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Human again: how I found my voice after escaping an abusive employer

content warning!

Trapped in a precarious and abusive workplace, Analisa seeks solace among the Filipino community.

21 Sep 2022

Khadija Said

Content warning: mentions of physical and verbal abuse

Poverty pushed me to leave my family and work abroad.

“Are you sure about this?” my husband, Leo, asked gently. “I should be the one who should leave, not you.”

“It’s just going to be for two years, and I will go home once we have paid all our debts,” I replied.

Leo took me to the bus stop. “You can go home now. I will be boarding the bus in a little while.” I bid him goodbye. “Please take good care of our kids. If they ask for me, you know what to tell them.” 

My tears started to fall as I let go of his hands. He turned his back on me, slumped and sad.

Before my flight, I asked myself if I did the right thing – I had heard news about people like me getting abused, raped and some even ended up dead because of their employers – but I still chose to take the risk.

It was 11pm when I got to my employer’s house in Qatar. “Put down your stuff and pick up all that trash scattered on the floor!” shouted a big woman. I fearfully followed her instructions.

“I wore layers and layers of clothes to shield me from the cold”

Another lady, who was quietly ironing clothes, approached me and led me to a small room. I felt tired, sad and frightened. I was afraid of my employer because, instead of letting me rest first, she loudly ordered me around. I had no bed so I lay down on the floor, with a towel that I brought from the Philippines to cushion my back from the cold cement. I had no blankets nor pillows, so I wore layers and layers of clothes to shield me from the cold. I thought of my kids going to school, I knew they would look for me. I was sure my youngest daughter, who could not sleep without me beside her, would be crying. I also thought of where I was at that time, and how heavy I felt about my circumstance – why did they have to make me sleep on the floor? I fell asleep, weeping. 

Blag! I was awakened by a loud kick from the door outside. 

“Hurry up, wake up the three boys! They need to eat,” shouted my employer. I was not expecting this kind of work. From the contract I signed, I had been told that I would be working for a family with only one child, but the household had eight kids.

“I did not want to go with them because I knew my life would be a living hell”

I asked for help from my agency multiple times, but they never provided any. I also begged my employers to let me go home but they demanded that I pay them 10,000 Qatar riyals, the amount they said they shelled out to bring me in from the Philippines. They said they would call the police if I didn’t pay. I had no choice but to endure the inhumane treatment of my employers, along with the very heavy workload.

We moved to London after a year, in 2017. I did not want to go with them because I knew my life would be a living hell – I was the only domestic worker that they planned to take with them – and that was exactly what happened.

“Lazy, stupid, an animal,” my employer shouted angrily, slapping and kicking me several times. She was upset that I couldn’t clean the house when my priority was taking care of the two-year-old twins and her four-year-old girl.

“This is too much,” I cried. I could endure verbal and emotional abuse, but not physical abuse. “The moment I get the chance, I will leave this place,” I whispered to myself. 

I called the Philippine Embassy in London, seeking help, but the only thing they could do was repatriate me. I was not yet ready to go home: I still had our debts to pay, and no work there could sufficiently support my family. And so, I decided to endure the hell that I was in – at least I could still send money back home. 

“They held my passport. That’s how they controlled me”

One day, I was able to talk to a couple who lived nearby. They said that they pitied me because they noticed how I was being badly treated. Oftentimes, I had nothing to eat, leaving me with no choice but to steal food from my employers to satisfy my hunger. I did not have money to buy food because my entire salary was sent back home. I was also not allowed to leave the house unless I was accompanied by my employers or the kids, and they held my passport. That’s how they controlled me.

“To be honest, I really want to escape,” I told the couple. “But I do not know where to go, I do not know anyone here in London.”

“Oh, really! You are welcome to come to our house if you decide to leave them,” my neighbour assured me. And so, I had a shimmer of hope, at last.

But then we moved to a different flat, and my communication with the couple who wanted to take me in was cut off.

