PARENTS, as we all know, are supposed to stay always by their children’s side. While fathers go to work, mothers stay at home to look after the children. Our Filipino culture dictates this so. Lucky are those, indeed, whose circumstances in life allow this noble practice to be followed! Children get to live a normal, happy life, with both parents around to look after them.
Alas, such is not always the case in every Filipino family nowadays! Since the overwhelming success of the Philippine government’s new labor export strategy in the early 70s, more and more fathers have left their families behind to work abroad. And in the later part, mothers, as well, started to leave their husbands and children behind!
Stories abound relating to this phenomenon. Some are success and others are failure. I know a lot of success stories (not really that keen, I am, in dwelling into failures) – been into one, myself, but let me tell you of one which, I’m sure, you never heard of!
It is a story of a mother’s struggle to fulfill her dream of seeing her children find success in life and of keeping them all together, at long last, with her!
Everybody calls her Manang Cristy. Her full name though is Crisanta dela Cruz. She is a short, frail-looking 58-year-old widow gifted with strong hands and nimble feet. She works in a house of one of the richest families in Kuwait. In short, she is a domestic helper, of which, she had been in the past 13 years.
Coming from a poor family, Manang Cristy, finished only secondary school. She married young and became a mother at the age of 19. By 23, she already had four children, three boys and a girl. Her late husband worked as a driver in a logging company.
Forced by the needs of her growing family, she tried her luck in applying for a domestic job abroad (recruiters were aplenty in her place then, she said) and in 1980, she went to Saudi Arabia. She stayed only for two years though because, as claimed, her children found it impossible to live with their drunkard father alone. A year after reuniting with her family, Manang Cristy finally convinced her husband to work abroad. So, in 1983, off he went to Saudi Arabia, courtesy of some roaming recruiters in their Northern Philippines province.
In 1986, Manang Cristy was again forced to leave her family behind because earlier that year, her husband was sent home, from Saudi Arabia, with half-body paralysis caused by a fatal heart attack. By then, two of her boys were in college. And with her husband unable to work, the more reason she had to go.
In the 13 years that Manang Cristy worked in Kuwait, she had the good opportunity of staying under one employ. Hard-working and patient, she was proven loyal, as well, by her employer, when in 1990, during the infamous Invasion of Kuwait by the neighboring Iraq, Manang Cristy chose to stay. The other Filipina maid working with her in the house at that time, immediately left Kuwait. Although encouraged by her male employer to leave the country as well, Manang Cristy stayed on because there was nobody to look after the three young children left behind by her lady employer. A few weeks before the invasion, her “Madam” went to America with the youngest child for treatment. The three other children, together with their father, were supposed to follow but were prevented from leaving Kuwait because of the invasion.
Endowed with a caring heart and a strong desire to help, Manang Cristy was one of the very few Filipinas who answered a call for volunteers by a private hospital nearby. In spite of her initial knowledge that there will be no sure monetary reward for the work she volunteered herself to do in the short-staffed hospital, she heeded the call and braved herself into countless sleepless nights. Her services rendered, along with the rest of the other Filipina domestic helpers who answered the call, proved vital in the continuity of hospital care to a number of Kuwaitis and other nationals during the Invasion.
Manang Cristy’s selfless service during the Invasion, although not recognized significantly by the hospital she worked at, was nonetheless appreciated by her employers. Her salary, immediately after the Liberation, was doubled. The loyalty she showed was, likewise, rewarded by her employers’ offer to help defray the expenses of her children’s college education. And above all this, one by one, since 1991, Manang Cristy’s four children followed her to Kuwait. The three boys are presently working in her employer’s private company. Her only girl, who finished a Bachelor of Education degree, is now working as a Teacher’s Assistant in one of the English playgroups in Kuwait. Herself, a widow at an early age, her only son, who was only a month old when his military father was ambushed, is now studying in a private British school, courtesy of Manang Cristy’s employer.
And blessed of all blessed domestic helpers in the world, Manang Cristy sees her children and grandson everyday! They are all staying in a house provided by the kind-hearted employers, adjacent to their own. Had her husband lived long enough, he could have been with them as well!
How many Manang Cristys, do you think, dear readers, are there in the world? I sure would love to be one, wouldn’t you?
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: October 26, 1999