Saturday, September 19, 2015

Story: Molly in Singapore. Part 6.

by Camille Langtry and Monica Graz

On the way home I couldn’t get Linda’s question out of my head. “You don’t want to be a maid a decade from now, do you?” Indeed, did I? Who did I see myself as in the future? Did I want to return to my real home country? Would I want to return to being Julia? Or did I see myself sinking deeper and deeper into my new identity as Molly the Filipina maid until my old life was nothing but a distant memory? Is that the life I truly wanted for myself? Or will I end up regretting it - if not now, then in a few years when it would be too late to change anything?

Ever since I landed in Milan I had all the decisions made for me by other people without asking me what I needed or wanted. I have completely surrendered all the authority to Signora Mattei, Conchita, then her sister Juanita and, now, finally, Signora Moretti.  As a matter of fact, the thing I really wanted - even if I didn’t fully admit to it - was to have all those life-changing decisions made for me.

My path of submission got me to where I was now. Where would it take me further? I was still young, I still had at least 30 years of active work life ahead of me. I tried to picture myself as an old and destitute Filipina maid, her knees swollen and her skin rough from many years of scrubbing the floors and doing other endless household chores. Was that the life I really wanted for myself? Part of me screamed “yes”, it was a dark and disturbing - yet, strangely appealing - fantasy of mine. But the other part of me found the prospects incredibly scary.

Signora Moretti was sitting on the terrace in a lounge chair reading a book when I arrived. She motioned for me to join her and the next half an hour I was telling her about the events of the day. Signora, who was dressed in a 1950s style fully-skirted beige summer dress, didn’t offer me to sit down and I felt like a pupil being examined in front of the class. She wanted to know everything - who I met, what I felt, who said what. I did my best - as far as my accented broken English allowed - and she was even taking some notes like a true psychoanalyst. Not without some doubts I also told her about what Linda said. She seemed quite interested in my reaction to her comment about my future and wrote down a few sentences in her leather notebook,

“I think I understand the root of the problem, Molly. You see, there is still too much Julia in you. You still try to think like an educated English girl with a Ph.D. in history. Naturally, this clashes with your new life as a Filipina maid. Linda wants a better life for herself and this is fine, but this is not what you wanted otherwise you wouldn’t have ended where you are now, standing in front of me in your maid’s uniform. And speaking of uniform you should never forget that the moment you are back in the house you put your apron on before you do anything else be it putting away shopping or going to the toilet or appearing in front of anybody in this house. Is that clear, girl?"

"Sorry, Ma'am, I porgot, Ma'am," I said blushing and slightly curtseying at the same time. I started to turn to go and fetch my apron, but Signora stopped me with her hand.

"Stay for now, let me finish what I have to tell you," she said and continued in her casual manner. "You are now living the life that millions of women in this part of the world live. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of or be sorry about. Going back to your life may seem like a choice, but in reality it is not. The sooner you realize that the better.”

She closed her notebook, hinting that our conversation was over. I did a small curtsy again and was about to go to my tiny room, when she motioned once more for me to stay.

“Oh, and one last thing, Molly. About that little face problem we discussed yesterday. We should fix that quickly before the children are back from their summer camp back in Italy. I’ve made an arrangement for you to meet Dr. Cheng, he’s one of the best plastic surgeons in Singapore and a family friend. I told him about your situation and he said he may be able to help. You are meeting him tomorrow after your mandatory medical check. He doesn’t need to know about Julia. All I told him is that you are a half-Filipina with strong European features who wants to appear more Asian to better blend in and become more accepted by other Filipinos, who now make fun of you because of your strange appearance.”

I was listening to her in disbelief, but didn’t dare protest. Once again important decisions - this time complicating my possible return to life as Julia - were made without consulting with me. Signora opened her book again, indicating that our conversation was over, and I finally was able to retire to my room. The Legal Wife was on soon on The Filipino Channel and I wanted to know what Monica will do after she finally discovered that Adrian was having an affair.