One morning, while my employers were sleeping, I left the house with nothing but two black bin bags containing my clothes. My knees were shaking as I walked away. I got in a taxi and asked to be taken to the only place I knew – Tesco’s. I contacted my former neighbours and they got me there. Nevertheless, after two months of living with them, I started to see the couple’s true colours. They asked me to work 12-hour days for six days a week, and they only paid me £330 each month. Often, the wife would get mad at me for reasons I could not understand. 

Again, I googled for help, searching for different Filipino community organisations in London. I came across the website for St. John’s Church in Notting Hill that instantly stood out to me when I saw that the church held mass in Tagalog every Sunday afternoon. With that in mind, I decided to visit one afternoon, with the hopes of finding someone I could talk to and confide in about the situation I found myself trapped in. 

At the church, the priest assured me while tapping my shoulder. “Do not be afraid, you are safe now, you are in good hands now. The Filipino Domestic Workers Association (FDWA) is here; they help abused domestic workers like you.”

Three women and a man approached me.

“Don’t be afraid, don’t cry, we are here to help you. No one can abuse you again,” the man said.

“We will refer you to Kalayaan, a charity that helps migrant domestic workers, who will support you,” said a woman as the two of them almost shed tears as I recounted my experience.

I didn’t even know what they called ‘Kalayaan’, but I felt like I had just been released from prison. I began to feel secure and the fears in my mind started to disappear. 

While I was still at the church, I heard my phone ring. “Hello, why aren’t you home yet, it’s 7pm already,” hissed the wife on the call. “Don’t you dare come back here after what you’ve done.” 

I got worried. “Where could I go?” I asked.

“Don’t fret, if you have nowhere to stay for the night, you can stay with us,” said one of the women, called Sheila.

I stayed at Sheila’s house, where there were three other women who also escaped their employers. Sheila is a member of FDWA. There were people who came to the house who gave me water, food, personal stuff and clothes. Each of them hugged me and I felt so safe again. I finally felt like I was being treated as a human again after two years of inhumanity.

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Ang Maging Tao Ulit: Kung Paano ko Muling Natagpuan ang Boses ko Pagkatapos Tumakas sa Mapang-abusong Amo

Bihag ng walang katiyakan at mapang-abusong pinagtatrabahuhan, nakahanap si Anaalisa ng ginhawa sa gitna ng komunidad ng mga Pilipino.

Kahirapan ang nagtulak sa akin upang iwanan ang aking pamilya at magtrabaho sa ibang bansa. 

“Hindi na ba magbabago ang isip mo, ako ang dapat umalis at hindi ikaw” malumay na sabi ni Leo.

“Dalawang toan lang nman ako doon at uuwi din ako kapag nakabayad na tayu ng utang.

Pagkahatid sakin ni Leo sa bus stop. “Sige na umuwi ka na pasakay na din ako  pagpapaalam ko sa knya” alagaan mo mabuti ang ating mga anak, “kapag hinanap nila ako alam mo na ang isasagot mo.”

Nagsimula ng mag unahan ang pagpatak ng aking luha ng bitiwan ko na ang kanyang kamay at tumalikod na syang malungkot.

Ng makarating ako sa accommodation ng agency bago ang flight tinatanung ko ang aking sarili kung tama ba ang naging desisyun ko kahit hindi alam kong anu ang aking sasapitin sa aking pupuntahan dahil marami na akong napanood na balita marami ang inaabuso, nererape at may mga napapatay pa nga ng amo ngunit pinili ko pa din na sumugal.

Alas 11 ng gabi na ng gabi ng makarating ako sa Qatar sa bahay ng aking amo.

“Nagsuot ako ng doble dobleng damit dahil malmig at wala ding kumot at unan”

“Ibaba mo mga gamit mo at pulutin mo ang mga kalat na yan sa sahig” malakas na boses ng isang malaking babae ang nag uutos. Takot akong sinunod ang sinabi nya.

