Life a rollercoaster ride for Filipina family driver

Viola has spent 32 years working for her supportive sponsors

Inay Viola in her employers’ vehicle.

We rarely hear stories of housemaids being treated fairly by their employers. In fact, most of the stories published by local dailies are about the miserable conditions and mistreatment of domestic workers. Based on records from the interior ministry obtained by Kuwait Times, the number of Filipino domestic helpers as of April this year was around 164,600 out of 250,000 OFWs in Kuwait. A few are mistreated, but a majority of them are treated fairly, according to a Philippines Embassy official.

Inay Viola is one of them. For the past 32 years, she has been working for the same employers. When she started, the eldest son of her employer was barely a month old. “They all grew up under my care. I have been living with them for the last 32 years,” she told Kuwait Times. Viola is 63 now and hails from Batangas in the Philippines. Although she came to Kuwait in

1985 as a domestic helper, since 1995, Viola has been serving as a family driver for the Al-Ghareeb family.
Due to her excellent performance, she was promoted and her sponsors hired new nannies to support Viola. For the last 22 years, Viola has been driving her boss daily to work and back, dropping the kids to school and also running errands for the family. “I came to Kuwait in March 1985 as a domestic helper after losing my husband to cancer. It was terrible, as I had to feed the family. My husband died when I was 27. I married him when I was 16 and we had five children. In the Philippines in the 1980s, we were facing a terrible economic situation because of political tensions brought by Marcos’ martial law,” she recalled.

Viola accepted a job abroad a few years after her husband passed away. “I thought I could cope with life in the Philippines without my husband. For five years, I helped my family survive. I worked hard cleaning houses and doing the laundry for others,” she recalled. When she accepted the job abroad, it was during a time when no one would spare her even a centavo for food to feed her kids.

Kind Sponsors
“It was tough, but I didn’t show my kids that I couldn’t provide for them. I worked day and night, but it wasn’t enough,” she said. When she got a chance to go abroad, she sold a portion of her share of the family land. “Thank God I was able to find a good employer. To me personally, they are like God’s angels. They helped my family a lot. If they wouldn’t have helped me, I would probably be under a huge debt for the rest of my life. When my youngest child was hospitalized, my employer paid all the hospital bills – almost half a million pesos,” she said.

“Their kindness towards my family was sealed and tested once again my son fell ill and was hospitalized again, and they paid the bills once more. Thank God for this family for being so genuine and sincere. My employer’s kids treat me just like their grandmother, and I am happy about it,” Viola added. She said was never treated wrongly by anyone from the Al-Ghareeb family. “I feel at ease and comfortable here – they have never treated me like an outsider. I have taken care of their five children since they were infants and I am still with them although they have grown up. When they need something, they call me – even when they need directions in Kuwait!” she laughed.

Viola considers Kuwait as her second home, and misses the country when on vacation in the Philippines. With her job, she has been able to visit more than 30 countries around the world. “I was able to visit many countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America, an opportunity one can have only if they are rich,” she noted.

By Ben Garcia

This article was published on 10/08/2017