Sunday, February 22, 2015

Story: Arriving in Manila. Part 3.

by Monica Graz

Pumasok mutsatsa!” I heard Juanita’s voice inviting me in as I arrived in front of the kitchen door which was facing the garden. Later I found out that mutsatsa meant something like ‘girl-maid’ from the Spanish word ‘muchacha’ - a girl. 

Juanita and two young boys were already sitting around a large kitchen table as a young man in a ponytail wearing a pretty feminine bib apron was doing the serving bringing the food to the table. Juanita pointed to a chair and I sat down as she made the introductions.

“Those are my two young boys Mollie, Alphonso who is twelve years old and Ruperto the younger who is 10. Benito with the pretty apron on is my eldest son and my joy and pride at the same time; he is just nineteen and my best assistant both in the house and in the hairdressing salon. Without him I wouldn’t be able to cope.”

I said hello politely but the two young boys simply ignored me, either because they were too hungry or because they were too shy. Benito on the other hand gave me a big smile and said in English with the characteristic Filipino accent, “Hi Mollie, glad to meet you, my mother was eagerly waiting for your arrival. Now I’ll be able to work full time at the beauty salon, the house is yours to run.” He finished his sentence with an effeminate laugh.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Story: Losing Valentina

by Idea Factory

My name is Valentina, well... my name was Valentina.

My story of how I lost my name and my identity begins back when I was 25. At the time I was fresh out of business school, and I was determined to make it in my career. Several headhunters offered me jobs, I decided to go with a growing firm out of Chicago. I was working on a high floor in a building located in the heart of downtown, my window had a great view of Lake Michigan. But my gaze wasn't set on the water, it was on the corner office that I wanted to be in by the time I was 30.

I was a fourth-generation Latina, my great grandparents came over to the United States during WWII when there was a labor shortage. My parents had both have advanced degrees and they put a lot of work into making sure I would be a success. My father, a bit of a bleeding heart, is a doctor and I think he was a bit disappointed that I chose finance over medicine.

I kept myself in good shape, image is important in the professional world plus I loved the way I looked in jeans.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Story: Arriving in Manila. Part 2.

by Monica Graz

I looked at my room once more as I changed to fresh clothes after a much needed wash. It was practically a shed at one corner of the garden quite a distance from the main house. Juanita said simply that there was not enough space for me inside the house. There was a smaller shed attached to the larger one used as a very primitive toilet facility, just a toilet bowl and a metal sink with a cold water tap.

When I asked about a possibility of hot water Juanita laughed and said, “Don’t be absurd Molly, you don’t need hot water in Philippines, we are a hot country. In the rare occasions you need it you have to heat it yourself in the kitchen stove.”

I looked once more at my new room; there was a high window with a broken glass and iron bars outside and a single metal door without a proper key and lock. It could be secured with a bolt from inside and a padlock from outside. Looking around I realized that it was nothing more than an old store room turned hastily to sleeping quarters for my arrival. It really had the feeling of an old fashioned prison cell!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Story: Arriving in Manila. Part 1.

by Monica Graz

When I stepped out of the plane I was taken aback by the humid heat and a strong, nearly intoxicating smell, a mixture of tropical flowers and kerosene fuel. For a moment I thought I was back in my Julia days, remembering my visit to Central America a couple of years ago when I was researching for my PhD on the slave trade at that part of the world in  the 18th and 19th centuries. It was the same feeling of heat, humidity and smells as it was then.
But I was brought back to reality when I heard the person next to me addressing me in Tagalog and asking me to start descending the ladder. I instantly was back to my Mollie Apuya role.

The fear and uncertainty of the unknown came back to me and I felt a cold shiver in my spine even in that hot weather.