Itigil ng babaeng nagpapaplantsa at tahimik nya inihatid nya ako sa isang maliit na kwarto. Pagod, lungkot at takot ang nararandaman ko sa mga oras na yun sa ugali na ipinakita ng babaeng kung hindi ako nagkakamali ay sya ang amo ko, hindi man lang muna ako hinayaang magpahinga sa halip inutusan agad sa malakas na boses na animoy galit kaya nakakatakot talga. Dahil wala namang bed sa kwarto inilatag ko sa semento  ang tuwalya na dala ko galing Pilipinas upang magsilbing sapin sa likod ko, nagsuot ako ng doble dobleng damit dahil malmig at wala ding kumot at unan. Nasa isip ko ang mga anak ko na iniwan ko habang sila ay nasa school, cgurado hahanapin nila ako.  tiyak umiiyak ang bunso ko dahil hindi sya natutulog na hindi ako katabi. Isa pang nagpabigat ng pkiramdam ay  ang dinatnan ko, bakit kailangang sa semento ako matulog, pagkahatid kasi sa akin sa kwarto ay hindi na bumalik ang babaeng ngpapalantsa at pinatay na din ang ilaw siguro ay natulog na din dahil mag aalas dose na ng hating gabi. Sa pagod ay nakatulog na din ako na basa ng luha ang mga mata.

Blag! Malakas na sipa ang narinig ko sa pinto kung saan ako natutulog. “Gisingin mo ang 3 batang lalaki,  bihisan mo at ihahatid sila ng driver sa school pagkatapos nilang mag agahan. Malakas na tinig ng am ong  babae na animoy galit.

“Ayaw ko sana sumama dahil alam kong mas magiging impyerno ang buhay ko”

Isa isa ko pinuntahan sa kanilang mga kwarto subalit sigaw ang bumungad sa akin ng makita ako. 

Taliwas sa aking inaasahan na hindi ganito kahirap ang trabaho na aking daratnan dahil ayon sa kontrata na aking pinirmihan isa lng ang anak ng aking magigigng amo subalit hindi pala totoo dahil walo ang anak nila.

Wala na ako magawa kundi tiitsin ang hindi makataong pagtrato sa akin at hirap ng trabaho dahil ilang beses na ako humingi ng tulong sa aking agency hindi nila ako natulungan, nagpaalam na rin ako sa amo ko  na aalis na ako sa kanila pero pinapabayaran nya sakin ng 10,000 Qatar Riyal ang ginastos nila sakin para makuha ako sa Pllipinas at kung hindi mababyaran ay ipapapulis nila ako. 

2017 ay pumunta kami ng London, ayaw ko sana sumama dahil alam kong mas magiging impyerno ang buhay ko at yun nga ang nagyari dahil isa lang ako na katulong na isinama nila. 

“Tamad, walang utak, hayop,” magkakasunod na sampal at sipa ang pinakawalan ng aking amo dahil nagalit sya ng hindi ako mkapglinis ng bahay mas kasi priority ko ang alagaan ang 2 year old na kambal at ang  4 years old na babae.

“Ganun nila ako kinokontrol, hawak din nila ang aking passport”

“Sobra na ito sabi ko sa sarili ko habang umiiyak ako, lahat ng hirap, verbal at emotional abuse ay tiniis ko pero hindi na ang pananakit na physical. “Makahanap lang ako nang pagkakataon iiwanan ko kayu, tatakasan ko kayu” bulong ko sa sarili ko. Tumawag ako sa Philippine Embassy ng London upang humingi sana ng tulong subalit ang gusto nila ay pauwiin ako ng Pilipinas kya tiniis ko ang mga takot sa loob ng impyerno dahil kahit paanu ipinadadala nila ang sahod ko sa pamilya ko, hindi ako pwede umuwi dahil hindi pa bayad ang utang namin at wala din akong magiging trabaho na sasapat para suportahan ang aming pamilya.

