The Philippines is #YayaMeal Society!

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.

yaya_mealWell, 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.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

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.

14 Replies to “The Philippines is #YayaMeal Society!”

  1. So that’s the reason why my middleclass Singaporean employer couldn’t stand my dyed hair because she hired me for a maid and not for something else. Domestic job is fine really,it is dull but bearable but it gets complicated and even degrading when your employer started to forbid you from doing something for yourself just because they find it not suitable for your job or worst,make you feel that you don’t deserve what they’re having on their plate.Some even don’t want their maids to sit on the edge of their bed.It is rather sad that such attitude still exist today and it makes the said job as something to be frowned upon.Discrimination,whichever part in the world you are is scary for the poor and less educated and even to some other group of people.It drags our self-esteem lower over and over again regardless of how hard we try to keep our chin up and take pride of what we do.

    1. The is the sad reality. You enter employment you follow your employer’s rules simple as that. Now I challenge you, if you want a life where you can live by your own rules than move beyond being a simple employee and establish your own. Move up start your own business.

  2. I’m confused…

    Is it the Balesin Resort’s fault or the employer’s fault the maids were offered only the “Yaya” meal?

  3. In Southern Italy, the tradition was (I don’t know if it still is done that way) that the driver sat on another table and the padrone told the waiter for how many Lire (Euro now if it is still practiced) he could order food.

    As for yaya, my mother sent our yaya to evening school because she believed in the value of education for the poor – it was successful.

  4. I personally don’t get the issue over the “yaya meal”. It is basically a budget meal right? I guess the only issue I could see with it was the claim that Balesin said it is for the “help” only and members could not avail of the same dish (which to me seems weird and may actually be what is being twisted here).

    It is not about segregation for me but really more on practicality. If you are to say embark on a family meal where each person will cost about 1000-1500php for a buffet meal ticket, would you also spend that much for your child’s nanny?

    It isn’t discrimination for me but rather a reality of the situation in that specific time. Why is it an issue?

    It would be different if this were say a christmas party for everyone (like say a company christimas party) and you see the employees all eating packed lunches/dinners and the bosses eating buffet style from a fancy catering menu/service. Now that is discrimination.

  5. Upon reading a lot of the articles about the yaya meal, I am now of the opinion that it was blown out of proportion. Balesin offered a budget meal for service people accompanying the main guests. Maybe they should have named it something else.

    1. I think this is the case. If it weren’t named the “Yaya Meal”, then this wouldn’t have been seen as an issue.

  6. The Philippines send Servants to foreign countries, as OFW. They are also abused and treated badly by their foreign employers.

    The “Yaya culture” came from the Spanish culture. It thrived during the colonial times. I see the same culture in Mexico, and other Latin American countries.

    I would like to try also eating the “Yaya Meal”…it would be a good experience for me…

  7. …Don’t understand the big fuss about this, but don’t think PHL is that bad when it comes to superior-subordinate relationship. I think we are better than Taiwan and Korea in this aspect, possibly equal or similar to Japan and our ASEAN neighbors. The one in Singapore, where we hear a lot of complaints from OFWs, has something to do with annoyance of locals with the influx of Pinoys, or a kind of rivalry (yes, even if PHL is a basketcase, we are still seen as a rival in terms of talent), or a combination of the two. But, this also has something to do with the insensitivity of Pinoys to their hosts.

    The terrible places would be the Middle East (with Israel and Dubai as being much better), India and China. I have seen sub-human conditions for workers in these places. Don’t know if people here even have any notion of what is human rights, equality, equal opportunity, or worker’s right. Of course, Europe, USA, Canada, and Australia could be considered as the most advanced in this regard. Here, people can feel so guilty if they feel they somehow treated somebody unfairly. Maybe, Russia lags somehow, but I can’t really say as their language is russian to me.

    But, Pinoys can still improve. When you receive a bonus, surprise your yayas and drivers also with a small bonus. And pls make it a habit to leave good tips to waiters, taxi drivers, barbers, hair dressers, utility personnel, etc etc. — these guys are so overworked.

  8. This is part of the reason why social status is everything to Filipinos. Its because they don’t want to be treated like rubbish. This in turn causes them to do things that make them seem doing better than they actually are.

    Which never solves the base problem on why you are considered rubbish in the first place.

    To quote an expat who landed in the Philippines years ago;
    “Fuck me, I’ve landed in a dystopian sci-fi Novel.”

  9. We’re all equal under the eyes of law and God. But on other things, people should remember that their own action is the precipitant of whatever happens or comes to them. Everybody has a right to eat in an expensive restaurant regardless if they are politician, well-known businessman, yayas, janitor, fruit picker etc if they can afford it. I don’t think anybody’s going to hold you for something you can afford. I don’t see anything wrong with Yaya meal. Even rich people eat in Jollibee only to be discriminated by lower class people saying, “Ang yaman-yaman niya sa Jollibee lang kumakain.” Hey, what you can give to yourself by your own means, nobody can say anything against you for that. If people give anything to you for free, if you accept it be grateful, if you don’t need it and you think it’s stepping on your pride, decline. I think the discrimination there is how people see the Yaya in the society. If one is proud of a job as a Yaya, and if people respect you for being a Yaya, then what’s wrong with a Yaya meal?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.