I just managed to turn my small TV on when the sound of an electric bell above my head startled me. It must have been Signora calling me back I thought and this time I remembered to tie my apron on before I rushed to the terrace to face my new employer.

"Ah, Molly, here you are," she said looking up from her book. "I am glad to see you properly dressed with you apron on this time. Could you please bring me a cup of iced tea? There is a jug in the fridge. And then you might start doing a bit of work in this house even if you are not a fully accredited FDW yet. Would you be a dear and give a thorough cleaning to the kitchen? There are dishes to be done and the countertops need a good scrubbing and of course you can mop the floor. I already explained to you that I expect floors to be immaculate in this house even if you have to go down on your hands and knees to do a proper job."

Here goes my soapy I thought as I curtseyed once more saying in my thick accent , "Yes, Ma'am, I will be te one who get represhment for you and ten attend to kitchen, Ma'am." 

The following morning Mr. Singh took me to a hospital in a different part of town for my mandatory health check. I didn’t know what to expect or how long it would take. Signora didn’t feel the need to explain it to me other than to say that is was absolutely required if I wanted to work as an FDW in Singapore and that I needed to do it every six months or face deportation. Nothing prepared me for the traumatic experience that it turned out to be.

Reception area was crowded with women - by the look of things virtually all of them were migrant workers who came for their medical check just like me. I dutifully waited in line and handed my documents to a tired-looking Chinese receptionist, who paid me very little attention, put some stamp on my papers, gave me a list of doctors I was supposed to attend, and told me to proceed to room 30 on the 12th floor.

I looked at the list - apparently I was to be tested for tuberculosis, HIV, syphilis and malaria. I also had to see a gynecologist and a therapist, who would then declare me fit for work. As a third-world resident I was now seen as a potential threat to public health, a carrier of tropical diseases and God knows what. The fact that I accepted such treatment as something natural was another testament to my new station in life.

The two Singaporean women doctors that examined me in room 30 were very condescending and patronizing. They were speaking of me in their Chinese-accented English as if I wasn’t able to understand them, making occasional insensitive comments that made it clear they didn’t see me as worthy of being polite to.

“This one is very badly nourished”, said the more senior one, “Look at her blood test results, she has an iron deficiency.”

 She turned to me and spoke in a loud and slow voice as if she was addressing a retarded child.

“Where you come from, girl?”

“Manila, Ma’am,” I answered in my accented English.

“Have you worked before in Manila?” she asked again,

“Yes, Ma’am, I was te one who work as maid por Pilipino pamily, Ma’am.”

‘Well, Mo-lee-goon-dah... What kind of a name is that?” she added rather rudely, looking at my name in her papers,  “It seems that your employer wasn’t feeding you properly, you were not eating enough protein, the iron in your bloodstream is quite low.”

“It’s Molly, Ma’am,” I managed to say feeling quite surprised. I knew that I had lost weight when in Manila but I certainly wasn’t expecting an undernourishment deficiency. I really felt this moment that I was coming to Singapore as an underprivileged person from a third world country. The doctor’s uncourteous treatment of me only reinforced that feeling. I remembered how, when I was working on my Ph.D., I read about health checks for slaves before they were auctioned off - a highly humiliating procedure that both men and women had to go through. I was now exposed to the sanitized 21st century version of that, minus the auction block.

“Don’t worry though, Molly,” the same doctor added, “I’ll prescribe some pills so you can get your strength back. You are a domestic manual worker and you need all your strength to be able to be of use to your new employers.”

“Thank you, Ma’am,” I answered truly relieved because it was true, during the past few weeks I was feeling more tired than usually and I always was attributing it to the extra load of work I had to do in my job.

I was then sent to the gynecologist, a bolding Chinese man in his late 40s or early 50s, who ordered me to go to a small examination room, where I was waiting alone for close to 20 minutes as he was busy chatting on the phone. I spent the time wondering if the tests I was taking could somehow expose me as a European in disguise. Was there anything else, anything I wasn't aware of  that would be a dead giveaway? The thought made me even more nervous than I already was. I managed to calm down just a bit by convincing myself that this was a rather superficial procedure that didn’t require any in-depth look at my DNA or anything like that. Finally the gynecologist entered the room and began asking me questions. A young Chinese nurse  was taking down my responses, while periodically giving me condescending looks.

