“Being a domestic helper is like gambling, you should know the trickto win”- Bebe PasmanIn 2014,Bebe Pasman kissed her only son goodbye, wiped away his tears while forcefullyremoving his entwined arms from her hips. She promised her son that she wouldcome home soon, but the reality is it will take her seven years to fulfill her promiseto her son. TheGeneral Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO) defined ‘domesticwork’ in the Domestic Workers Convention, 2011 (No. 189) as work performed inor for a household or households; and the term ‘domestic worker’ as any personengaged in domestic work within an employment relationship.Accordingto ILO there are now 53 million domestic workers worldwide, most of them are migrantworkers raveling from poor countries to richer ones to work in privatehouseholds. The Philippines is one of the world’s top four sending countries ofmigrant domestic workers.
With an average of 86,000 Filipinos, most of them arewomen, and nearly all of them were from poor or economically disadvantagedbackgrounds. In addition, 25% of the population in the country were under thepoverty line and many families struggle to keep their children in school, thelure of a job abroad has pulled more than 10 million Filipinas out of theirhomes and scattered them across the world, many in Gulf nations. Officialremittances sent back to the Philippines by overseas workers is worth $26 billion, or nearly 15% of the country’s GDP.Based onthe administrative data, more than new 96,500 household service workers fromthe Philippines went to work overseas during 2010 alone. The domestic workersfrom the Philippines had increased, from approximately 63,000 in 1995, andwomen comprise the overwhelming majority of Filipino migrant domestic workers.Havingthese data said, most of the domestic workers from the country were women. Whatare the reasons why domestic work remains one of the most heavily feminizedsectors in the country? Is it because of the historical, cultural, scientificand political/social issues in the Philippines? What our history says aboutPhilippines Feminizing Domestic Work?Aglance during the pre-colonial Philippines reveals that both men and women playimportant roles in society and enjoy the same rights. Women, just like men, cantake leadership roles such as priestess, healers, and warriors.
It was onlywhen the Spaniards arrived that the status of Filipino women have started to beinferior to Filipino men. Duringthe 16th century, Spanish friars brought with them their own idea ofwhat a Filipina woman is and where she is supposed to be placed in society. Sincethen, women have been responsible to take care of the domestic tasks, go tochurch, bear and educate children. Hereafter, women lose their chance toeducation and political freedom. They were to be obedient to the father andelder brothers when young (single), to the husband when married, and to theirsons when widowed (Leyson, 2001). This norm set by the Spaniards hadcontributed to the confinement of women to provide men and even the societypersonal services like domestic work.WhenSpain lost the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Philippines ceded to the UnitedStates of America. The coming of new colonizers had given the women taste ofequality.
U.S.A. imported a new public education system which gives opportunityto every child regardless of gender. By this time, women were accustomed toeducation and opportunities to learn the essentials of business. However, thekind of education the Filipino women received during the American colonialperiod primarily prepared them to respond to the demands of the colonialbureaucracy and economy (Sobritchea, 1990). Still, Filipino women are limitedto work on the things that would benefit men.
Even the Americans opened the neweducation system for women, noticing that there is a low attendance of femalesin agricultural schools, opted them that women should attend courses inagriculture, not for them to be farmers really but to be good wives of farmers.Thisinferior treatment among women had become nastier when the Japanese took overthe country. Stories of rape are widely spread. Some were killed after theywere raped, raped by some numbers of Japanese soldiers. Women purposely dirtythemselves so that the Japanese will not notice them and there were also womenwho accepted the exploitation of the enemies, just to protect themselves. Womenhad also contributed to the battle with the Japanese, being members of HukbongBayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP) who are composed of Filipino workers andfarmers.
Women, during this time, were obviously abused.Isit part of our Culture? Same as theother culture, gender roles are extrusive in the Philippines. Nowadays, we stereotypedwomen as the ones who stay at home and do household tasks, while the men arethe ones who make money to provide his family’s needs. Gender differences inthe Philippine culture can be seen in dating, workforce, and families. One of the most preserved cultures of the Philippines isthe “panliligaw” or courting of a man to woman. The traditional panliligaw or ligawan are the Tagalog terms for courtship. Manliligaw is the one who courts a dalaga (a Filipina maiden) and the nililigawan is the one who is being courted.
