First it was the Ampaw Republic. Now we are known as the Yaya Meal (meals for servants) Society. The concept alone single-handedly encapsulates the trying hard character of Philippine society — from the lowest dregs up to the cream of the elite.
Well, maybe not the cream of the elite. Truly rich people — in both finances and mind — see money as a means to the point rather than the whole point. The sorts of people who probably do the Dance of Joy shouting “The Price is Right!” on the inside whenever they see Yaya Meals on the menu (like the families who order kiddie burgers for their entourage of maids at McDo while they feast on Big Macs) are probably the same ones keeping the non-Japanese-made auto industry in the Philippines afloat. They are the ones who either buy those cheap Kias that try to look like Audis on the outside or those pricey Cheverolets that turn into clunkers on the inside within a couple of years. On both counts, they consistently fail to appreciate real value.
Which is why these sorts are more likely to treat their maids like shit.
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Here’s a myth-buster for you. Contrary to what all these idiotic Tagalog movies tell us, Filipino maids are treated the worst by Middle Class employers. It is really the truly super-rich who treat them like real human beings. My theory surrounding that is that the lower in the social class hierarchy you go, the closer to home your maids are. When you are just one OFW income above the wretchedness of the maids in your payroll, well, the competition ain’t over yet. And so you go and take greater pains to crush the perceived competition in your household. People who are truly rich in mind, heart, and bank accounts, on the other hand, perceive no threat from their maids. And so they are welcomed and treated like they are true kasambahays.
It’s been several days since that Balesin Resort embarrassment and it simply won’t go away — not without imprinting a statement in our psyches about the extent of just how disturbing Filipino society really is. There is no tiptoeing around the reality about Pinoy society it exposed. Filipinos simply don’t get it. If you insist on having an entourage of servants, make sure you can afford it. Dress them as you would yourself dress when going to a swanky place. Families that insist on emphasising the gulf between them and their maids by feeding them Yaya Meals and sitting them in a corner (or some out-of-sight little room accessible from a backdoor) are so last-century.
In a modern society (or, at least, a society that aspires to be modern), there is no place for castes, only employer-employee relationships governed by job descriptions befitting human beings. Perhaps only then can we utter the word kasambahay without rolling our eyes up to the heavens.
Frustrated artist doing geek for a living.