Filipinas Attend “Maid School” for Overseas Jobs


Filipina maid Cherry Pie Antaban (love that name) wants to work as a domestic helper in Singapore. My own asawa spent years working in Singapore and Taiwan (see photo) as an Overseas Contract Worker, OCW. The current term for those having overseas jobs is Overseas Filipino Workers, OFWs. The government refers to them as "heroes." Indeed, without the sacrifice these over nine million Filipinos are making, spending years separated from their families in order to send remittances back to their loved ones in the Philippines, the economy of the PH would suffer a tremendous blow. But Cherry Pie is going to a "maid school," a month long government-mandated crash course in domestic duties,  something my own spouse didn't have to do, and has to successfully complete her training before she can get a coveted job in a place like Singapore. scan

A recent report in the Inquirer Global Nation alerted me to this story. The article states that the course can be "bewildering, daunting and occasionally humiliating." But an overseas job in a country like Singapore can bring in much more money than working as a maid, or domestic helper, in the Philippines. A salary of 400 US Dollars is a lot of money and is twice the amount my sister-in-law in Kuwait makes. But since my sister-in-law, in her early 40's, is already considered "too old" for the choice jobs in Singapore or Hong Kong, she went to the Middle East, where conditions are much harsher and more dangerous.

My asawa spoke to a young lady the other day with a one-year-old baby boy who was working as a maid in our subdivision. She thought my own spouse was a domestic worker as she is always in our yard caring for her plants and flowers. The poor Filipina was venting about her current employer, who was paying her P2,000 (46 US Dollars) a month salary (plus room and board) and was extremely strict.

The young maid's  employer had just scolded her for drinking coffee advising her that water would be just fine for her. How terrible! No one employed at that home has lasted longer than a month according to neighbors, but the young lady has managed to find another employer and will be earning P2,500 under hopefully better conditions. My wife gave her five individual packets of Nestle coffee to take with her. The Filipina was so happy. She was going give three of the packets to her Mother. Mom is caring for her daughter's baby and lives some distance away.

But if this young lady wanted to get an overseas job and go to Singapore like Cherry Pie and make the big bucks, she would have to go through the "Maid School" training. “I didn’t know there would be so many different techniques just for cleaning. It isn’t just sweeping and mopping,” Cherry Pie, 30, said during a break recently from Domestic Duties 101.

“We have to know the different types of vacuum cleaners, the different kinds of air-conditioners and how to clean them: the window type, the box-type, the split-type.”

The Philippines Expat Advisor - Filipinas Attend "Maid School" for Overseas Jobs

The article reports that nearly 100,000 women in the Philippines head overseas annually to toil as maids, many of whom come from homes where washing clothes is done by hand and dishes are cleaned in a bucket (just like at our house; but you won't see me doing any "toiling," my asawa  stripped me of my last chore and won't even let me fill our water barrels anymore.)

There is no guarantee that Cherry Pie will graduate, with six percent of all students across the country failing the domestic training courses each year, according to the national government’s vocational training department.

“Some of the candidates fail the assessment because they cannot operate the vacuum cleaners, the washing machines, the driers,” said Lenny Carreon, who is in charge of the department’s training courses in two districts of Manila.

“These are women from poor rural areas. They are not familiar with these state-of-the-art household appliances.” (My wife's advice: "Just read the instructions; that's what she did.)

My own asawa also came from a poor rural province. No electricity. No running water. No shoes to wear at important school functions, but she adapted, she learned and started work as a maid in Manila before obtaining an overseas job. Worked as a nanny in Singapore  before we were married for several years. Worked for two years straight in Taiwan without one day off as a caretaker for a lady with  Alzheimer's Disease. 

Some of the students said the lessons were humiliating, although this too offered an important lesson about their future careers.  Here's what one student had to say:

“It is painful to have a college degree and then apply as a domestic helper. But I think about my family. I am the one sending my brother and sister to school,” said Janet Quiron, 25, a former school teacher.

Quiron said she earned just 5,200 pesos (US$120) a month as a school teacher, but would make four times that in Hong Kong as a domestic helper. The report goes on to state that Quiron's plight is depressingly common in the Philippines, where many give up careers in better-skilled jobs locally to earn more overseas.

With more than 96,000 women leaving the Philippines last year to work abroad as maids, domestic helpers are the second largest overseas Filipino workforce behind merchant seamen, according to government statistics.

The top 10 destinations for Filipina maids are Hong Kong, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Singapore, Bahrain, Oman, Cyprus, and Italy.

Our neighbor, Jesus, has a spouse that has been working in Lebanon for 17 years. Working as an Overseas Filipino Worker is an extremely difficult job and tears families apart. I have two brother-in-laws working on fishing boats and they are gone for years at a time, and as mentioned before, a sister-in-law in Kuwait who has two children left behind in the Philippines. There's no such thing as a vacation to return home and visit the family. Maid school? I wouldn't cut it. My own wife, who I had mentioned stripped me of my water duties, won't even let me sweep. Just as well. I could never get the hang of that crazy ''walis ting-ting'' broom she uses anyway.

