I have known my niece Wanda since she was three years old. That’s a considerably long time since she’s now 28 years old. She is a teacher who majored in Special Education (SPED), and has been teaching very young kids for more than 5 years now.
She has received an invitation for interview with VSO, for them to be able to further judge her volunteer-ability, and if she is chosen she will have the opportunity to teach children either in Africa or Afghanistan.
She has also received, apart from the invitation from VSO, a text message from one of the prospective OFW’s she was with a few months ago, while training for eventual posting to China. While the China plans have been shelved (turned out the first batch of teachers were not getting paid out in cold Mongolia), this acquaintance had kept in touch with Wanda through text. The message said that there were positions available as housekeepers in Japan. According to the subsequent series of messages, an engineer with a well-known car/motorcycle company here in the Philippines has announced that 15 company engineers are on their way to Japan and will need 15 housekeepers to go with them. There was to be a contract that states exactly what is to be required from the prospective housekeepers for the duration. There were no paper requirements, only the prospect’s passport and PHP 10,000 due on the 1st of September, 2007. When asked what the 10,000 pesos was for, the “recruiter” said it was for “processing”.
I learned about all this because Wanda’s mom called to ask me if I can convince her daughter not to go, and also because Wanda herself asked me to check out this alleged car company Engineer and the legitimacy of the offer.
And so the protective mother (auntie) hen that I was, I asked for names and contact numbers. The name of an engineer (he will be referred to as Jhun G from this point forward) was offered, accompanied by a mobile number. This Jhun G is said to be a “kinikilalang tao” (person held in high esteem) at that car manufacturing company.
So I send a text message off to the mobile number (as my own mobile phone credits would not accommodate a long call) giving my full name and verifying if indeed I was texting the correct person Jhun G. and that if he could give me a landline that I could call him from.
His reply: Sori mam wla me landlind (in textspeak and misspelling I’m sorry Ma’am, I do not have a landline)
My suspicious brain starts churning. This “kinikilalang tao” who is also an engineer at a car manufacturing company does not have a landline. If he had answered me, “Sorry I don’t give my landline number to strangers” I would have been more impressed. But it just seemed preposterous to me that such a person would not have a landline. But to give him the benefit of the doubt, I texted back: Do you have an office phone that I can call you on tomorrow? This is a very important matter that I have to speak to you about.
His reply: Bkt anu po b un (Why, what is this about?)
Either textspeak has got the better of us all (except me and a precious few friends who tap out words in full when texting) or this person in high esteem may not be who or what he says he is.
So I tell him in fully spelt-out English that I would like to verify a few bits of information passed on to me, if he were indeed employed with the car manufacturer, and if anyone could vouch for that fact.
His reply: Yes mam (that he was employed with the car company)
But when I pressed on he replied: Xcuse lang po cnu po b cla nd k kau klala pr magbigay me ng in4mation. (Excuse me, who are you, I do not know you enough for me to give out information).
So geek that I was, I gave him my URL (this blog) and told him that if he wanted to know who I was this was the best way for him to find out.
His reply: Pd u magpakilala nd u me kylangan u2san pr pumunta p ng internet cafe pr mkilala kau (Can you just tell me who you are you do not have to order me to go to an internet cafe just to find out who you are)
I could not resist replying to that, telling him since he asked me who I was, that was the best way for him to find out. I apologized for assuming that he had an internet connection, and that I had said please, so it was not an order. A respected engineer for a car company with no landline and no internet access, I find that difficult to believe. Things could be weirder, so this tale goes on.
So I tell him that I am the aunt of one of the women they are recruiting as housekeepers for Japan, and that I am trying to verify the legality of their recruitment procedures. From hereon I received no replies from Jhun G, not even when I tried calling his number after topping up my cel with a P500 card (I thought I was in this for the long haul).
Instead, I started getting text messages from the actual person who offered Wanda the position. She told me that they were not recruiting, just that she had asked Wanda if she were interested in the position (tell me what the difference is, please). She asked me to stop texting Jhun G, and to erase his number from my address book. I asked her what her name was but she must have missed that message. I was to find out later that her name was Rachel M. and that she is the fiancée of the person introduced as JhunG.
Rachel M went on to tell me that my text messages to Jhun G were very inappropriate as I am addressing someone who is a revered person at the prestigious car manufacturing company. I told her that their recruitment procedures are highly inappropriate for employees of that prestigious car company.
I also told her that is was highly inappropriate for Jhun G to let her fight his battles for him. She then invited me for lunch at her house as Jhun G will be there tomorrow, but added that she doesn’t think I am the kind of person that will go out of her way to get to know them.
I told her that depends. I told her I live in Paranaque. I asked her where she lived. She said she lived in San Fabian, Pangasinan, and had no idea that I wasn’t from there. I thought, she had no idea period.
She went on to say that she is offering Wanda an opportunity to apply for a teaching position in Japan before the contract ends, the same thing she is offering her cousins who are going with them. That their work with the engineers would be to keep the condo clean and nothing else (of course, I thought, you’re a housekeeper, you’re supposed to keep the place clean, that’s a huge part of your job description), no cooking, no washing. She did not state how long the contract was going to be for.
I had no qualms about my niece working as a housekeeper in any part of the world as long as she was protected by a legal contract and legitimate agents. So I told Rachel M that I was concerned about one thing foremost, and she only needed to answer an honest Yes or No to the question:
Are you legitimate recruiters who are legally bound to the car manufacturing company.
Her answer was: No we are not.
My answer: Case closed, conversation terminated.
I then called my niece Wanda, who it turned out had been passed on all the text messages I had been sending to Jhun G and Rachel M, as they had been forwarding my messages to her, perhaps in an attempt to get Wanda to get me to shut up. On the contrary, Wanda had started to see the folly in all this, including the fact that the deadline for the 10K processing fee had been moved to tomorrow morning instead of the previously arranged September 1.
Wanda assured me that she was not accepting Jhun G and Rachel M’s offer, no way, and that she would stop entertaining their text messages. After I spoke to her, I called her mom and told her that everyone could rest easy, Wanda was not going to Japan, at least, not this way.
One of the things I told Rachel M was it was deplorable the way they were taking advantage of people’s desires to go abroad (presumably) to earn more for their families. But actually I deplore the system that has left our workforce believing that the only way out of penury is to work abroad, legally AND otherwise. She said that she was offering Wanda a better opportunity. While she may believe that she is actually doing that, people like Jhun G and Rachel M have only their own best interests in mind. The saddest thing is that there are a lot more Wanda’s out there who are willing to shell out more than just ten thousand of their families’ hard earned pesos just to get on foreign soil.