Filipina Is Another Name for Maid by Luisa A. Igloria (Copy)
English and Literature
Submitted By Kuuhaku
THEY SAY FILIPINA IS ANOTHER NAME
FOR MAID by Luisa A. Igloria
Our Overseas Contract Workers are the new heroes of the Philippines --Fidel V. Ramos
In Hong Kong last summer my office mate and I took turns, smiling for pictures in front of "The Court of Final
Appeal," as a joke, or maybe in a kind of atonement--because two women boarding the same ferry we took that morning said, in the dialect they were sure we would recognize, Is it your day off too?
One of them had a quick, nervous way of smiling, as if ready to take it back if we had turned on them with indignation. The other was clearly ready to challenge, if the well- intentioned expression of solidarity were read otherwise. It was a day filled with rainclouds, a sky the color of aluminum, the dull sheen on the inside of an old rice cooker.
Yes, we smiled, it's our day, off too. Is your amo kind? ventured the younger of the two, shyly. Yes, we said, thinking of the air- conditioned offices and computers we had left behind for two weeks of r & r, as we leant back on the green railing. The boat punched forward, toward the red and yellow buildings, the rickshaws lined up in the shade.
Mine too, she said; now. But the first one… and her voice trailed like a scarf over the water, hesitating. We had to force our way in, said her friend, picking up the thread. I called the center, you know, the one near the church?
Migrante. She was this close to being raped.
Did you hear about the last one? The one who threw herself off the hospital roof?
Instead of an autopsy they scraped her insides clean, stuffed her with cotton. Now no one can prove anything.
If the body can keep secrets, what can it tell of them? The body as a scroll: what calligraphy, what message, did that woman's family unwrap when they received her body aerogrammed in a bronze casket? For so many dollars, you can get your name carved in ideographs on an inked stamp that is also called a chop.
The shy one asks me to braid her hair.
She calls me ate, older sister. She shows me the scar on her left leg from shimmying down a mango tree in their old backyard at home. She has just turned nineteen, and her smile can still be warm as a ripe mango.
I run my fingers through the ink of her hair, dividing into three sections. What was loose and rippling in the wind, she has let me gather in my hand. I braid, picking up the faint scent of coconut oil; yeasty, warm, like good bread, rising. She could be my daughter, my niece, my cousin, my best friend.
Our new friends take us to the Central Station where they will share a picnic meal with others: garlic pork and rice, sour broth, rice cakes, meat stewed in blood gravy. They will talk, exchange numbers, letters, news of better openings, the meanings of insults in a foreign language; pictures of grade school children proudly stepping up to receive medals on closing day at school. Their hands the size of their sleeping quarters. Even on their day off, the army ponders the different ways to share strength in the many lands of the enemy, abroad where they are known by only one