25 August 2007

involuntary captivity

when i read the title of this news story, "Filipino Woman Held as Captive Servant to New Jersey Family", i have to admit i thought about that desperate housewives storyline about the chinese maid (rescued slave), xiao-mei, that gabrielle hired then, exploited... truth is indeed, stranger than fiction.

i finished reading the news story (rendered speechless after reading that the woman was held for TWO YEARS) then, i watched the video and found out that the new jersey family was FILIPINO!!! i googled and found two more stories here and here where it's revealed that the 23 yo woman thought she would be working "as a nanny in the house of Anthony Mandap, a vice consul in the Consulate General of the Philippines in San Francisco".

isolated story? not so much...

in early august, i read about rory mayberry's account of 51 filipino workers forcibly taken to build the us embassy in baghdad via angryasianman.

here's the video:

however, a week ago, the filipinos in question denied that they were kidnapped at all.

can someone enlighten me? how does a 23 yo get stuck in a house against her will for two years? and how do 51 filipinos get kidnapped and flown to iraq? or should i rephrase the question and ask - how desperate has living your life become that you ask for and accept so little?

these stories make me worry for my sister and other family members who are eager to leave the philippines for the promises of canada or new zealand (since it's nearly impossible to get into the US now) for "better lives". they're university educated doctors and engineers who are willing to work blue collar jobs overseas because they pay better than jobs at home. again, it sounded as if they were living their lives in involuntary captivity.

the nanny story is familiar to me as many of my "aunties" work as elderly home companions now. after reading that story, i'm hoping and praying that they're not being exploited. the iraq story reminded me most of two of my "successful" uncles who moved constantly where there was work - guam, indonesia, the middle east. they were hardly ever home and have only recently in their retirement been able to enjoy a second "fatherhood" - watching their grandchildren grow.

my heart absolutely breaks when i hear that someone is leaving the philippines to gamble for a better life elsewhere. i can't help but feel it's such a high price for one's physical and emotional health to pay. i worry especially for filipino families whose lives are truly desperate but who don't have a choice to stay in or leave the philippines.

when we were in manila in february, i couldn't believe my sister's story about how long it took just to get an appointment at the us embassy. and then, we drove by it -the line snaked errily around itself, then outside the gates, then down the boulevard. i remember that we were headed back to the hotel because it was close to the paloma's nap time - 1:30 pm - and my sister said the appointments started at 9 am. i wondered how long those people had been standing in line with no shade or guarantees in sight.


thelastnoel said...

It's AMAZING that this still exists.

Anonymous said...

I too can't believe that this is going on! The level of desperation to leave the Philippines and settle for a life of sacrifice rather than stay and invest in the future of the Philippines is almost culturally ingrained. There needs to be another popular movement to create hope and opportunity in the homeland.

Freezing Islander said...

There is a general feeling in my high school alumni egroup (and i suspect, other groups as well) that those who are not in the philippines are far better off than those who are left home. Comments like "Mabuti ka pa, nakalabas kana," or "Maayo ka pa, nakagawas na," (roughly, Good for you, you are already out, or something like that) are plenty. It's sad when living in the land of your birth seems to feel like a prison that one needs to escape from. Sad but understandable. People need to satisfy their basic needs - shelter, food, clothing, etc. It is very hard to understand when we are here with our mcmansions and cars...