Ang Babaeng Pinagpala (The Blessed Woman)

ANG BABAENG PINAGPALA

(The Blessed Woman)

A Post Mother’s Day Recollection in Honor of Working Women Outside their Home Country

IN a café and I was about to sip my tea but almost spilt it…

Woman 1: You’re back! How are you? You look great like you were never pregnant at all! How’s the baby?

Woman 2: I’m okay, baby’s with my parents back home, wait, I’ll be back, I’ll just run to the loo.

She rushes to the toilet.

Woman 1: Can you imagine that girl? I don’t understand how she and her husband decided for her to get pregnant just to leave the child with her parents! So unfair to the child and so selfish of her! I can’t even afford to think of leaving my child overnight with someone else, let alone for months? Years! I don’t know how she does it! So cruel!

This is the point where I almost spilt my tea, tried to control my emotions and my best not to interfere. Failed all three… Good thing cause the tea could have burnt me.

-*-*-

Becka met her husband in Sharjah, UAE. They both worked for the same hotel. They got married in Philippines in the presence of family and friends then went back to work. Becka got pregnant while in the UAE. She gave birth in Philippines and after her maternity leave, kissed her son, packed her bags and boarded the plane off to Sharjah. For second child, same thing happened.

Her breasts were still heavy with milk but she had to leave her children with her mother in Bulacan, Philippines. Thanks to Facebook she says because she has constant contact with her mother, she could always go back to the pictures and gaze at them for hours until it’s time to go back to work again.

I asked her what the hardest part of being away from one’s child is; she replied, “Many! Every part is difficult. From the time your breasts swell and the milk trickles, you know somewhere across the globe, your child is hungry and needs you but you can’t be there; the thought that you are missing ALL their firsts, I have to contend myself with pictures and sometimes videos.”

“At most, I tire myself to the point of exhaustion so that when I go back to the accommodation, I fall asleep quickly, otherwise, I toss and turn ‘til it’s time to get up, imagining how my children would be at that exact moment, are they sleeping, playing, giggling? I wonder what they can do now, what words they can say, what they really like… I miss the feel of their tiny fingers curled in mine. The smell of their hair, their breath… Even the part when you’re going on vacation to see your children is painful.”

“You know it’s only for a while, you know that there is that date looming when you have to leave them again. So you just try to enjoy the little time as much as you can because mommy and daddy both have to work for their future. What we earn here is difficult to find back home.”

Todate: Becka is back home with her children in Bulacan after the death of her husband. Both children are in college and Becka earns from her Mango and Tiger Prawn Farms.

-*-*-

Nita Palsa, a.k.a. Ate Nitz to many was hired to work in Dubai as my godson’s nanny, she stayed with him for a long time until the boy’s grandma came and she was relieved of her duties (sadly for my godson); Ate Nitz was immediately employed by a French couple who moved around with us and saw how caring and how good Ate Nitz was with children. She was like, all our children’s carer. It didn’t matter that she was only being paid by one child’s parents; any child in her vicinity would instantly be Ate Nitz’s ward and she would care for the child/children whether you ask her for the favour or not.

Unbeknownst to many, Ate Nitz is a single mother and despite her jovial and sunny nature, carries with her the burden of guilt and longing. She left her 7 year old daughter with her married sister who did not have a child, with an agreement that she would fully support the child.

In fairness to her sister and her husband, the girl was raised with much love as if she was their own. Ate Nitz was very vocal in her gratitude; she would tell us repeatedly how fortunate she and her daughter were.

But the fact was, in the nights and she was alone in her bedroom, Ate Nitz would cry holding her daughter’s pictures, she cried until she could no more and then gives in to restless sleep.

The next day, she would awaken to work herself so much not wanting any moment to let the feeling of missing her daughter seep in. She worked hard because she needed every penny to support her child.

This went on for Ate Nitz for years. When her sister needs a big amount of money for Ate Nitz’s daughter, say, for schooling, she would send it no matter how. (Ate Nitz’s daughter was enrolled in a good school, she made sure to give her daughter everything possible if the girl wanted it, even if it meant she had to work harder to afford it).

