Househelper piracy

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    If you are expecting to read something profoundly inspirational in this column for this week, sorry but I will have to burst your bubble.  I just feel I have to write about the mundane topic of kasambahay (househelpers), or rather, how to prevent the “pirates” (read: neighbors) from getting them from you.

    For this paper’s readers in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand, I understand you do not have the luxury of having helpers in your house, as we do in the Philippines.  I initially thought of writing an article for you entitled, “How to Prevent Yourself from Being Pirated,” but feared  being scourged at the pillar.

    Kidding aside, if you are still reading this paragraph instead of jumping to another column, there are only two possibilities: Either you have been an actual victim of “househelp piracy,” or you could be the potential “neighbor” I was referring to earlier.

    Whatever side of the fence you are in, let me rouse your interest further.

    Have you treated your maids to Starbucks for no apparent reason? Have you ever felt so philanthropic in your entire life that you didn’t mind buying them a tall Coffee Americano that costs P125.00? When was the last time you felt so good-hearted that you wanted your maids to know what coffee latte tastes like? Have you been sympathetic and patient as to allow your helpers to understand why Mocca Frapuccino is easier to sip than to pronounce?

    Three days ago, I treated our maid to Starbucks because I felt like being all that – philanthropic, good-hearted, sympathetic, and patient. (Did I say demented, too?)

    You see, she was left to tend to my 3-month old baby while in the shopping mall, and I wanted her and the baby to be comfortable while waiting for my wife, my other kids, and me.

    So I made sure she waited in style — in Starbucks Shangri-la, seated in a cushy sofa, while enjoying a tall Mocca Frapuccino and chocolate donut, to boot.

    I thought to myself, after having a taste of the luxurious life, this reliable helper will grow old in my household. She will never find another boss like me in her entire life.

    Guess what? She wasn’t thinking what I was thinking.

    The following morning, while washing the dishes, this helper asked me and my wife this shocking question: “Ate, Kuya, matagal ba kayong makakakita ng kapalit ko?” (Ma’am, Sir, will it take long before you find a replacement for me?)

    Huh? Did I hear her right? Isn’t this the same girl who just gulped a cup of Starbucks coffee the day before?

    “Kasi po may papasukan na po akong Koreano sa Parañaque. Sa Martes po sana aalis na ako” (I found another Korean employer in Parañaque City. I plan to leave on Tuesday), added Ms. Reliable.

    “Okay, pero siguro huwag naman sa Martes. Hintayin mo muna kaming makahanap ng kapalit mo. (Okay, but I don’t think you can leave on Tuesday. Just wait until your replacement arrives),” Liza answered her.

    There goes my carrot-and-stick formula. Or, should I say, Starbucks-and-you’ll-stick formula. It went pffft.

    The following morning, I saw a P1,000.00 bill lying on the garage floor.

    “Is this yours, Hon?” I asked my wife, but she said she doesn’t remember losing any money. I was also dead sure it wasn’t mine. All my money falls inside Liza’s bag, not in the garage.

    Later in the afternoon, Liza told me she already found out to whom the P1,000.00 bill belongs. Somebody was looking for a P1,000.00 bill which fell from her pocket. That somebody happened to be – you guessed right — from Ms. Helper.

    “Are we going to tell her about it?” Liza asked me.

    “Leave it to me,” I said.  If the Starbucks-and-you’ll-stick formula flopped, I had Plan B for a back-up. I had an uncanny feeling Ms. Helper will fall for it this time around. But, the plan had to wait for dinner time for things to materialize.

    At 7:45 p.m., over dinner, and in the hearing distance of everybody, I asked Ms. Helper: “Sabi ni Ate Liza mo may nawawala ka raw na P1,000.00. Saan mo inilagay? Nahanap mo na ba?” (Liza told me you lost a P1,000.00 bill. Where did you put it? Have you found it?)

    After getting a “No” for an answer, it was time for me to unleash Plan B.

    “O heto, kunin mo itong isang libong piso (Here, get this P1,000.00),” I said as I pulled the crisp bill from my wallet.

    I continued: “Hindi ako Koreano, pero kung mangangailangan ka, hindi ka magdadalawang salita sa amin ni Ate mo. Siguradong tutulungan ka namin” (I am not a Korean, but if ever you’ll need help, you won’t have to say a word. We will surely help you).

    Ms. Helper was misty eyed.  She didn’t want to take the money, but I insisted in giving it to her.

    Then, deafening silence.This morning, Ms. Helper surprised me and Liza when she opened her mouth: “Ate, Kuya, hindi na po ako aalis sa inyo. Tatanggapin niyo po ba ako ulit?” (Ma’am, Sir, I decided to stay here. Can you please take me back?)

    Eventually, I had to tell Ms. Helper what really happened, but I’ll skip the details here.  Sobrang cheesy.  Suffice it to say that I won over the pirate.What’s the lesson I learned from all these? Starbucks doesn’t work all the time.  Sometimes, Mocca Frapuccino has to take another form – that of kindness with a little sprinkle of drama on top.



    Quotes for the week:

    “A faithful and good servant is a real godsend; but ’tis a rare bird in the land.”

    — Martin Luther


    “A faithful and good servant is a real godsend; but truly ‘t is a rare bird in the land”


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