Is depicting Filipinos as domestic helpers racist?

Apparently, quite a few Filipinos seem to think so. Given the highly hypersensitive nature of the Filipinos, it was only natural that they would react with rage to the screenshot below found in certain Hong Kong textbooks.

hongwrong1

The blog site Hongwrong.com couldn’t help but make a parody of such depiction of “racial harmony” as is being propagated in Hong Kong, and came up with the picture below. (Do remember that it’s satirical, please.)

hongwrong2

Before we go around exploring the question I posed in the title, I think it better to answer other more important questions first.

What is wrong, if anything, with being a domestic helper (DH), per se?

By itself, nothing. Every job has its function in society. Domestic helpers are tasked with taking care of the house, cleaning up after their employers’ messes, taking care of the employers’ children, etc.

In other words, they do the “dirty work” so that their employers don’t have to. As a friend of mine said: Marangal din na trabaho naman ang DH ha. (A DH job is a noble one too.)

If we refer back to the controversial page in the textbook, maybe we should ask: Is there a stigma attached to being a katulong in Filipino society?

In Filipino society, an integral part of many households is the katulong, or household help. As much as Filipinos don’t like to admit it, many households would feel either helpless or inconvenienced without one.

Labor, however, is cheap and plentiful in the Philippines. Many Filipinos who are unable to finish their schooling and lack technical and vocational skills often have no choice to become household help in order to make ends meet.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that a prevailing attitude towards the katulong is to take him/her for granted. I would hazard a guess that many families pay their household help cheap wages to work under conditions that are difficult, and oftentimes border on oppressive.

We cannot neglect to mention that the employment situation in the Philippines is dire. The number of jobs available is limited; the number of job-seekers and unemployed is much larger. Not all the available workforce is qualified for the jobs that are in demand. Those who are employed find that their salaries are not enough to meet the ever rising cost of goods and living here.

As a result, many of them are left with no choice but to seek employment abroad. And a lot who do end up as domestic helpers.

But why do Filipinos consider being depicted as domestic helpers racist?

The only answer I can really think of: because Filipinos themselves regard household help with a certain “disdain”. Katulong ka lang. (You’re just household help.)

Socio-economic class is a big divide to cross here in the Philippines. Upward mobility is difficult, if not impossible here; if Filipinos are born poor, very few of them are able to advance out of it. It is part of Filipino culture to be resigned to one’s fate and to wait for “blessings from above” instead of the ethic of hard work being inculcated at an early age. Unfortunately, it is also part of Filipino culture to be deferential to people with higher social rank than one’s own; on the flipside, those with higher social rank act like spoiled, entitled brats. Such is the nature of the beast.

Based on the comments I was able to glean in various communities and forums, Filipinos seem to think that the textbook is generalizing ALL Filipinos as domestic helpers, which, to their credit, is certainly not true. Filipinos work in various other fields in companies here and abroad such as engineering, finance, oil and gas, service industry, and natural sciences, to name a few.

There is a reason, however, that that stereotype or perception of Filipinos as domestic helpers exists: because there are so many of them. It is but a natural human tendency to tend to make an all-encompassing statement if one’s observation is consistent. That does not make it right, but it is what it is.

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Now comes a hard question that Filipinos will most likely avoid answering:

If we don’t like the DH stereotype, what do we plan to do about it?

The DH stereotype is linked to the overseas Filipino worker phenomenon (OFW). Filipinos going abroad has become all but a way of life. Certain Filipinos have more children than they can feed with their meager salary. Certain Filipinos have become excessively consumerist that they need more money to feed their lavish lifestyles and their unrestrained “need” to have the latest trendy gadgets and other stuff. Certain Filipinos are just unable to find good work here because they either lack the skills needed or are just having a hard time keeping up with a ballooning workforce.

The DH stereotype is an unfortunate but inevitable result of the Filipinos’ lack of long-term planning, lack of vision, and lack of ability to habitually honor commitments. The visible outcome: a good number of Filipinos living in poverty and being forced to work in jobs that they might not want.

