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!

There was a single metal bed in one corner, with a very thin and hard mattress on top, a plastic cupboard standing in another corner where I could hang my few belongings and a small table with a single chair. Finally there was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. I smiled ironically when I thought of my maid’s room in Milan. It was like a 5star hotel suite in comparison with this one.  

Juanita said that I could rest for a while and she was going to call me later for dinner. I lied down in that uncomfortable bed and closed my eyes. I was jetlagged and felt terribly tired but my mind was racing and I couldn’t sleep.  All I could do was to think about the recent events and the conversation I had with Juanita.  

She certainly loved the presents her sister sent for her and her children and of course she pocketed the money very happily. Then she asked me to give my passport and my money to her for safekeeping since it would have been very dangerous to keep any valuables in my sleeping quarters, anybody could break in at that shed.  

And of course she started explaining her plans to me. I still could recall our chat.

“I must say Molly you are God sent to me as I am very short handed at the moment  and I must thank my half sister Conchita for that great idea and of course your Italian employer who agreed to that.”

So it was Conchita’s idea all along my trip to Manila and Signora Matei went along with it. How cunning of Conchita. And again what was this story of Juanita being a half sister; this was news to me.

As if she could read my mind Juanita continued, “I bet Conchita never mentioned to you that we are half sisters, it is a bit painful for her to admit it. You see Conchita is my father’s child with our maid at the time. My father did the right thing and recognized her as his legal child but in reality she was never fully accepted in our family. My mother always ignored her. This is the reason Conchita left for Europe and started working as a domestic in Italy.”

“Wow!” I simply managed to say, “What a story. It is like a soap opera!”

She laughed at my remark and said, “Our family goes a long way back in Manila and we have quite a bit of Spanish blood in both sides of the family, even our surname Rodriguez is Spanish.”

She stopped and looked at me an air of authority in her eyes, “You are not aware of those things Molly since you come from a very different background being an orphan and all that but like in any other country Philippines has a strong class system and our family belongs to what would be called in Europe ‘the middle class’. We are educated and professional people never involved in any sort of manual labor. Unfortunately Conchita couldn’t escape her mother’s class and became a domestic like you.”

Now everything was clearer to me. Juanita was part of the middle classes in this country and that explains her arrogance and snobbishness towards me from the very beginning. In her eyes I simply was a domestic belonging to the lower classes and I should be treated accordingly. Somehow it reminded me of India and its caste system. I was an ‘untouchable’ or a ‘dalit’ for her.

“So, let me explain your program as of tomorrow Molly,” Juanita continued still speaking slowly in English as if she was addressing an imbecile, “You will be a full time housemaid in this house and of course you will learn a few basics to attend to the garden as well, nothing specialized of course, you are not a gardener after all, just sweeping the dry leaves and keep the verandahs clean and tidy.”

Her style and arrogance activated my submissive genes and I answered spontaneously in my accented English, “Yes Ma’am, I understand.”

She clearly liked that because her eyes shined as she continued, “That’s the correct way to address me Molly, I am glad I didn’t have to tell you myself.  Ma’am or Mrs. Rodriguez is the way you will address me from now on.”

“Yes, Mrs. Rodriguez,” I said again, this time with a hint of irony in my voice.

Juanita didn’t pick that, she was too absorbed in her ‘mode of grandeur’; instead she continued lecturing me.

“Probably Conchita mentioned to you already that you will be working every second day at my beauty salon as a junior assistant, you have to learn how to do nails and shampoo hair. And last but not least I’ll send you to attend classes for future nannies. All those are skills that will help you when you apply for a housemaid’s job in due course.”

Again those vague plans for my future, this time from Juanita’s lips, and I couldn’t resist asking this time, “Excuse me Ma’am, is there some sort of timetable for how long I’ll be working for you in Manila and what happens next? It seems that my Italian employer Signora Matei, Conchita and you are in some sort of agreement about my future.”

She answered me, her voice still slow and clear with a hint of annoyance in it, “There is not such a thing as an agreement as you imply Molly, simply Conchita expressing the wishes of your employer in Italy asked me to coach you how to become a better Filipina and maid and when and only when I judge that you are ready I’ll let them know and they will decide what happens to you next. My understanding is that your future is solely in the hands of your Italian employer and you have no personal saying in it. Isn’t that correct girl?”

I was abruptly deflated once more and simply managed to say, “Yes Ma’am, it is correct, Signora Matei knows what is best for me.”

She became chirpy again and answered, Very well then, now I can show your room and how you can refresh yourself, then you can have a small rest, I think you need it.”

As I was coming to the end of my recollection of our chat with Juanita and my eyes were really closing I heard her strong voice from the house calling me, “Molly, wake up, dinner is ready, come and meet my children as well, we are all here now.”

“Yes Ma’am,” I whispered half asleep, but the next moment I was awake and up checking my outfit, a simple t-shirt and shorts. Time to meet her two younger boys and her mystery older son Benito.


  1. I have a feeling that Signora Rodriguez will become a strict taskmistress.

    Grey Master

  2. great going....can u please add more of humiliation...and more in public...where she is treated really bad because of her low class...i am from india...and she is getting far well treated than a dalit...she does not deserve to have fresh clothes...nor have dinner with masters...she should have separate utensils....and she does not deserve to waste water on her....let her suffer in sweat and filth.....

  3. Lovely story. Please add more details about the maid's uniforms. Want to see Molly sweating and dirty in the hot climate. Thanks

  4. Thanks for this. When will Part 4 appear?