Isang araw ay nakipagkwentuhan sa akin ang aming kapit bhay sa apartment na tinuluyan sa London naawa daw sila sakin kasi naririnig at nkikita nila kung paanu ako itrato ng amo ko, madalas wala akong pagkain minsan ninanakaw ko ang pagkain ng amo ko sa sobrang gutom, wala nman akong pera para bumili pinadadala lahat nila sa Pilipinas ang sahod ko at hindi din ako pinapayagan lumabas kung hindi sila kasama o kahit isa sa mga anak nila, ganun nila ako kinokontrol, hawak din nila ang aking passport. 

“Alam nyo sa totoo lang gusto ko na sila iwanan, tatakas ako” sabi ko sa mag asawa na aming kapit bahay. “Kaya lang hindi ko alam kung saan ako pupunta, wala akong kilala dito sa London.”

Oh talaga! Pwede ka dito sa amin tumira kung aalis ka sa kanila” sabi ng lalaki. At nagkaroon na ako ng pag asang makakalis sa impyerno.

Dahil lumipat kami ng ibang Flat napalayu ako sa mag asa wa na gusto kumopkop sakin. 

Ala 6 ng umaga habang natutulog pa ang amo ko ay lumabas ako ng bahay bitbit ang dalawang black bin bag na ang laman ay ilang piraso ng damit ko, nanginginig ang aking mga tuhod habang papalayu at pumara ako ng taxi ngpahatid ako sa nag iisang lugar na alam ko noon ang TESCO dun ko kinontak ang mag asawa na susundo sakin. 

Makalipas ang 2 buwan lumabas ang tunay na ugali ng mag asawa, nagtatatrabaho ako sa knila ng halos 12hrs a day 6 days at pinapasahod ng 330£ per month at madals galit ang babae sakin sa di ko alam na dahilan, naghanap ulit ako ng pwede ko hingan ng tulong na iba ibang organisation ng komunidad ng Pilipino sa London sa pamamagitan ng google. Sa aking paghahanap online, ang pinka-tumatak sa akin ay ang St. John’s Church sa Notting Hill dahil mayroon daw itong mga misa na Tagalog tuwing Linggo ng hapon. Dahil dito, nagdesisyon ako na pumunta ng simbahan, umasa na may mahahanap akong maaring makausap at mahingan ng tulong sa napakahirap kong kalagayan at sitwasyon. Nakita ko ang simbahan. “Wag ka nang matakot,  ligtas kana, nasa mabubuting kamay ka na, wika ng pari habang tinatapik  tapik nya ako sa balikat. Andito ang FDWA tumutulong sila sa mga katulad mong naabuso.

Nilapitan akong tatlong babae at isang lalake.  “Huwag kang matakot, andito kami para tulungan ka. Hindi ka na maaabuso ng sinuman muli.” wika ng lalake.  

“Ipapakilala ka namin sa Kalayaan, isang grupong tumutulong sa mga kasambahay. Tutulungan ka nila.” wika ng isa sa mga babae na halos pumatak ang luha sa aking kwento.

Hindi ko alam kung ano ang sinasabi nilang Kalayaan pero pakiramdam ko nakawala ako sa bilangguan. Nakaramdam ako ng kaligtasan at napawi ang aking mga takot.

Habang ako ay nasa simbahan, narinig kong tumunog ang aking telepono.

“Hello, bakit wala ka pa dito sa bahay alas 7 na.” Boses ng babaeng galit na galit  “Wag ka nang bablik dito hindi ko gusto ang ginawa mo”  Nag alala ako, saan ako pupunta sabi ko sa sarili ko.

“Hayaan mo sya, kung wala ka mapupuntahan sa amin ka matutulog. 

Sa bahay ni Shiela kung saan ako pinatuloy member ng FDWA ay may 3 babae akong kasama na umalis din pla sa mga amo nila.  

May mga nagdadatingan at nag aabot sakin ng pera, pagkain, personal na gamit at maging mga damit. Isa isa nila akong niyayakap, pakiramdam ko ligtas na ako at nararamdaman ko muli  itinuring akong  tao pagkatapos ng halos 2 taon ng pagmamaltrato.