by Carmelita C. Ballesteros
Country Mouse: Hello, cousin! How are you? How’s life in Singapore?
OFW Mouse: Hello, cousin! I’m fine. I’m going home soon.
Country Mouse: Would you lend me the money I need for the placement fee?
OFW Mouse: No, I can’t. I haven’t saved that much.
Country Mouse: Then why are you coming home?
OFW Mouse: Because I don’t want to be killed and raped like Fatima Maulana.
Country Mouse: Who is she?
OFW Mouse: Don’t you listen to the news? She was a domestic helper in Kuwait. She was from Carmen, Cotabato.
Country Mouse: Silence…
OFW Mouse: Hello, cousin. Are you still there?
Country Mouse: Yes… I don’t know what to do.
OFW Mouse: Stay where you are. Stay with your husband and children.
Country Mouse: But my husband is jobless.
OFW Mouse: My husband was jobless, too.
Country Mouse: Does he have a job now?
OFW Mouse: Yes, he’s driving a taxi.
Country Mouse: How much does he earn?
OFW Mouse: Five hundred pesos a day, net. That’s three thousand a week, twelve thousand a month.
Country Mouse: But my husband doesn’t know how to drive.
OFW Mouse: Your husband can cook very well. He makes the best kilawing dilis (fresh anchovies marinated in calamansi and other spices) and the best crispy pata (deep-fried pork leg).
Country Mouse: But I’ve signed a promissory note at the recruitment office that I will pay the placement fee next week.
OFW Mouse: It’s just a promissory note. Just tell them that you have changed your mind.
Country Mouse: But I really want to go…
OFW Mouse: Why?
Country Mouse: The recruitment officer said I’ll be able to save enough to build my dream house, to buy a car, and to send my children to college.
OFW Mouse: That’s a lie. How much is your placement fee?
Country Mouse: Eighty thousand pesos.
OFW Mouse: How much monthly salary will you get?
Country Mouse: Three hundred fifty Singapore dollars.
OFW Mouse: When will you start getting it?
Country Mouse: After eight months.
OFW Mouse: So you’ll be able to start paying back the 80K you’re borrowing from me only after eight months!
Country Mouse: So will you lend me 80K for my placement fee?
OFW Mouse: No, I can’t. Don’t you understand?
Country Mouse: Please, cousin…
OFW Mouse: Listen to me, cousin. I spent the first 16 months of my 2-year contract here in Singapore with hardly any money to even buy my own soap. All of my salary went to the recruitment agency, and then to Mrs. Mouse Loanshark in the metro mouse village.
Country Mouse: But my husband’s cousin is doing very well in Saudi. You remember Mr. Architect Mouse, don’t you?
OFW Mouse: Of course, I do. Listen, cousin. An architect is different from a domestic helper. Architects, engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, etc. are different from domestic helpers.
Country Mouse: But I didn’t finish college.
OFW Mouse: I did, cousin.
Country Mouse: You did? Why did you become a domestic helper?
OFW Mouse: Because I was stupid. Because I believed the sales talk of the recruitment people. Because I was blinded by my dream. Because my husband was jobless.
Country Mouse: It’s okay for you to come home because your husband has a job now. My husband works as a carpenter only once in a while. It’s not enough.
OFW Mouse: He makes the best kilawing dilis and the best crispy pata (deep-fried pork leg). He can be a cook.
Country Mouse: He applied in a newly-opened fastfood restaurant in the metro mouse village. But he failed the interview. He couldn’t speak English.
OFW Mouse: Open your own eatery. Take orders from other mouse villages. Offer home delivery service.
Country Mouse: But we have no capital.
OFW Mouse: So you’d rather be a domestic helper, an OFW mouse.
Country Mouse: Yes… I’d like to go… I’d like to…
OFW Mouse: How old are your children?
Country Mouse: The girl is four; the boy is two.
OFW Mouse: You know, my baby was only 10 months old when I left. I cried every night for two months. Now, she’s almost three. And I can never bring back the two years we’ve lost.
Country Mouse: But if I stay, my children will never be able to go to college.
OFW Mouse: I don’t know if Fatima Maulana had children. If she had, her children didn’t just lose a chance to go to school. They’ve lost their mother forever.
Country Mouse: But Fatima Maulana’s fate is different. Maybe it’s her destiny.
OFW Mouse: Destiny? We have a choice. You have a choice. Being a domestic helper is not the only choice. If you stay with your husband and children, you’d be there with them to laugh and cry together. If you stay where you are, you will have a life. Being a domestic helper is like being a slave!
Country Mouse: Silence…
OFW Mouse: Cousin… I don’t want to end up like Fatima Maulama. I want to be with my little girl. I want to raise her. I want to listen to her sing. I want to watch her dance. I want to comb her hair. I want her to sit on my lap. I want to hug her tight. I want to kiss her. I want to take care of her when she’s sick.
Country Mouse: But I want to be an OFW mouse for my children’s sake.
OFW Mouse: For your children’s sake, stay with them.
This was originally published in the Filam Weekly MegaScene, Illinois, USA on May 30, 2008. The publishers may be reached at email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 to Barangay OFW. All rights reserved.