'My Family's Slave:' The unpleasant truth

Story of Filipina domestic worker sold into servitude underscores the attitudes of wealthy towards humanity's poor.

 
A Filipina domestic worker takes time to read in between work in Manila. (Photo by Patricia Nabong)
By Father Shay Cullen
Manila: 

"My Family’s Slave" is a personal story written by Filipino journalist Alex Tizon who died last March. He grew up in the United States where he migrated with his family.

He was four years old at the time. He left behind a moving and conscience-searing true story about his yaya, the family’s house-help, the woman who cared for him and who worked her whole life for the Tizon family.

Some would praise her devotion and sacrifice — Alex said it was slavery.

Alex wrote about this village girl from the province of Tarlac, Eudocia Tomas Pulido, 18 years old, and given as a gift to Alex's mother by his grandfather.

The grandfather was a well-off landowning patriarch. Eudocia was a docile, submissive village girl who was intimidated by the powerful man. She had a vague sense that her family owed something to the old man, and she had a "debt of gratitude" to repay with a life of servitude.

Eudocia Tomas Pulido worked without recompense of any kind in the house of the Tizons in Tarlac. She would take beatings from the grandfather in place of her mistress. She was scolded and blamed even for resting when she was sick. When the family moved to the United States in the 1960s she was brought along as an unpaid "family helper." Alex wrote:

"She lived with us for 56 years. She raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid, before I realized who she was."

The Tizons were considered a model family in America, good Catholics with a fragmented, unreflecting hypocritical form of "Christianity."

There are millions of upright true honest Filipino families that would never do such a thing or exploit anyone but others sadly do it. Such people today are living a contradictory illusion of being Christian. Like many, they think that killing suspects without evidence or due process is a good and right action. Their conscience apparently does not bother them one bit.

The article by Alex Tizon is doing the rounds on social media and is challenging and troubling the consciences of many a family who have had similar "helpers" or "domestics," many of whom would have been like Eudocia, and dare we say it, as did Alex, a slave.

How many more helpers are held "captive" in "bonded unpaid labor," kept in the house, denied freedom, marriage, a family, pay, and a home of their own.

Eudocia was a property, given as a "slave" and owned by the family for them to do with her as they liked.

Her few requests in her lifetime were denied. When Alex’s mother died (the father deserted the family), Alex took Eudocia in, paid her US$200 a week and gave her own room and all her needs and a free human life.

He took her on a visit to her family in Tarlac after he got her migrant legal status properly established. But she knew no one and went back to the U.S. with Alex.

This story uncovers the culture of exploitation in various forms of domestic slavery that is rampant in our society. The injustice of such lives of servitude is never considered. It is accepted as a cultural right of a dominant family over the weaker. It reflects a status-conscious society where possessions and wealth determine one’s standing and value. It shows how easily the poor, hungry, unemployed and uneducated can easily be exploited by those above them.

The poor are generally considered by the rich as of lesser value as humans and unworthy to improve their lives.

It is a challenge to the kind of Catholic Church teaching that critics have said is too sacramental, theologically abstract, impractical and unrelated to daily life. Teaching the people the values of compassion, justice, human dignity, and freedom, and taking an active principled stand for them is rare.

These values are at the heart and meaning of Christian life. Without living them daily with commitment, we are just church-going Catholics.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

Source: UCAN

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