A couple of nights ago, there was a segment on SBS’s Dateline program about the mistreatment of domestic staff (let’s call them maids.  Fugg it, let’s call them what they are – servants) in Hong Kong, most of whom are Filipino women working in Hong Kong to send money home to their families.  The story outlined that these women continuously applied for residency status through the Hong Kong government, but were continuously being knocked back.  Without this residency status, they receive no rights to welfare offered by the Hong Kong government.  These women will often be away from their families for years at a time, and will only be given one day off a week.  They are basically treated as second-class citizens.

Watching this program made me think of Asia’s attitude towards other Asians, and how racism against “your own kind” happens quite frequently.  I think of two people in Hong Kong, both Filipino.  One is a maid – she cooks and cleans for her employer and also looks after the children.  Her employer is no doubt quite wealthy, as most people in Hong Kong with a maid are not middle class.  The other Filipino is the opposite of the maid – well-educated, well-off and quite possibly well-bred.  She works in senior management for an international media company in their Hong Kong office.

These two women would never mingle, their paths would never cross.  I’m sure the well-off one might feel a little concerned for her fellow Filipino, but that might be as far as her thoughts take her.

I don’t know if that’s racism against your own, or just an attitude of “out of sight, out of mind”.

Filipinos are so quick to wipe out any signs of ethnicity from their features, brown skin to be eliminated through bleaching, light skin to be favoured.  Being “mestiza”, being of mixed race, is considered a good thing because you are lighter or have European features.  Chinese features also count heavily – again, because you are lighter than the average brown Filipino.

I’m not sure what my argument in this post is, exactly, I just know that there’s a mentality I’m not quite fond of and I’m glad I’m not a part of.  I would like to think that if my family had stayed in Philippines, I would not have grown up into the woman who looks down on other people for superficial reasons.  My parents left status and comfort behind to move to Australia, starting from scratch and working jobs they probably wouldn’t have had to do – ever – if they had stayed in the Philippines.  But it’s a testament to my parents’ belief in a quality of life that goes beyond money and social standing that I didn’t grow up that way.

Would I have followed their lead?  I don’t know.  LIke I say, I would like to think I would.  But had we stayed, I would have grown up with a silver spoon in my mouth and not known anything about hard work.  Neither one of my parents grew up like that.  I feel like I lucked out.

I don’t know where this argument is taking me …


It’s Not So Bad …

…And it’s not all about Boracay either.  I mean yes, it is still about the beaches and whatnot, but at least it isn’t Boracay (again).  Which is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there twice, but it’s nice that a travel article set in the Philippines wasn’t about the weird shit the locals eat, or that tiny tiny island in the south somewhere, or about Manila.  Dirty, dirty Manila.  

In an effort to forget the fact that I start another year of the rat race tomorrow (OK, today, since it’s very early in the morning right now and I can’t sleep. OK, won’t sleep) I went online to search for new destinations to use my passport in.  It took an hour on Facebook and on my yahoo email account to finally find the information I was looking for.  The Philippines.  If Che Guevara can travel around his continent, why couldn’t I do the same with my country of origin?  Oh yeah, that’s right.  Coz there are zero means to facilitate that.

Or are there?  I found out about Tao Philippines and how it was started by two blokes who simply loved the place.  Well done to them.  And if it’ll bring in more tourist dollars and get people out of the fugly malls when they visit, then all the better. 

Ok *sigh* the malls aren’t fugly.  In fact, the really big ones are actually quite nice.  But you can kind of find the same thing anywhere.  And yeh ok it’s cheaper to get pampered in Manila than it is in Sydney but bloody hell there’s only so many mani-pedis a gal can have, right? 

Plus on TLC all they show about the Philippines is Anthony Bourdain’s disappointment in not being shown an “authentic” Filipino experience, and that weird bald dude who eats weird shit and how thrilled he was to try balutLook it up – it’s pretty nasty.  So it’s nice to have a fresh perspective on the country.

For the record, I’ll head to El Nido one day, if only for the simple reason that supporting another region of the Philippines would make me feel like I’m doing good, and giving myself a holiday too.  But for now I am wiiiiiiiiiiide awake and writing does nothing to relax my mind, only fire me up.  Hating getting back to reality tomorrow.  GROSS. 

Man I really can’t sleep …