Author: The Kano

POST AUTHOR: "THE KANO." Dave DeWall, "The Kano", is the Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of "Philippines Plus" in publication since August 2009. He is also the CEO of Lizard Poop Productions and author of the best-selling guide book "The Philippines Expat Advisor." Dave moved to the Philippines in July 2009 from Central Illinois with his lovely wife of over 19 years, "The Sainted Patient Wife." The couple reside in a rural province in Western Visayas, Guimaras. The small island province is said to have the sweetest mangoes in the world. They do not have any children but are the proud owners of eight active canines, including a Belgian Shepherd called "Killer" "Killer" has bitten five people in the last two years along with one goat and a carabao. "Killer" doesn't like strangers. Or goats. Or carabaos.

12 thoughts on “Filipinas Attend “Maid School” for Overseas Jobs

  1. Dave,
    Cherry Pie huh? It’s sad so many people have to leave there families behind to work overseas. My G/F’s Aunt works in Hong Kong as a Domestic Helper. If i’m not mistaken she makes better than average money (500-600 USD). Her employer is very good to her, has been with her for over 10 years. She will be coming back for vacation for the whole month of april. Nobody should be treated as bad as some of those maids have been, especially for as little as money as they make. Some people think they are just slaves and can do anything they want to them. The Philippine government needs to step in and improve the wages so the brain drain will stop and families will not suffer. Good post as always. Take care.

    1. Your G/F’s auntie is making good money, Papa Duck. That’s great. And the fact she gets a month of vacation is really a huge perk that most folks don’t get. Glad she found a good employer.

      Sad fact is many OFWs are treated as slaves. It’s an absolute shame. The Philippine government was going to issue a list of 41 countries that they were going to ban Filipinos to work at, but since have pulled back on that. Might the fact that losing some remittances being sent back to the Philippines have anything to do with that? I wonder. Thanks for your always faithful comments, Papa Duck

      1. Dave.

        A correction on that amount my G/F’s Auntie makes in Hong Kong. It’s 20K Peso’s or $465 USD plus one month vacation to come home. Little less than what i said, but still not bad.

        1. Not bad at all, Papa Duck, I lot more she could make making in the Philippines. My wife’s best friend worked in Hong Kong some years ago, and had some good employers. I believe it is one of the better places for OFWs to work.

  2. MAID SCHOOL?? I don’t think I could pass that. Kissing butt is the course I would not get a passing grade.

    500 to 600 USD? More like Hong Kong Dollars.


  3. In Singapore, OFWs are expected to work 6 days a week or can get a little extra and work the Sunday. Many opt for the extra pay. I believe the standard monthly wage is about S$300 (US230) but the SIngaporean family also has to provide room and board, pay a govt levy and provide one r/t ticket back home per year.

    Singaporeans typically will hire an Indonesian over a Filipina as the food is more similar (Indonesian) and Indonesians are reputed to be harder workers. Go to Lucky Plaza on any Sunday and you will find hoards of filipinas chatting away. No such gathering place for the Indonesians

    1. Don, back in 1993 and 1994 my own wife (before we were married) worked as an nanny/domestic helper and was making about 240 USD a month, with one day off a month. She also got room and board. She loved Singapore. Said it was the cleanest city she ever lived in, and she just loved the food.

      1. I wish some of the OFWs would have been able to pick up the cooking techniques in Singapore and set up some hawker shops in Philippines. Just some of the basic Singapore/Malay foods would do well in Manila as there are a lot of Singaporeans and Malaysians. But the only restaurant has gone and localised (salty) already.

        Usually, one goes abroad, works hard, and brings skills back to home country. But then the best Philippino talent are exported to do basic work so there are no lessons to be brought back. Seems they should not be exporting university students but rather someone less educated. All that education may be going to waste.

        1. My own asawa did pick up some Singaporean cooking techniques when she worked there, Don. She learned to cook a special steamed fish dish, and I have to tell you, it’s one of my favorite dishes she makes even though it’s healthy. The mixture of spices and vegetables she uses really adds to the flavor of the fish. She also learned some cooking techniques while working in Taiwan. Again, she said some of her favorite food she has ever eaten is at restaurants and hawker stands in Singapore. And of course, she cooks all the Filipino standards. It’s a wonder I don’t weigh 600 pounds. 🙂

      2. My wife worked in Singapore for a Chinese family as a nanny from ’93 to ’98, when I brought her home with me. Maybe our asawas knew each other! Every Sunday off meant window-shopping along Orchard or Scotts Road, or going to one of the discos with friends. Beautiful place!

        1. Just checked with my asawa, Monty. Her buddies used to hang out at Lucky Plaza though she had visited Orchard one time with her friends. No such luxury when she worked in Taiwan and did not even get one day off. She certainly has some good memories of Singapore, cleanest place she has ever lived.

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