In this poignant essay, Tan Tuck Ming reflects on what’s gained and what’s lost for the hundreds of thousands of Filipina workers who come to cities like Hong Kong for work as domestic helpers, leaving their loved ones and entire lives at home to become embedded in new families abroad. Tang writes from the perspective of an employee who conducts intake interviews with workers seeking new jobs, but also as someone who grew up in a household with maids. (His Auntie Mel is the woman he remembers the most.) Tang tells the heartbreaking story of one woman, Daisy, who’s given up so much. Sadly, it’s the story for so many.
She would look after three children in a stranger’s home and pour everything of herself into them. On some nights, her son would ask to speak to these children. She would put them on the phone and watch the children and her son grin at each other through a screen. She would listen to him ask the children sitting next to her, Do you love my mama?, listen to the children she had poured herself into smiling yes, and in that softness there would be a feeling she could start to hold on to.