‘You only export products, not people’: The cost of being an OFW

A single mother from Bukidnon, Jenna Baldapan left for Kuwait in 2008 to work as a domestic worker immediately after her son turned a year old. If she did get paid, she would get 120 dinars or approximately ?20,000 every month — all of which she sends back to the Philippines. Photo by PORTIA LADRIDO

By Portia Ladrido/CNNPhilippines.com – After over a year of being spat at, sleeping on the floor next to a washing machine in a storeroom, not getting paid for more than four months straight, and eating leftover food (if there is leftover food), Jenna Baldapan attempted to escape from her employer’s house in Kuwait.

“Pero hindi natuloy [‘yung pagtakas] kasi ‘yung bag ko sa bintana imbis na kunin ko, hindi ko makuha kaya bumalik na lang ako,” she says. “Hinayaan ko na lang.”

The panic while trying to get her bag was compounded by the fear of getting caught while trying to escape. She knew that running away from an employer is considered a crime in Kuwait, and that she might have to face imprisonment once caught, so she stayed.

A single mother from Bukidnon, Baldapan left for Kuwait in 2008 to work as a domestic worker immediately after her son turned a year old. If she did get paid, she would get 120 dinars or approximately ?20,000 every month — all of which she sends back to the Philippines. The maltreatment stopped only when she was sold to another employer. She says she was sold because after a year and five months of enduring inhumane hardships, she just refused to work as a sign of protest.

She doesn’t know how much she was sold for, but says that “mahal kaya ang katulong,” not realizing that she identified herself and the entirety of domestic workers as if they were commodities.

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