Whatever you want to call her, a maid is simply a female domestic servant. In the Philippines, I’ve heard the word katulong (emphasis on the second syllable) being used. I’m sure there are more words in Tagalog and other Filipino languages and dialects that mean the same thing. Some maids are hired and used in the traditional way, with uniforms and all that. Others are given much more leeway and treated as part of the family. Some of them are part of the family.
There’s an expression I like to use in situations like this: Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should.
The Philippines is considered a “third world” country and I don’t even know what that means. I know that modern societies, like those in the United States and England, are considered “first world”. I’ve never heard the term “second world” being used. Let’s just say the Philippines is an impoverished country and leave it at that.
Although the standard of living is higher in more affluent societies, most people living in them cannot afford to hire servants of any kind. In most cases, a higher standard of living equals a higher cost of living. A foreigner living in the Philippines may hire a maid simply because that foreigner can now afford to do so. The maid’s wages are extremely low compared to where that foreigner comes from.
Just because you can now afford a maid doesn’t mean you should hire one. There may be unintended consequences.
At one time, years ago, Josie (my wife) thought of hiring a maid who wasn’t family. After hearing about what happens to families that do that, she quickly put away that thought. One foreigner nearby (possibly an American) discarded his wife in favor of his maid. Another foreigner had a maid who stole from him until she got caught in the act. We don’t need headaches like those.
I’m helping to support a brother-in-law’s family, but not the way some people would think. That particular brother-in-law doesn’t have a job and he’s too old to get a job. He has a wife and three children. One child is grown, another is almost grown and one is still a young child. It seems like his wife, Cora, does everything.
In the Tagalog language, the wife of a brother-in-law or the husband of a sister-in-law is called a bilas. Cora is one of four relatives like that. Unmarried partners don’t count.
How am I helping them with support? Well, Cora tries to do everything a maid would do and in return I give her money every month. It’s a little more than a maid would make if I hired one but then again, she’s family. The amount isn’t important. In American slang, it’s “chicken feed”.
Cora can come and go as she pleases. She does our laundry and she cleans. She doesn’t cook for us. Well, except that she sometimes makes us coffee. Her family lives in our compound and the only thing she pays for is electricity, cable TV and food. What I give her is more than enough (if they run out of rice, every other family in this compound will share rice with them).
Cora jokingly calls herself my katulong but she’s not. She’s way more than that.
By: RT Cunningham
February 2, 2015
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