EDITOR’S CHOICEFeature

UAE Pinay nannies: The ‘household frontliners’ amidst COVID-19

When schools and universities across the emirates grind to a halt on March 22, the daily routine of Janel Dimayacyac, Filipino mom of two, has only picked up steam.
Though her company rolled out a work-from-home scheme, her daily schedule was stretched as she was forced to supervise her eldest daughter’s distance learning.
“Many adjustments have to be made in this kind of setup, but we’re lucky that our company has implemented work-from-home instead of temporary closure until this COVID-19 outbreak clears up. Kasi hindi natin masisiguro ‘yun. Kung walang work, mas mahirap naman ‘yun,” related Janel to The Filipino Times.
As it stands, she would have to juggle her work, her parent duties, and household chores for three months. This, as the Ministry of Education announced the extension of home schooling until June.
Now that she is suddenly faced with all these riddles, it is a blessing in disguise that the flight of her children’s nanny, Gemma Bigtas, to the Philippines last March 25 was derailed by the impact of COVID-19 outbreak. Flights to and from the UAE was suspended.
“I don’t know how I will be able to multitask as a mother and an employee too if Gemma is not around. House helpers are indeed unsung heroes not only of parents but of students as well,” she added.
Gemma, 38, plays an important role in helping Janel navigate the uncharted waters of child-care through these trying times. Being with them for two years now, Gemma said that she already was reluctant to leave even a week before her flight schedule.
“Nung una palang na pumutok yung bali-balita tungkol sa COVID-19, hindi naman sa pag-aano… ipinagdarasal ko talaga na ‘wag na akong matuloy. Ang sa akin lang, mahirap iwan ang mga bata sa ganitong sitwasyon. Di bale ako single. Kung di nga lang mahal parebook ako na mismo nagparebook, eh,” an emotional Gemma told The Filipino Times.
Meanwhile, for Elizabeth Elizarde, a Filipina nanny who is taking care of two children, resting is simply not an option albeit wearing many hats with added tasks during this time.
From house cleaning to cooking to physical toll of around-the-clock childcare responsibilities, Elizabeth said that just her wards’ belly laughs are more than enough to recharge her.
“99% na dagdag sa work… Minsan hindi na madala sa smile. Pero halos lahat ng mga nanny ito experience ngayon dahil sa COVID-19. Sa ngayon, maya’t maya ka talagang maglinis dahil lagi nag-rarambolan mga bata (laugh),” she added. “Mabuti na ito kasi buong-buo pa rin naman ang sweldo ko hindi gaya sa iba na ‘no work, no pay’.”
Since families, including their employers and children are at home, shifts of nannies are becoming nonexistent, which should not be the case. Day in and day out, not only are nannies busy attending to and serving the family, they have also become the partners of parents in supervising their children in distance learning.
When The Filipino Times published a news article on the extension of online schooling, many Filipino nannies shared their experiences in the comment section.
Weng Mirador said, “Ako need ko upuan ang dalawang alaga ko from 9 AM to 1:30 PM. Pagkatapos niyan linis, luto, laba. Parang turumpo ngayong walang pasok. Ang gugulo parang sabong (laugh).”
She is not alone, says Maia Deocales. “Online streaming sa umaga ang six kids namin dito sa house. Then sa afternoon, nagrereview kami at gumagawa ng tasks (for school). Dagdag work sa tutor/nanny like me, pero tiis lang kasi lahat naman tayo ay apektado ng COVID-19 pandemic, eh.”
But some nannies are appealing to their employers not to leave all responsibilities to them because sooner or later, something will break.
“Isa lang ako at all around… pero kalat dito, kalat doon,” Charie Roque related. “Tatlo ang alaga ko at may one-year-old at 7-months. Buhay nanny.”
Another Filipina nanny, Al Jon, replied to the comment thread, “Akala ko mga sis ako lang ganito… halos wala ng pahinga. Kalat dito kalat doon. Tawag dito, tawag doon. Nakakarindi tapos may iniisip ka pa sa Pinas.”
Assisting house help in simple chores is a dictum of ethics that “ought implies can.” It is one’s moral obligation to try to do what he/she is capable of doing.
In the words of a certain Filipino nanny named Aseig Sayupma, who also commented on the article of The Filipino Times, it would provide a relief if families would do their part to show nannies that “I feel you po.”

Mark Nituma

Mark is the editorial director of TFT and is currently based in its Manila headquarters. Upon graduating from UP Diliman in 2010, he joined the internationally-awarded TV magazine show Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho as a researcher. Nearly a year later, he became one of its segment producers. In a span of five years with GMA7, he was able to travel not only the Philippines’ most beautiful spots but also the country’s least visited places—from some of the war-torn areas of Mindanao to impoverished parts of Luzon and Visayas—capturing a closer look at life in these communities. Mark also worked with various TV programs and specials such as Philippine Treasure and Reel Time. After his five-year stint in the media network, he flew to Dubai in 2016 to start his career as a journalist/reporter for The Filipino Times. Got story pitches? Send Mark an email at [email protected] or drop him a line on facebook.com/mark.nituma.

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