“Do you have children?”

“No, Sir.”

“Are you married?”

“No, Sir.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No, Sir.”

“Well, if you do find one make sure to use protection, girl,’’ he said in a rather direct manner. “Do you know what protection is? If you get pregnant you’d be out of Singapore in no time at all!”

He added something in Chinese and the nurse looked at me and snickered. I didn’t understand a word he said and smiled nervously. I was then ordered to get on the gynecologist chair. I haven’t been in one since high school and I’ve completely forgot how uncomfortable it was. The fact that the doctor and his assistant didn’t feel the need to make me feel welcome and went out of their way to show that I was nothing but a nuisance for them only added to the feeling of unease and vulnerability.

The doctor’s phone rang again and he left me there with my legs spread wide open and went to the other room to take the call. The nurse was paying me zero attention, she took out her own phone from the pocket and began typing a text message to someone. I could hear the doctor talking to someone rather loudly - periodic laughter suggested it wasn’t an urgent call he had to take.

“Sorry, Ma’am, can I get prom te chair, please?” I asked the nurse in my heavy accent. She was silent for a minute or so - too busy typing something on her phone - and then told me in a very annoyed voice to wait for the doctor’s return.

For them I was nothing but yet another brown-skinned migrant worker from a third-world country, whose concerns and feelings were irrelevant. There were probably seeing dozens of girls like me every week. I couldn’t help but think that if instead of me it was a Western woman they would have been all smiles and consideration. If they only dared to show one tenth the attitude to someone like the Signora both of them would have been fired within minutes. But someone like Molly Apuya should feel privileged to be even admitted to a country like Singapore. So I swallowed my Julia’s pride and just set there in a gynecologist chair, waiting for the doctor to finish his all-important call.


  1. Another interesting turn of events, It's good to see that Molly is having second thoughts, the really interesting part will be how she deals with it and the cosmetic surgery.

  2. Beautiful saga. Please can you make the chapters a bit longer? I can't wait to see what comes next. I believe Molly/Julia will have a lot of work to do for her new Mistress and her Mistress friends. And one more thing, please. I believe as few others that Molly should wear as well all the time when in service a nice maid cap and may be a mob cap for heavy works. Thank you Monica and Camille for sharing with us this beautiful story.

  3. Thanks Monica and Camille. A great chapter. Waiting for continuatiion .

  4. "Going back to your life may seem like a choice, but in reality it is not. The sooner you realize that the better..."

  5. This is a compelling story!!! Thank YOU! IT should be a book.

  6. Personally she seems to have too many doubts for this to actually be something she wants to happen. I think she misread her own desires and is now just too embarrassed to extricate herself from the situation she finds herself in. Hopefully before the end she will come to her senses and turn the tables on all these people who so gleefully took advantage of her boredom and insecurity.

  7. Thank you Monica and Camille. I love the degradation of Apuya. Please have her sweating in the Singaporean heat. I agree with a previous poster that she should be wearing a maid and look forward to reading the next episode.

  8. Thank you for this story. It is so true. I was a maid in Hong Kong and the medical exam and the attitude shown by the staff is very accurate. Thankfully, my English has improved since then. xo A

  9. Oh no, dear Camille and Monica. No new chapter this week end? Encouraging and respecting your writing. p.

  10. Second week without update :-(

  11. Second week without update :-(

    1. Appreciating with criticizing the tempo. Thanks for this blog!

  12. Love it. Interesdting way it is turning out.

  13. Great story! I would love to see Molly being made to wear cheap sandals (maybe like the unflattering slide ons that cleaning women sometimes wear).

  14. Awaiting the next chapter, hopefully with Molly wearing a maid's cap and being utterly humiliated.

  15. Thanks for this chapter, but please give the next instalment soon. xo

  16. This story is wonderful. Have only just discovered it. Thx. Think that Molly should wear a maids cap though.