Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A housemaid's story: "Shoes of Saudi Arabia"

Datiba is a 58 year old housemaid from Tarlac, the Philippines.

So far in my photography series, I had only interviewed one non-Saudi, "Jane" from the Philippines. Saja, who recruited her two friends Fajer and Sara, said that Datiba, her housemaid's mother, may be interested in my project. She was in the house visiting her daughter, as she works for another family who lives close by. Datiba agreed to be a participant and we sat down to talk.
It was easier for her to speak in Tagalog, so I have included the Tagalog transcript underneath my English translation. It's my own personal translation (with much help from my mother) so please let me know if there is anything you don't understand!


What are your favourite pair shoes?
These are my favourite pair of shoes.
Why? I like these shoes because the person who gave them to me I love very much, more than my life. As for me, she is like my child. That's how it is.
That's so sweet! So, do you wear your favourite shoes when you go out?
Yeah! These shoes I wear because I always want her to be with me. I don't want her to go away from me.

How do these shoes make you feel?
Comfortable. I get so emotional when I see these shoes, I feel happy when I see them.

When you go outside and you have to wear your abaya, do you think, you have to match your shoes with your abaya, or do you just think about how they have to go with your pants? When you plan your outfit for your day, do you just think about your pants and shirt?
It's the same. It's all part of it.
So does that mean you always wear black shoes?
No I never... Even when there's a party, I don't wear different shoes! I cannot separate them. Even though they are old now, I won't hide them.
Do you wear this in parties and for your everyday activities?
Yeah yeah. When I have to go out I wear them.

Think of the many different shoes that you have...
When I wear different shoes, I return them and then change into my favourite ones because they're the most comfortable.

How do you see or judge other women by the shoes they wear?
Why would I judge another woman by her shoes?
Umm, when they wear beautiful shoes, but they don't know how to carry themselves. But if they have ugly shoes, but they know how to carry themselves I won't judge.

So how do you think other women judge or see you by the shoes that you wear?
They don't have to worry about it. Even if it's old, they can't say that it's ugly, I don't care what they say. I love these shoes.
Yeah, that's what's important.

What do you want your shoes to say about you?
Maybe others will like it because I like them, because I love the person who gave these shoes to me.

OK we're finished!


Ano ang iyong paboritong sapatos?
Ito ang pinaka paborito kong sapatos.

Bakit? Gusto ko itong sapatos because kun sino mang nagbigay nang sapatos nito, pinaka mahal ko, I love very much, more than my life. As for me, parang anak ko sya.

That's so sweet! Sinosuot mo ba ang paboritong mong sapatos tuwing labas mo? 
Itong sapatos nito gusto ko isuot dahil gusto ko sya palaging kasama. Aya kong mawalay sa akin.

Ano nararamdaman mo pagsuot mo'tong sapatos?
Kumportable. Napa ka gaan ang damdamin ko. Ako'y masaya pang nagkakita aking sapatos nito.

When you go outside and you have to wear your abaya, do you think you have to match your shoes with your abaya? Or do you just think of how they go with your shirt and pants? When you plan your outfit for your day, do you just think about your pants and shirt?
Yeah yeah yeah. Parahas din.
Ibig sabihin lagi mong suot 'tong itim na sapatos?
No I never, even though I have a party always I use these one shoes, I cannot separate. Until... Maski luma na, sa akin pa rin 'to. Hindi ko itatapon to.
Do you wear these for parties or for your normal everyday activities?
Every day, wherever I... kung lalabas na ako isusuot ko.

Think about the many different shoes you have...
Pag ako magsuot nang ibang sapatos pina palitang ko 'yun, hindi kasi kumportable.

How do you see or judge other women by the shoes they wear?
Para sa akin, sa pagdalala nang tao ang importante. Kahit na pangit ang sapatos nila, pero kung marunong sila magdala, gumaganda ang sapatos.
Magdala is wear or walk?
Ano magdala?
Alam nang mommy mo yun! Magandang damit mo pero hindi mo marunong magdala.
Ah ok so magdala is how you wear it.
Yeah it's a personal thing. Maski magandang yong sapatos mo, hindi mo marunong mo magdala, pangit. Pero luma man iyong sapatos, maganda pa rin.

How do you think other women judge you or see you by the shoes you wear?
Wala silang pakialam, maski luma na 'to, gusto ko pa rin ang aking sapatos kahit na i-judge nila.
Yeah, pinakang importante.

What do you want your shoes to say about you?
Sana makita nila na kaya paborito ko 'tong sapatos kasi ang nagbigay sa akin nito ay taong mahal ko.
Tapos na!

These are the same questions I have been asking every participant in my project, and while many of the answers have been similar, it's amazing how the differences reveal so much about the individual participants. Datiba has been working for the past 28 years in the kingdom and the woman that gave her her favourite shoes she raised since she was a baby. She loves her favourite shoes because of the person that gave them to her, not because of the brand name. Most stories of migrant workers in Saudi and the Gulf region highlight the terrible working conditions and lack of rights that these men and women have. None of the these stories talk about the lasting and often lifelong relationships that workers like housemaids and nannies build with the children they raise. I heard a story last year of a woman whose nanny went back to the Philippines after working for her family for many years. She told me that she cried and cried so much when she left her. Once this woman grew up, she made it her mission to find her childhood nanny and once she did, she was overjoyed. This woman may be in the minority, but her story is meaningful nonetheless. Of course it's important to learn and read stories of the hardships that Filipina women endure in this country, but it's equally as important to hear the stories of friendships and love between nannies and the families that employ them, so that these women aren't just cast as victims each time you read about them in the news.

Thank you Datiba.
Salamat Datiba.

No comments:

Post a Comment