The DH stereotype is not racist. Filipinos made the bed that they currently sleep in; they had it in their power to control how they are perceived by the world. Instead of controlling things we had power over and developing them as best as we could, we harvested our “assets” early and shipped them of as raw labor. We could have chosen to develop more professionals in fields such as science, engineering, but we didn’t.

So now, we are stuck with a perception that is ultimately our fault.

To be fair, it has been observed in Hong Kong that despite being a multicultural city, there are still pockets of underlying discrimination against certain ethnic groups. Certain sectors, such as textbook publishers, are still known to propagate stereotypes of other ethnic groups. But discrimination will remain in any society, that is a given; all the more so in a country whose name literally means “the middle kingdom”.

We may not be able to control how other ethnic groups perceive us, but it doesn’t change the fact that we can ultimately change how we show ourselves to the world. As I said above, the DH/OFW phenomenon is a consequence of the choices we made as a people in the past, and now it’s coming to bite us back, and hard. We had a chance to make ourselves self-sufficient, but instead we rely on foreign powers to provide for us what we can’t provide for ourselves.

To borrow words from the GRP webmaster, whether we see ourselves as members of the global community, or merely its employees, is entirely up to us.

Image-conscious Philippines has reared its ugly, balat-sibuyas head yet again. And, predictably, falls flat on its face.

[Photo of OFW’s courtesy: heart-2-heart-online.com]

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About FallenAngel

А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. - But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.

Post Author: FallenAngel

А вы, друзья, как ни садитесь, все в музыканты не годитесь. - But you, my friends, however you sit, not all as musicians fit.

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48 Comments on "Is depicting Filipinos as domestic helpers racist?"

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Gogs
Member

Life is supply and demand. (socialism likes to pretend that is not the case). Domestic helpers are needed and wanted here and abroad. Look who demands and look who supplies. That is reality. Aren’t the numbers a bit skewed? There is only one Manny Paquiao but a zillion DH’s. Which is the true export? Who really represents the typical pinoy abroad? Is it racist to accurately depict supply and demand??

chinkychick
Guest

Gog. If I call you a moron, will that make me a racist. Do morons constitute a race? I don’t know, someone please tell me because they don’t tend to evolve.

Fallen angel, a job does not constitute a cultural trait. It is the same context as saying, “Ey you’re black, you must be drug addict and pusher”, because the only black people I know are in the movies and of those I’ve watched they are always involved in drugs and crime.

Thom Hardy
Guest

Yes, it is racist.

domo
Guest

Nah you only said it’s racist because you’re a total asshurt. Don’t deny it you emo faggot.

THOM HARDY
Guest

@ Dumb-0, Ur the only one talkin bout butt-hurt, butt-head. Why not go tell Beavis to make lunch for you and let the grown-ups converse?

BTW, I never see ur comments deleted after you insult people, goin down on the admin again Butt-head?

THOM HARDY
Guest

@Dumb-o, or should I refer to you as Knob-Head?Love those facials, don’t you?

Loraine
Guest

I agree with Thom.

Loraine
Guest

Johnny Saint you have the most intelligent comment ever…

dar
Guest

racist yes it is… by doing good is a racist.. nothing is true now a days.. everything is wrong for the globalist and propagandist.. the bielderberg and illuminatist control the world.. be of who we are and do good, thats what we can only do for ourselves..

Gogs
Member

Does the future exclude capital letters?

MidwayHaven
Guest

@dar: Do you also believe that chemtrails in the sky can be eliminated by spraying vinegar on them?

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/12/29/1049373/-How-to-Defeat-Chemtrails-With-Vinegar

Dirch
Guest

To me it’s not racist, why? because that’s what they see. When 90% of filipinos you see are DH or maids, it would not make sense to put “Hi I am Filipino, I’m an astronaut in Hong Kong”. Who’s to blame? the government and culture maybe? There are plenty of poor countries in the world, why don’t they send maids?, because their governments don’t want to and their culture cannot accept it.

