a Filipina working in science in Zurich when all the Filipinos she heard about in Lebanon are domestic helpers that I changed my mind. She mentioned innocently that they have a problem with Filipinos because we are known to trick employers into paying for our plane tickets only to move to another employer who will pay more. She said that is why it is common practice in her country to take the passports of the Filipino helpers and to lock them inside the house to prevent them from leaving. "But that is illegal and inhuman!" I cried. I was so horrified I couldn't say anything more! I was talking to an educated person who sincerely believed that Filipinos should be locked up.
In my mind something clicked. Filipinos are proud! We are so proud that we brave horrible conditions abroad just to provide a good future for our families! We sacrifice the joy of holding our own children in our arms to take care of someone else's. We are so secure in our resolve to give our children a better life that we do not tremble at the possibility of being raped, killed, and abused in a foreign land. If that is not strength of character, I don't know what is.
After that I evolved, now I am proud of our OFWs. I am proud to be Filipino. We export love in all its forms, there is nothing wrong with that! If the Swiss are into banking, and the Germans are into cars, we are into love! We export motherly love so that foreign children will know what true maternal love is, we export helpers to care for homes abroad and we export conjugal love so that western men would experience how to be loved by a good wife.
I spoke with a good friend of my husband's who had a Filipina nanny as a child. Now, he is probably 35 years old but together with his siblings they have maintained good contact with their beloved nanny. They would visit her regularly from Switzerland. I feel their deep affection for her. I feel proud of the genuine love that these children got from a Filipina for them to consider her as a second mother.
The respect that I wanted soon followed. As soon as I was not ashamed anymore of where I came from, people started to respect me for who I am. I now hold my head high. I managed to go inside the Louis Vuitton shop at the Banhofstrasse in Zurich without getting thrown out (although I will never even think of buying a bag for 3000 USD in this lifetime). My colleagues admitted to me the other day that before meeting me, they thought all Asian women with a western man have somehow been bought or mail-ordered, and that Filipinas are like sex slaves. Well, apparently, my endless stories about our way of life and history have made them all realize their mistakes. Now, they think that Filipinas are strong, intelligent and capable women that they shouldn't mess up with.
All things considered, as a biologist, all my grand work will be published (or not published at all) and forgotten but no one will ever forget the love of a Filipina. Being a nanny may not be the most glamorous profession in the world but for sure it is one of the most noble.
Submitted to Filipina Images