Though, her contract stated that she could go home every 2 years, sometimes, despite how much she missed her daughter, she would stay back in Dubai. Requesting cash for her air ticket and vacation leave just so she could send the money as requested by her sister for her daughter. She let go of the much needed rest and holiday, she let go of the chance holding her daughter in her arms again.

Then one time, her sister phoned asking her to come home immediately. Ate Nitz asked for an emergency leave and due to her good relationship with her bosses and reliable performance as nanny, a temporary replacement was quickly sought and her wish granted. By then, her daughter a full grown teenage girl was full of questions, confusion, and bitterness.

Ate Nitz came back to Dubai a week later, a broken mother. Her daughter refused to go back to school it seems. The girl would go back to school ONLY and ONLY IF Ate Nitz signs documents giving her sister and her husband full custody of her daughter and that she would give her daughter up completely including being called “Mama” by the girl who refused to do so.

As per the couple, it was what the girl wanted. The girl even declined to speak to her own mother. The girl scorned at her mother for being a “DH” (domestic helper). She signed the papers under these conditions but she did not agree to give up the responsibility of being her mother so she continued to pay for the girl’s school, her food and other expenses. The girl has since graduated university level with the sweat and tears of Ate Nitz. I asked her why she continued supporting her daughter if all she received was the girl’s refusal and rejection.

She replied, “To work and support her is what’s left of me as her mother; she may not call me her mother and refuse me the love and recognition but they cannot take away from me my duties and obligations as one. She may not be my daughter anymore for them, but I will remain her mother ‘til the day I die.”

-*-*-

Jenelyn, Jessy and Rose are Sales Associates of my favourite boutiques in Fujairah. All three have little babies they call their own. Their work entails that they stand for lengthy periods 6 days a week, sometimes, even 2 weeks without off. They face all sorts of customers and situations that it is a wonder whether the pay is enough for them to be parted from their little ones.

Jenelyn’s 2 little children are with her mother in Philippines.

Jessy gave birth a few weeks ago; the baby is with her in their apartment in Fujairah. When asked whether the baby will be kept here or will be taken to her family in Philippines, she doesn’t know yet but they are trying to keep the baby in UAE. That is depending whether her husband will qualify to sponsor the child under his visa as there are stringent immigration rules regarding family sponsorships.

Rose has gone to Philippines on 100 days Maternity Leave, after which she will be back in UAE to resume work leaving her little baby behind under the care of her husband’s mother.

All three are good, honest and hard-working women, supporting their husbands in bringing up the family they have decided to have.

-*-*-

To the lady in the café who said she doesn’t know how the woman who went to the washroom does it, meaning, leaving her baby behind in her home country in the care of another person to work in a foreign country.

Correct, you do not know, I do not know; because we are not in their place. I ask the same question. How do these women leave their children or even think of being parted from their little ones? But I ask not in mockery. I ask amazed, wondering where they get the strength. Every time I meet a woman, a mother, who has left a young one in the care of parents or other family members to earn a living enough to support the child: there’s ALWAYS a pinch in my heart; an indescribable pain that suddenly transcends from that woman’s soul to mine. Because I too am a mother, I don’t for once believe that there is ANY MOTHER out there who would actually want to be separated from their offspring at any given time for any reason. I admire these women for the simple reason that I know they’re doing something I am certain I will never be capable of. Something I’m sure I will never be able to learn how to face bravely as they do. I respect them for the strength they have to muster every time they take that sigh of longing for the little chirps and goo goo’s… I will always accept their reasons (even if to some, they may seem as excuses) for leaving their children to take a job somewhere else… It is not easy being a mom, nor, being a far-away mom at that.

Woman 2: Excuse me, but we are not talking to you! (Pointing towards me), after I went, “Whoa whoa, whoa!”

“No, you are not, but I am talking to you! Do you live in her heart (gesturing towards the washroom where “Far-away Mother” is), do you actually know what she thinks and feels? You don’t, right? Because if you do, you will not say the things you just said, right now…”

“Blessed are you among women, blessed you be more to the one who looks to the moon for her child’s innocent gaze.”

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