Lester
Guest

Yes because it’s like saying, he’s black therefore he must be a ball player.

THOM HARDY
Guest

OR a N!@@#%, it is not hard to concept grasp.

To look at a person and ‘PRE’-judge that person,as in this case, (to be a DH) is the very definition of ‘Pre’-judice and is racist.

I did not make this shit up as Gogs assumes above. it is plain as day, crystal clear. I did not say it was wrong either, to be a racist.I hate to say ‘it is what it is’ but it is.

Gogs
Member

Point being, FA spent several paragraphs making a point. For you to give one sentence with no explanation gives us free license to make up our own. Besides, DH’s or maids are the major export of Philippines to Hong Kong. Who else is representing us?

THOM HARDY
Guest

@ Gogs, IDK, have no clue on the immigration stat’s and really have only been to HK a few times(did not care for it.Sky high prices, insidious profiling etc,etc.) With all the natural resources and talent in the country it is a flat out disgrace that the Good Ladies(and some Men) even have to take the job to begin with.

As you obviously know:
The country needs a complete make-over, top to bottom. It is real obvious that the status quo is getting the country nowhere but the shit-house express.

Hyden Toro
Guest
It is not the stigma of being an OFW/Domestic Helper. Some culture see domestic Helpers, as the lowest class in the labor heirarchy. Much like the “Untouchables” in the Hindu caste system. My perception of the OFW/Domestic Helper issue is: we are like those Black Plantation Slaves in the American Southern States, in the pre-civil war era. Aquino is the main Slave Trader. Our economy is like the Hacienda Luisita Serf Plantation Economy… Most of the brains and talents of the country have migrated abroad. It would have been these people, who would have created jobs. Aquino has no vision… Read more »
Kurt
Guest
I hope I could express myself without offending sensibilities. There is nothing wrong in being a househelp. In fact, it is an honest and moral job that have sent many Filipino kids to schools. It has built many houses and bought many lands. However, the stigma as a househelp works to our disadvantage in the sense that while it is not embarrassing to be a maid, it does not help the international community see as as who we truly are: a nation of hardworking, honest, persevering people who just want to provide our families with a better life. Would it… Read more »
Kurt
Guest

*So while it is difficult and not embarrasing, it is not ‘preferred’ either.

Dirch
Guest

I keep reading ‘There is nothing wrong with being a househelp/maid/DH’, fact is, there is. No one should want to become one, Being a maid in countries like Singapore/Hong Kong is far from ‘Maid in Manhattan’. The fact that Philippines promotes our country as a maid factory is actually disturbing.

Shin
Guest

As much as you guys want to be represented by crisp, classy businessmen or nouveau-rich students or tourists, the rest of the world sees otherwise. It is what it is and it’s up to the same people complaining to look back and reflect on why other countries mostly see Filipinos as DH or other contractual occupations.

joeld
Guest
Filipinos will cry racist because they are hurt being called domestic helpers, although there is nothing wrong with being one. This is because filipinos give a false sense of importance to the letters appended before and after a name. They would like to think that our society is somehow based on a hierarchy of what kind of job each one holds. Hence an honest “tindera” will seem inferior to an office worker although the prior has a more substantial role and most probably earns more. An attorney who has reached the point of his career notarizing documents, will be higher… Read more »
Jherson Jaya
Guest

There is nothing wrong being a Domestic Helper but an institution teaching kids that Filipinos are domestic helpers is a fallacy.

Johnny Saint
Guest

Just to be clear — the concepts they are teaching reinforce fallacious ideas and racial stereotypes. The institution isn’t a ‘fallacy.’

andres
Guest

Not Really. Filipino enjoy depicting themselves as humble, hard-working, and loyal servants to foreigners, but haughty, aristocratic, and distrustful of their own countrymen.

Shadow
Guest

Just a question guys, what is the definition of a filipino according to other countries?

Is it a…..

DH in hong kong?

PEON in saudi arabia?

