Thursday, April 28, 2005

Maid To Last

I recently found out that our domestic helper of 35 years, Yaya Nating, had upped and left us. She started working for us back in the late 60s when we were still living in Cubao. She saw all the McVie children grow up; she took care of all of us, cooking our meals, doing the laundry, cleaning the house. Now she’s 66 years old, going deaf in one ear, has failing eyesight and arthritis. She stopped doing the physically-demanding house chores years ago. Mostly she cooks, irons and cleans the house in a non-vigorous way.

Maybe my parents were more careful with raising their first two sons; my older brother and I never really considered her our personal yaya when we were growing up. So I never really felt close to her. But she was the one I’d run to whenever I needed something in the house. My younger sister and brothers were the ones who bonded more with her because when they were growing up my parents were busier at work and had ceded some of the responsibility for raising the kids to her.

In the 35 years Nating worked for us, almost every month of May my parents allowed her to go back home to our province of Bohol for vacation. Because of her loyal service to our family, my parents were never strict as to how long her vacation would last. Often she stayed away for a month; as she grew older and frailer, she’d extend it to a month and a half.

Two weeks ago she told my mom she was going home to Bohol for good. My mom was taken aback, but did not ask Nating to reconsider. At her age it’s about time she stopped working. When my mom asked when she was leaving, she said last week of April.

A few days later Nating surprised my mom before breakfast by declaring that she was leaving by the afternoon. Apparently throughout the past week she had been slowly transferring her stuff out of our house. Now with just a small bag in her hand, Nating showed my mom a photocopy of an amendment from the Department of Labor. It stated that household helpers are entitled to a retirement fee: half-a-month’s salary multiplied by the number of years of service. “I’m entitled to get something,” she told my mom.

Now I have nothing against giving maids a retirement fee. And with 35 years of loyal service, I feel that it’s just right that we give her something. But what got everyone’s goat was the way she asked for it. First she didn’t even give us an advance warning that she was leaving for good. Then she demanded for her retirement pay by going all technical and waving a piece of paper under my mom’s nose.

So now my mom—an accountant by training and profession until she was promoted to branch manager—decided to go all technical with her. She deducted, with an accountant’s accuracy, all the months Nating took for vacation. Plus she reminded her that technically Nating didn’t work for us for 35 years—there were two years when she didn’t come back to work for us because her mother wanted her to stay in Bohol. So that’s minus two years.

Still, the final amount is quite a sizable amount. Because my mom’s retired, she bargained with Nating that she’ll pay her five thousand pesos every month for the next year. Nating agreed.

My sister was livid. She went all over the house, making sure that Nating hadn’t swiped anything from us. My younger brother’s reaction is more laid-back; after all, she took care of him and is closest to him. He just offered to shoulder almost half of the amount. Maybe because my older brother lives away from us, he had a different take on the situation. He reminded us that technically Nating didn’t retire; by her very actions, she resigned. As per labor law, someone who resigns does not get any extra separation pay.

When he told me that, I immediately asked my mom if we could go back to Nating and tell her that. Obviously she refused.

So now I’m forced to do certain household chores now. Plus I promised my mom I’ll be the one who’ll shoulder our monthly household expenses from now on.

My mom decided to put a positive spin to all this. “It’s best that she’s not with us anymore,” she told us. “Imagine, what if something happens to her, if she’s taken ill or worse? Then we’ll have to be responsible for her.”

Meanwhile this is the last time I want us to have a live-in maid.


Anonymous Leigh said...

No, you're right - she didn't retire. She resigned. People who resign only get separation pay at the discretion of their employer.
She probably wanted to make sure she would get a large amount and not just a token. Still, it's sad she didn't trust your mom to do right by her, even if she'd been with you 35 years. In effect, she gets a salary of 5k a month for a year after she leaves.
I'm surprised your mom didn't throw a fit, like your sister did! My mom would have. *LOL*

9:33 AM  

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