Saturday, November 8, 2014

Story: Departing from Milan. Part 3.

by Monica Graz

Molegunda Apuya, Molly for short, this is your new identity, girl,” Signorina Bonifacio said as she handed me my new Filipino passport.

I picked it eagerly, slightly curtseying as it was automatic for me now and I started opening it. Of course I instantly looked at the photo. I more or less knew what to expect but what I saw was even beyond that.

A young dark woman with Asian characteristics looked back at me; the skin was Indian dark, the eyes moderately slanted and the hair jet black, straight and long, kept in the back with a simple elastic band. Signora and Signorina Bonifacio wanted my hair to be short and easy to maintain for a domestic, but Conchita convinced them otherwise saying that as a Filipina I should be a devout Catholic and the Catholic Church was discouraging women to have short hair.

I could see the white collar of my blue uniform dress and the frilly edge of my white apron bib. I was obliged to wear a maid’s uniform when the photo was taken. Even in my passport photo I couldn’t escape what I became so rapidly in the past few months.
Then I thought of my new name. Molegunda Apuya?! What a striking difference from Julia Simmons. How on earth they picked Molegunda as a first name. Is it a real name in the Philippines? I should ask Conchita.

Signorina Bonifacio snapped at me, “That’s enough flannelling Molly; you have to catch up with your chores now, give me the passport back, for the time being it stays in Signora’s hands.”

“Si Signorina, subito,” I said as I passed the passport with another small curtsey.

She turned and left for her office as I rushed back to the kitchen to see Conchita. I had to ask her certain things as a mixture of feelings and emotions started overtaking me. For the first time since my transformation started I was feeling vulnerable and insecure, realizing that I gradually was losing all control over my future. 

It was mid-morning and Conchita was doing the day’s cooking. She was acting more and more like a cook since I had become, for some time now, the general housemaid.

I was always speaking a mixture of Italian and Tagalog with her so I had to try extra hard to make a proper conversation.

“Signorina Bonifacio showed me my new Filipino passport, Conchita,” I said, looking eagerly at her.

“So you are a Filipina now girl,” she said in pure Tagalog, slightly amused. “I hope you are proud of it,” she added in Italian as she continued stirring the contents in a big pot. Whatever she was cooking smelled deliciously but I knew I would never be able to touch that food until the whole family including Conchita had finished eating.

I always was eating last whatever leftovers were available and then of course I had to do the dishes and clean the kitchen very thoroughly before I joined Conchita in our maids’ quarters to watch with her various Filipino soapies.  Good for my Tagalog she was telling me and she was right. Within weeks I was getting more proficient in that slightly made up language with lots of Spanish and English words incorporated in it. I was always amused that a word that was so much part of my day to day life as a servant, the word apron, was called ‘epron’ in Tagalog.

“What happens now, Conchita?” I asked her cautiously. I knew she was always more informed than me in matters concerning the running of the house and the so called ‘future projects’ of Signora.

She stopped stirring the food and looked at me, and then began speaking in her slow clear manner, “I am impressed, Molly, with your looks, I can’t even remember how you looked when you first arrived here. That plant, what is it called?”

“Bishop’s weed,” I answered quickly.

“Yes, that plant worked quite miraculously on you. Your complexion changed dramatically and of course Signora’s beautician did her miracle as well.  The color and the shape of your eyes and your pale lips all add to your new look. You are a very convincing Filipina in looks, but you still have to work hard to improve your deportment.”

I sort of stopped her by saying, “All that is very well Conchita but what happens next. This is what I try to find out. Am I going to work outside this house? Do you know Signora’s plans for me?”

I could see she was annoyed with my interruption but she answered me anyway, “I know that Signora is trying to organize for you to work at Malpensa airport for a couple of weeks as a temp. They always need extra cleaning staff because of sick leaves of their permanent staff. You know it’s not an easy job, Riana said that much to you.”

I couldn’t help myself, I got instantly excited. So the possibility of working at the airport was still an open option.

Conchita looked at me with a disapproving eye, “Of course it won’t be easy for me in this huge house, I’ll have to resume all the cleaning duties and I am a bit spoiled now having you around for the heavy stuff.”

I felt guilty when I heard that but all I managed to say was, “It won’t be for long Conchita, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks as you said and I’ll still be able to help when I come back after the end of my shift.”

“Don’t be so certain girl about that, the eight hour shift at the airport with an hour break can be exhausting, I know from Riana. Plus two hours of commuting in public transport. All you want to do when you are back is a hot shower to take the grime away and to put your feet up.”

But I pressed Conchita for more information, “And what happens after? Do I stay in this house or Signora will send me away with my new passport? I have a feeling that this is the reason she got me that passport to start with.”

Conchita looked shifty when she answered me in a hesitant manner, “That I don’t know, Molly, Signora hasn’t mentioned anything to me, you have to wait to find out. All I suggest to you is to persevere with your Tagalog and your correct deportment so if and when you are asked to travel to be as convincing as possible.”

She still looked shifty when she finished talking. I felt that she knew more than what she was letting out. But I understood I couldn’t insist anymore, I had to go back to my scrubbing. All the upstairs needed a good mopping today. 

In fact she urged me to get on with my work.

Chop, chop girl, enough of chatting you have lots to do, pick your mop and bucket and run upstairs, Signorina Bonifacio will get crossed with you in a minute and you know how nasty she can be then.”

“You are right, Conchita, I better move on,” I said slightly worried now, Daniela Bonifacio could be very nasty if she picked that I was not fully immersed in my work. 

I started climbing the stairs carrying my mop and bucket, rags and dusters hanging from my apron pockets, when I heard a door opening and closing upstairs and steps moving fast towards the stairs. In seconds I saw Signora descending. 

I stopped in the landing and pushed myself to the wall, bucket and mop next to me to give free space to Signora. I tried a miniature curtsey due to lack of space as she approached me. 

She stopped in front of me and, addressing me in Italian, said in an amused tone of voice, “And how is Miss Apuya today?” 

“Molto bene Signora, grazie,” I answered trying to curtsey again and nearly kicking my bucket.

“Tu sei una bella filipineza,” she said smirking as she started to descend again, but two steps down she abruptly stopped and turned again towards me.

“I nearly forgot, tomorrow I invited for lunch your old friend Miss Jennifer Connolly, she is dying to see the new you.”
I nearly kicked the bucket once more when I heard that and I felt my face flashing though I wasn’t certain if that could be seen anymore with my dark skin.

Signora, although she sensed my uneasiness, continued in her usual commanding mode, “Conchita will do the cooking, I’ll have a word with her in a minute, and you will do the serving. There will be three of us sitting for lunch - Miss Connolly, Daniela and I. It will be an informal affair so you will be wearing a day uniform and a small white serving apron. Make sure that your uniform dress is clean with no stains. Am I clear Molly?”  

I would have liked to ask Signora if Jennifer was informed about my complete transformation but I hesitated because of the difficulty of expressing myself in Italian and in the meantime Signora started descending the stairs again so all I could say was, “Si Signora, tutto chiaro.” 

I was proud of myself as I said it: I remembered how to say ‘all clear’ in Italian.

By the time I started climbing the stairs carrying all my cleaning stuff, Signora had disappeared in the kitchen.


  1. Wonderful. Thank you so much for this Story. It improves my English and is one of my favorites. Thank you again and *curtsy*

  2. great story....keep coming...have not read a better story....cant wait her working outside the house where lies the main humiliation....make it as sweaty, grimy and humiliating as possible....

  3. Very enjoyable, thank you for continuing the story.