To be clear, I define household employees as people hired to work inside our house. Typically, we hire female domestic helpers (or maids), and male houseboys and family drivers.
Soon after moving in to our house, a staff of the contractor, whom I admired very much for his professionalism and work ethic, recommended his brother to work for us as a houseboy. According to him, his brother, whom I will call Mr. J, is skilled enough for typical maintenance chores. We needed a houseboy so we hired his brother. True to his word, Mr. J proved to be good at his job.
If there is a leaking faucet, call Mr. J. If sealants need to be applied on the roof, call Mr. J. If a wall needs painting, Mr. J can do that. As I write this and remember, he reminds me of a character in the popular children’s show, Handy Manny.
As good as he seemed to be, and as impressed and happy as I was to have hired him, I have to constantly remind myself that he is like any new employee. They begin with amazing eagerness, enthusiasm and responsiveness. In time, their natural attitude and behavior starts to take over as familiarity sets in. During this time, it would be difficult for an employee to maintain the same pace they showed at the beginning. By silently observing, my objective was to determine if the negative traits shown by an employee are acceptable, after all, no one is perfect.
Several months after we hired Mr. J, we hired another houseboy, whom I will refer to as Mr. O. The new houseboy came from an extremely poor family. If I remember correctly, he didn’t even finish primary school. Having no prior work experience, and being a first timer in the city, I remember how nervous he was when he first came into our house. Seriously, to say he looked ‘shocked’ is an understatement.
With two houseboys now, we divided their duties. Having no skill, Mr. O was assigned to clean parts of the house and the garage. I also asked Mr. J to take Mr. O under his wings and teach him simple maintenance chores, to which he enthusiastically agreed.
Over a year later to day when Mr. J was hired, I had noticed subtle changes in him. There is an air of superiority in his manner. My wife and I started to suspect there is something going on. We went on with our daily routine and paid more attention to the houseboys and the maids.
We soon found out that one of our maids, whom I will refer to as Ms. C, is taking advantage of Mr. J’s fondness of her. We would later learn that Mr. J did court Ms. C, and Ms. C would often ask for something from Mr. J – such as load for her mobile phone, and other gifts whenever Mr. J takes a day off.
Let me try to remember, we had two houseboys, four or five maids. Mr. J fell in love with Ms. C, while another maid fell in love with Mr. J, so now we have a love triangle. On top of that, Mr. O started to have a relationship with yet another maid.
Like any family, we have our own sets of rules. One of them is that we do not allow the houseboys and family drivers to mess with the maids. We instill in them that even though they work in a house, they should consider it as a work environment and any relationship could cause trouble.
Before I continue, let me ask you. Do you know which country is considered the texting capital of the world? Yes, the Philippines. Knowing that, our staffs are instructed to turn over their mobile phones when the day starts and they get back their phones at the end of the day. During that time, texting madness starts.
Ms. C does not love Mr. J. She does have a boyfriend, and as she revealed to her co-workers, she has several of them. Mr. J may feel he is in love with Ms. C, yet he has his own text mates, all females.
Like I said, relationships can cause trouble, and this is the beginning.
Mr. J takes a day off during Sundays. At the beginning, he comes home in the afternoon, looking cheerful. Later, we found out he would come back at night, drunk. Often, he comes home after spending all his money. I counseled him on saving, whether he listens or not, it’s his problem. I did, anyway.
Still, he didn’t stop. One Sunday, he never came back. He returned around 8 in the morning the next day. I was there to meet him. Standing a few feet away from him, I could smell the alcohol in his breath, and he was very drunk. I told him to go to his room and sleep. I also told him that he is not to ever return drunk from a day off.
Early afternoon, he asked for me and calmly, he said he is resigning from his job. Raising an eyebrow, I simply said: “Sure.”
As he packs his belongings, I went to his room to talk to him. We talked about general things until he revealed to me that in the province, he was once a member of the New People’s Army (NPA). I was shocked to hear that. He then said: “When you go out with your family, please take care. That’s all I can tell you. I am going back to my province with three of my comrades who arrived early today.”
If you do not know what the NPA is, it’s the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It has been waging a war with the government for decades.
He refuses to talk more about his involvement with the NPA. He did concede that he feels guilty that he now has a good life while his comrades are still in poverty, living in the jungles of his province, and still fighting the government. He then thank me for the way my family has treated him with respect.
Soon after packing his bags, we gave him the balance of his salary plus some extra money. After saying goodbye, he left.
According to Mr. O, when I talked to him after Mr. J left, he never taught him anything. Mr. J bossed him around, and while we all speak to our staffs with soft courteous voices, Mr. J often barks commands. One time, they had an argument, Mr. J threatened to stab him with a knife. Scared, he backed off and never told us.
He also suspected Mr. J of being a member of the NPA when he saw a tattoo that he says he’s seen before from one of his neighbors, back in his province.
Mr. O also revealed why Mr. J was so drunk that day. He said Mr. J had been sending money to a girl, one of his text mates, for some time. I asked why he would send money to someone he was texting with. He said that girl was his girlfriend. I asked: “Has he met this girl already?” Mr. O told me that Mr. J was suppose to meet with her for the first time the previous day. She never showed up, which was why he drank heavily in sorrow.
Already unsettled by the hidden warning of Mr. J earlier, somehow, I had to laugh at that. Come one, how can a person be this stupid??? I asked Mr. O: “I thought he was in love with Ms. C?” Mr. O said: “He was, but he found out she was using him and taking advantage.”
Fear of the Unknown
Late in that same afternoon, we started cleaning up the room Mr. J used. He had taken all of his things. He did leave a bag under the bed. When I opened it up, guess what I found, photocopies of the land title and other documents! Under his bed, we found a large knife.
I am going back to the province with three of my comrades who arrived early today. Somehow, that statement kept coming back to my mind. Is there a threat to my family? I wondered.
From what Mr. O revealed, he could simply be heartbroken and just wanted to forget everything, but then again, how heartbroken was he?
I discussed this with the family and we also have another theory. He used to be a part of the NPA and left for Manila and worked for us. We treated him with respect and when his three comrades came, they were going to either rob us, or kidnap our young ones for ransom. He couldn’t find it in him to be a part of it, which is why he chose to leave.
This event occurred sometime between 2006-2009. What do you think? Please leave comments below.