Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Maid It Up

Feeling good after a long slumber, I opened the glass window. What my eyes beheld, sunrise at its best, made me feel even better. The world is awake, I told myself. The sky so blue, the clouds immaculate and the trees so green it's illuminating silvery hues against the early morning sunshine. With a satisfied smile, I left the beauty of nature unfold its magic to the rest of the world and made myself a cup of coffee. Perfect. Not wanting to do anything, after a long week of hard work, which, stress and pressure an understatement combination, I turned the television on. I am not a fan of the boob tube though I have nothing against such a marvelous product of human intelligence, but not being privileged to have one in my growing up years, the stage when all kids glutton on its wonders, I can live without it. A program, which, as I vaguely recall, features people from different facets of life, was on. Today, the featured bidas (heroes) are the housemaids. While enjoying my coffee, amidst the shrieks and laughters of the Indays, (a term sometimes used by other people, synonymous to a maid) as the host conducts a little game, my memories drifted back to a not-so-distant past. I remember everything vividly, as if it was just painted in my mind by an artist, all strokes perfectly applied, no flaws, a masterpiece.

One sweltering afternoon, four years ago, barely asleep, I jerked awake, if such a thing is possible, wondering where I was at. My hair, unkempt and matted from the sweat which won't ever stop, like running water in a broken faucet, was all over my face. My baggy old shirt, no longer comfortable, clung to my skin, making me extremely frustrated. The old tiny electric fan, whirring loudly, could hardly produce enough air to give me a breather. Still lying on my aching back, on the damp thin mattress, which made the heat almost unbearable, I stared at the low ceiling and surveyed the small four-sided box which I was confined in: my room. The inevitable question, like a mantra, followed. “What am I doing here?” No answer came. I had just moved out from my employers' place, my home for almost ten years, a week ago. The reality is beginning to sink in. I would be living on my own, alone but with myself. Independent. I mustered a lot of courage to ask permission to leave. I had to consider many things. Could I fend for myself? Am I strong & wise enough to brave the real world? As the show continues, the bidas all smiles, my mind drifted farther. While going to college, I was working for them as a housemaid and they, in turn, paid my tuition fees. I needed to finish my share of chores early so I could avoid the afternoon rush hour traffic, Manila's ever growing problem. I attended evening classes. Not an easy task. I would always be dead tired, all spent. There were times when I would go into crying bouts, which, until now, I have no idea why. Maybe I was just tired. Maybe I wanted to give up, to escape my fate. Yet, strive, I did. I left home, barely seventeen years of age, with a purpose but full of dread. But then, I thought, things couldn't be worse, could it? After all, from my point of view and limited understanding, nothing is worse than sleeping in an uneven makeshift bamboo bed, with an empty stomach, waking up with still nothing to eat, combined with a father who hits you and your siblings and worse, your mother, for no reason at all, except that he wanted to. I never understood his reasons, nor will I. My mother, who has the simplest dream of having coffee to drink whenever she wants to, is my inspiration. I cringe for her whenever I recall such an ordeal. It wrings my heart to no end. Why did the artist include such a black dreadful memory in his master piece?

I celebrated my 18th birthday cleaning other people's toilet, unwanted tears falling uncontrollably from my eyes. They say, when a girl turns 18, she has come of age, a woman. For me, I have always been a woman because I was never a kid, never a baby. I guess when life presents you giant mountains with equally giant boulders, you have two choices. One, sulk and wither with them. Two, harden yourself steel and face them. I'd choose the latter anytime. Life is too precious to be wasted into nothingness. It is just plain death.

After six long years, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree: a fruitful struggle. During those times, my problem was my own. I never bothered to share them with my family. I told them bits and pieces of what's happening to me but I never wanted to worry them with “trivial matters”, especially my mother. Nothing I can't handle.

Back to my square box, I finally found answer to my question. I am here because I want to see the world with my own eyes, to embrace what life has to offer without other people telling me where to look and what steps to take; to search for a deeper meaning of my existence, to know my purpose. To get to that road less traveled.

As the show concludes, I jolted back to the present. I hardly understood the rest of it but I grasped the message. Somehow, it's one way of saluting my countless and nameless sisters around the world, a tribute to us. After all, thousands work overseas, doing menial job, humbly contributing to our struggling economy: a proof of a resilient Filipino race.

I still live in a box but a little bigger and more comfortable one, with a real bed. I haven't conquered them all yet but I will. For now, I am contented my mother has her coffee to drink. Life is not perfect, it will never be, but I have gained not only experience but wisdom. I am no longer naive, but rather, independent and pragmatic. I deeply thank the family who helped me survive the trying times. Without them, I will never be where I am and where I want to be. God is an extraordinary artist, we are His master pieces. Now I truly understand, without the color black, it isn't a work of art. Believe me, I maid it all up!

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