The Servant is a Master

by partofyou

from The Manila Times

Friday, April 03, 2009


Let’s hear it from ‘Louisa’

Hong Kong journalist Chip Tsao has angered Filipinos for writing in his column that the Philippines is “a nation of servants” and warning his domestic help “Louisa,” in a dressing-down, that Filipinos in HK risk losing their jobs because of the Philippine claim to the Spratly Islands. Here is “Louisa’s” version of that meeting.

On the afternoon of March 22, my employer Chip Tsao summoned me from a friend’s house. It was my day off so I thought he wanted to scold me for the spoiled Thousand Island salad dressing I served by mistake the previous night. Instead, he lectured me about the Spratlys Islands.

I knew about the Spratlys (I have a degree in international politics) but I told him I had nothing to do with the Philippine claim to the scattered rocks. But he was very angry and said I had to be concerned because Filipino domestic “assistants” like me had a stake in the Spratly dispute. Ngek, I asked myself, bakit ako nasangkot sa Scarborough Shoal?

He said Filipinos are ingrates because Hong Kong eased our unemployment problem by hiring more than 130,000 domestics and here we are making pakialam sa Spratlys. The “entirety” of the Spratlys belongs to China, he said, sounding like a Beijing foreign ministry spokesman.

My boss warned me that if war broke out between the Philippines and China, he and his friends will have to send me and other DHs to Manila. What will happen to the RP economy? he asked me. Patay, I told myself.

As he continued, Mr. Tsao put up a map on the wall for emphasis, but I noticed he was pointing at the Pacific Ocean, not the China Sea.

What surprised me was his statement that the Philippines “has just claimed” sovereignty over the Spratlys when in truth we have conducted flag ceremonies on Kalayaan Island nung panahon pa ni Admiral Cloma.

He said he could live with the Russians killing Chinese seamen because they’re ideological brothers, after all. The Japanese could plant a flag on Diaoyu Island but that’s no big problem because the Hong Kong Chinese love karaoke and Hello Kitty. But Filipinos going to war with China over a few hundred islets? What contribution have Filipinos made to civilization to dare challenge a great nation?

“As a nation of servants,” he glowered, “you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter.”

I asked Mr. Tsao if I could speak. He nodded.

First, I thanked him for admitting that Filipinas were underpaid in HK. “Cheap labor,” he called us. Napangiwi siya.

Second, I thanked him for acknowledging that I work, like many DHs, 16 hours a day. Unpaid pa ang overtime. He squirmed.

Finally, I reminded him it was a Sunday, my day off, and he should not have called for me except in an emergency. At this, he started to apologize.

I told him that if all servants quit their jobs, the two-income household will collapse. HK’s economy will suffer. One of the two breadwinners will have to stay at home or hire an expensive replacement. They will have to forgo vacations and leisure time. Filipinos raise their children, keep their homes running and protect their property. Tapos, ang tingin sa amin ay alipin lang!

Mr. Tsao said he did not realize he was that inconsiderate. He promised he was going to treat me better. But he was furious about the Philippine claim to the Spratlys although he conceded the OFWs had nothing to do with it. He promised extra pay for ruining my day off.

Before leaving, he asked me what would make a good topic for his next column. I have given him ideas for his column before, plus suggestions about his style and language. “Hmmm,” I said, “why not write about China being viewed as an underdeveloped nation despite its economic and military clout?”

He pushed me out of the room.

(Mr. Tsao, however, still wrote about our meeting. He probably ran out of ideas.)