Thursday, April 30, 2009

Maid in the Philippines

I tend to be very strict with our housekeepers. I'm not sure if it's my zodiac sign, birth animal, or big influence from my mother-in-law. I don't allow them out of the house, except when taking out the trash. I better not catch them using their cellphones during work hours. They have to be very neat (because they are working for the OCD queen with a baby in the house). I have installed 2 monitoring cameras on the ground floor and 1 wireless baby monitor in Baby's room. I use the 42" Sony Bravia to keep an eye on them instead of watching my favorite TV series.

After reading the first paragraph, don't be misled. We also treat our helpers almost like royalty. We eat the same food. But they also have their own stock of canned goods and frozen foods for the weekends that we dine out, plus loaves of bread (with different selection of jams!) for merienda everyday. And whenever we drive-thru McDonald's they would also have their own cheeseburgers. (Husband tends to collect all happy meal toys for Baby in one go.) I have given them 3 old cellphones. They can watch TV on the LCD screen mounted on the kitchen wall after their chores are done. They go to Enchanted Kingdom once a year, free of charge. They also go shopping at Divisoria once a year, with an American SUV and a driver. We pass to them used clothes and other giveaway stuff to send to their families. We shoulder the airfare when they go home for vacation (as long as they've stayed for at least 1 year) and that vacation is also with pay. I am also very generous when it comes to salary increase. The yaya alone has had 3 raises, and my Baby hasn't even turned 10 months old. We're talking of the Ninoy Aquino bill here.

I have been very pleased with the quality of their work. (I think it helps that I stay at home most of the time.) They are very courteous, disciplined, and well, honest. I haven't encountered any big helper-related problem in the 2+ years that I've been running this house. Except last week. A little background:

Helper1 = my Baby's full-time nanny
Helper2 = in charge of our food plus other baby needs like sterilizing; assists Helper1 whenever needed
Helper3 = in charge of cleaning the house, washing the clothes, taking care of pets; came 3+ months after Helpers 1 & 2; also the underdog, despite being Helper1's first cousin

Helpers 1&2 are very close. I remember the time I got sick, Baby had to sleep in her own room for 1 week. Of course I asked Helper1 to sleep with Baby. And after the 2nd night, Helper2 asked if she could also sleep in the baby's room, because she missed Helper1.

Let me start the story by saying that "three is a crowd" indeed. I saw a cellphone in Baby's organizer. I asked Helper1 whose it was. Helper1 was too intimidated to admit it was hers, because I had a policy "no cellphone during work hours". So she looked at Helper2 for help. Helper2 lied straight to my face and said it was Helper3's. I was a little surprised, how could Helper3's cellphone land in Baby's organizer, but I did not mind that little thing because I trusted them.

So I gave another used cellphone to Helper1, thinking that she owns the oldest model among the 3. I'm not sure if Helper3 got a little green-eyed, or if she just got tired of being the underdog, or if she couldn't stand fooling me with Helper2's lie, but the next morning, she came to me, crying while spilling the beans. That it was really Helper1's cellphone, not hers.

I know it's a little too petty and shallow. But a lie is a lie. And personally, I think liars, cheaters, and robbers are the same kind of people. Plus doing it straight to my face is a little too daring. In my anger, I asked Helper2 to pack her belongings that instant. I sent her to my mom-in-law's house as an "exile" while waiting for her ticket to go back home. Of course Helpers 1 & 3 did not go unpunished. I "confiscated" their cellphones for 1 week. And informed them that the next time something like this happens, it's going to be a 1-month torture.

Was I too harsh? You be the judge. But there are also some consequences I'm suffering now. With Helper2 gone and with Helper4 as a replacement, everything is not back to normal. Helper4 is "new"; we have to start from scratch; she's got a lot of "getting used to" to do. Hopefully, we'll get there. By "we" I mean me plus all of them, because I need them to translate some of the words to Bisaya so Helper4 would get what I mean.