The Goddess Speaks
Family prized housekeeper
For my mother, moving from Saipan to Guam was life-changing. She could only pack what she truly needed, which meant selling all the furniture and unnecessary "junks" that my family had acquired over 10 years.
In addition to no-longer-trendy blouses, a decade-old bedroom set and cherished Japanese vases, she was forced to give up one true treasure: her 52-year-old live-in housekeeper, Carmen Bastida.
"It was terrible. I felt like I lost a part of me because she has been part of our everyday lives for such a long time," she said.
Before she moved to Saipan to work for us, Carmen was a part-time dressmaker in the Philippines. She had hoped to make more money for her family in Saipan.
Carmen was initially hired as a nanny, and helped take care of my baby brother while my mother resumed her career as an administrative officer for a hospital. She also took the initiative to wipe down my parents' cars, make coffee and the beds every morning, and accompany my mother to family gatherings.
After only a few months, Carmen became my mother's best friend. They had heart-to-heart talks about Carmen's past and her family's poverty in the Philippines.
My mother's family in Honolulu often teases her about her "luxurious" lifestyle in Saipan. My grandmother and aunts could not grasp the idea of hiring someone to do domestic chores. Here, middle-class women do things for themselves and are domestically independent.
But the work force and lifestyle are different in Saipan, where having a housekeeper is the middle-class standard. Most of my Chamorro aunts hire housekeepers from the Philippines and think nothing of it, believing they are offering these women lives superior to what they'd have in urban Manila.
My mother showed her appreciation for Carmen by hiring her husband and reuniting them in Saipan. But when my father got a job in Guam, my mother had to face the reality that Carmen could not come along without a visa.
Leaving Saipan itself was not difficult, my mother said, but "it was hard and emotional for me to say goodbye to Carmen." The women hugged and wept, although Carmen assured us that she had found a new employer.
My mother works part time now and has become accustomed to doing her own housework, even insisting that my father help out. She laughs along when my aunts tease her about "doing real work in the real world."
She's found the upside of dusting, mopping and vacuuming: "I feel independent now because I have control over my household. When I had Carmen, I always had to ask her where something was, and she would get it for me. But now, I have more control and privacy."
is a journalism student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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