Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Millions of Filipinos have left their country to earn more money abroad. Josie Pingkihan describes how she left her own children behind to look after others in Hong Kong. 

I had a good job at home, but the salary wasnít enough to feed my family. So I had to leave and come here. 

I look after a little girl called Hei Lam. I see her all day. I even share a room with her. 

But all the time I think: "When can I go home?"

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Arriving in Hong Kong 

I decided to apply for work in Hong Kong in 1996. There were lots of recruitment agencies looking for nannies, and I only had to wait two months. 

When I first arrived I didnít know what to expect. There are lots of stories about employers abusing Philippine workers. Some donít even give their helpers proper food. 

When I met my employer, I felt so lucky I cried. She is very sympathetic to my situation. After all, she doesnít see her child much either, as she works all the time.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Pictures of home

I miss my family so much. I have two children [in the picture on the right]. Christian Carlo is 19 and I adopted him. Ramon Joseph is nine. 

I used to be married, but we separated just before I came to Hong Kong. My mother looks after the children some of the time, but she is more than 80 and finds it difficult. 

I also employ a helper. Itís so ironic that I take care of another child here, while somebody else is taking care of my children back home.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Hei Lam

Hei Lam's name means "very sunny morning". 

Sheís nine now, but Iíve looked after her since she was just over a year old. Thatís why sheís so close to me. She treats me like her second mother. 

In fact I feel sheís closer to me than her mother. She stays with me all the time, but her mother goes out to work early in the morning and comes back late at night.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Having fun together 

I take Hei Lam to school, and afterwards I help her with her homework and teach her English. Nannies from the Philippines are in demand for their English skills. 

But we also have time to play. I teach her all kinds of songs, some of them from the Philippines. 

Iíve got to know a lot of Hei Lamís friends and their parents. Iíve started to learn a bit of Chinese from them, and theyíre learning English from me.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Sending money home

I send most of my salary back to the Philippines. I earn HK$3,670 (US$470) a month and I send HK$3,000 (US$390) of that to my family. 

If I didnít send this money, my children wouldnít be able to go to school. 

Unless thereís an emergency, I phone my family once a week. Itís really difficult when the call ends. I feel like hugging them but I canít. 

I go back once a year Ė itís the only holiday I get. The longest time Iíve been back was for 11 days last year, when my father died.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Helping other migrants

On Sunday, my day off, I work for a group which helps other migrants from the Philippines. 

We organise counselling services and help people who have been abused by their employers or treated unfairly. 

We hold seminars and talk about our expectations. We also talk about problems in the Philippines. 

The government there is not helping us Ė they have this huge labour export programme but they donít create decent jobs at home.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Days off

I often meet my friends in the arches under a large bank in the centre of Hong Kong. 

A lot of Filipino nannies come here on their days off, if theyíre not in the parks. We fill every nook and cranny of the place. 

We also organise sports activities, like volleyball or basketball, and hold parties for special days in the Philippines.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Making friends

Most of my friends are Filipinos. We talk about home a lot, and how weíre treated by our employers. 

A lot of my friends I knew in the Philippines, but others I have met in Hong Kong. 

My best friend is called Norma [on the right]. She used to be one of the staff at the NGO I worked for in the Philippines.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Catholic faith

I sometimes go to church on Sunday, but not always. There is quite a sense of community for Filipinos in Catholic churches here. 

People in the Philippines are quite spiritual, but in Hong Kong theyíre more business-orientated. 

Religion itself is a business here, and I think people sometimes take advantage of us for that.

Photo journal: Filipino nanny

Looking to the future

Right now, I see myself here for a long time. If my kids want to go to university Iíll be here another 10 years. 

Until the government institutes genuine reforms, the Philippines will never recover. 

I just donít know what it will be like going back. Iíll be old, and my children have become almost foreign to me now. 

When I went home a few years ago my son called me Aunty, which was really hard.

25/10/2004

Bron : BBC News

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