CAREGIVER in Canada?

Or a TNT in the US?

Now, im sure those descriptions above are not absolute…but then again, these are just some of the common perceptions how other nations see filipinos….

MumbaY
Guest

I’m looking forward to a Filipino book of similar nature:

I’m an American ( white man). I’m a sex tourist and my woman here is a bar girl.
I’m a Bumbay. I lend money for a living.
I’m an Insek- I save centavos and eat lugao.
I’m an Arab. I plant bombs all day long and make terror.
I’m a Russian. I work as a communist.
I’m Japanese. I sing karaoke and hire hookers.
I’m Korean. I study English but can’t speak it.

Gogs
Member
Johnny Saint
Guest

Amazing! Even when all he had to do was follow the dots, Cebreros still managed to get something wrong. Talk about small minded. Un-believable!

Johnny Saint
Guest

Then again, Filipinos aren’t really known for satire.

http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/2014/03/satire/

Dave
Guest

That is pretty bad. Looking at the page in the context of a child filling in the appropriate words, there are clear keywords for the Chinese and Japanese answers (Shanghai and sushi), and the white British guy is probably an accurate indication of what most of their teachers look like. (The Korean one isn’t shown).

So they’re left to choose between the brown people, implying that all kids should know it’s Filipinos who clean up the house and Indians who are committed to schooling. If they answered otherwise, they’d get a fat, red ‘X.’

Gogs
Member
Let us ask a different question. How would we all feel if Hong Kong or whoever were analyzing our school books? I have never seen them but I read once Ilocos Norte school books have a very different version of Feb 1986 than the other schools in the country. Shouldn’t it be the same uniform lie? Or different lies for different places just like the way you can get a beer in McDonalds in Rome as opposed to spaghetti here. We are worried about school books in other places, what about ours??? No wonder you have all these Marcos loyalists.… Read more »
Kenneth
Guest
Regarding the race classification, it categorizes humans in large or distinct population, such as nation, ethnic group, cultural and religious category. But in a scientific manner of classification, racial classification has no taxonomic value, we belong in one species which is homo sapiens (modern man). People who results to racism are often afraid or they use it to compensate their ego, that they are much more elite than others. Sadly, Filipinos are much more guilty of racism, even if we are all Filipinos, racism is evident. We laugh at the “punto” accents of other. We discriminate people who belongs to… Read more »
bunko
Guest

@MumbaY – “I’m an American (white man). I’m a sex tourist and my woman here is a bar girl.”

Based on personal and many friends’ encounters, this applies to most (7/10) people in the group you mentioned.

MumbaY
Guest

Well, then no reason to complain. Out of 10 Filipinos in HK, 9 will be DH’s.

Granted, you don’t put the prior in a book. Maybe because it’s not needed. It’s firmly in the mind.

Vincent M. Ragay
Guest

If had been: I am Ana, a Filipina, and I work as a DH in HK; would it have been as offensive? Remember, Aaron, Moses’ brother, could have said the same thing: I am Aaron, a Hebrew, and I work as a shepherd in Egypt. Or, “better” still: I am Aaron, a Hebrew, and I work as a slave in Egypt. The servant is the greatest. Watch out for the greatness of the Filipino wherever he or she is. What people think of us will matter less than what God thinks of us.

Dave
Guest
It would have been the same, you only added a name. What I took from it is that the other caricatures were presented as more successful (or in the case of the Chinese one, neutral). The Japanese guy owned a restaurant, the British guy worked as a teacher (a generally respected job that is especially selective of nationality), and the Indian kid’s parents could afford to send him to an international school, whereas the Filipina was depicted as the person who cleans up after you at home. They don’t entertain the idea that she could own a business or have… Read more »
Dirch
Guest

Because there are no japanese maids in hong kong, or british bus drivers or korean garbage man etc.

MidwayHaven
Member

Filipinos are NOT a race. Are we genetically different from other humans?

“Filipino” is a NATIONALITY, and all people are part of only one HUMAN race.

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