The traditional panliligaw is being done with the manliligaw doing jobs for the woman heis courting. This includes personal services that are originally done by womenas their task in the household. In reality, women are the ones in charge of thedomestic works while men only do this in way of helping the women they pursue. In addition, the common Filipino families are composed ofa father and a mother given a culture influenced roles. We call the fathers ofour homes as the “haligi ng tahanan”or the pillar of a home.
A pillar would mean that he is the supporter of ahome, he is the one who provides and the one who will give a stable living forthe family. Meanwhile, the mothers are called as the “ilaw ng tahanan”. Mothersare recognized as the “ilaw ng tahanan,” which is translated to the “light of the home.” ThisFilipino expression serves to describe mothers as the light who brings warmthand comfort to her family by caring for them in the best way possible,sometimes even putting aside her own happiness and well-being just to do so(Press, 2016). Lastly, even inworkforce and labor, gender roles may be witnessed. It has been said that thetraditional roles of Filipino women are to work in gardens, care for the house,care for the children because they are basically the pattern nof conduct forthe entire family. Women are always good in one category, which is doinghousehold chores.
Women are dominated in this work all over the world becauseit is part of their motherly instinct which is innate in women (Sourabh, 2008).Isit Politically/Socially influenced?The innate difference of men and women can also be demonstrated tosome extent by the actual division of labor in society. In practically all primitive societies’ aggressive jobs are doneby men, such as hunting, fishing, metal working, weapon making, boat building,etc. The women normally grind corn, gather fruits and seeds, manufacture andrepair clothes, and do the work at home (Andrade, 1967). This entails thatfemale should always be inside the house and working household chores whichmakes male who prefer to work heavy duties, outside the house.
Moreover, according to Taylor (2012), men are defined as beingmore confident, accomplished and well-rounded individuals. Because of thesefactors and characteristics of men, the dominance of men over women wasnormalized. Hierarchy among male and female is visible from then and now. Whenit comes to political and social capabilities, before, women do not have theright to education and the right to vote.
In addition, men are believed to be the superior and highlycapable of contributing to the development of the society, and women arecapable of nurturing the community starting from the family. This norm wasbrought even in the modern times. Though women now have the right to educationand to vote, the stigma of being a woman and women as ‘domestic helpers’ retains.CanScience explain why?Weconsider women as the most vital key when it comes to domestic work. Though menand women have the equal rights as human beings, both genders are still differentin terms of physical being.
Accordingto Wijngaards (n.d) men’sbody are much better adapted to hard physical work. In men, the central andmassive component of body is formed by the chest. Man has broad shoulders andstrong arms. Man has much stronger muscles than woman (as is borne out byinternational sports achievements) and projects an image of strength. On theother hand, women’s central and massive part of body is composed by the womb.
With this, woman is considered as what she is because of her womb. As stated by Montagu (1942) female is the symbol of life, birth,and fertility. Thephysical and psychological contrasts between men and women dispose them fordifferent social roles.
As mentioned by Welsh (2012), at 42,more women than men were psychologically distressed, the study found — at 21,distress levels were equal. They also found that womendid more housework, and women were morelikely to have jobs lower on the socioeconomic scale, and get paid less thanmen at the same job position. She also added that domestic work is a highlygendered activity as females tend to have a greater responsibility that thoseof males. Within the last two decades more andmore Filipina left their families and country to work in neighboring Asia, andin the oil-rich Middle East, and one of them is Bebe.
Bebe’s child had slowlygrown up. Played in the classroom, had fun with his classmates, while Bebe was assignedto clean the house and take care of an elderly and a baby for other familiesthousands kilometers away from her home.Bebe is one of these Filipino womendomestic workers who went abroad to get a greater profit to sustain the needsof her family in the Philippines. Deeper than this reason, Bebe is one of thosewomen who inherited the task of domestic work from the Philippines’ history,culture, political/social structure.