Bringing up yayas and househelps
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - August 15, 2019 - 12:00am

One of a young mother’s fondest wishes is to have a school for yayas (nursemaids). In 1966, the first year of its school operation, the O.B. Montessori Center pioneered a school for this unsung army of helpers. Since then the yaya literacy workshop is held yearly as soon as the preschoolers settle down to their routine. With most mothers going to office, nursemaids for infants and preschoolers are essential. We observed a striking phenomenon. Four-year-old Jason, the son of our purchasing manager, could not stand the careless movement of his nursemaid so he taught her the three movements of folding the work smock, how to carefully pair and roll socks, etc. The yaya in turn was so fascinated with the Montessori technique that she joyfully obeyed her little ward’s instruction.  

The yaya survey

This year, in Greenhills there is a total of 45 yayas who participated in the workshop – 80 percent aged 21 years old and above, the rest between the tender age of 15 to 20; 70 percent are single; 27 percent elementary school graduates, and 73 percent high school graduates; 57 percent have been with their employers between one to five years, while 42 percent are newly hired.

The Pagsasarili mothercraft literacy course for local and overseas Filipino working women

In 2002, I wrote the Pagsasarili literacy course an English-Tagalog guide. It became a best seller. The Montessori principle is that “the child is in the process of becoming thus adults must help him become.” This is in contrast to the conventional system of education based on the belief that the child is “empty” and therefore the “all-knowing” adult must “fill him up” or give form to the shapeless clay. It is therefore the duty of adults to HELP THE CHILD HELP HIMSELF.  By three, the child is scholastically ready to be instructed. How is this done?

Regard each activity as a recipe, with tools and step-by-step procedure. For example “sweeping” requires a small broom, dustpan, wastebasket. Draw first a circle on the floor. Then, scatter five pieces of crumpled paper around it, sweeping these to the center. Tilt the dustpan and scoop all litter into the wastebasket. The yaya must practice first before demonstrating to her alaga silently.

In dealing with yaya’s Personal Grooming and Hygiene, we provide the them a cosmetic tray with baby powder, cheap lipstick which doubles as “blush-on” and a dark brown eyebrow pencil. She brings her own comb. Also included is tawas, the underarm alum deodorant. Her transformation to an attractive person motivates her to enthusiastically complete the course. Housekeeping or Care of the Environment includes making the beds, folding clothes, cleaning the toilet and bath as well as tidying the living and dining room. Child Care ranges from helping the child acquire independence the Montessori way, at home and in preschool. Cooking and Nutrition engages them to cook “merienda” for every session. The Literacy Course, includes Geography, History and Science over and above the three R’s, concludes the workshop.

The gem maids of yesterday 

My HR Line Manager Debbie Apiado recalls Ate Minerva, “Baba” started to work for the family in June 1989 when she just graduated from high school in Sta. Maria, Pangasinan. Being a distant relative of her in-laws she was hired to enable her to work and look after her two girls ages two years four months and the younger one, sux months. It was a challenge to teach this 16-year-old village girl the care of a baby, but her in-laws assisted her while she was out at work. Ate Baba was the constant companion of her two daughters from preschool until they started grade school. She also took care of her third child, a boy. Then she was sent to evening classes at Jose Rizal College to take up the two-year secretarial course. Eventually she qualified to work in Hong Kong.

My Guidance department head, Mrs. Melissa Sta. Ana, a mother of two sons happily counts her blessings. “My husband’s family has been blessed with two faithful maids who have stayed with the family for 38 years. Yaya Flor was hired when she was only 12 years old and two years later, her younger sister Elen followed. Both were yayas to my husband and his sister until they became old enough to take care of themselves. Flor eventually became the cook and housekeeper while Elen did the laundry and took care of the garden. When my son, Erin and Lance were born, Elen was yaya to both. While Flor has retired to her hometown in Bicol, Elen is now with my sister-in-law. For such a lengthy period of service both sisters are no longer treated as hired help but part of the family.

Coping up without household helps

Due to the present difficulty of hiring maids, many have been accustomed to not having one. They say it is all a matter of proper time management. My former Senior Accountant, Mrs. Rosario Burdeos has three children and all of them have their share of household chores. She recalled, “My eldest daughter did the laundry on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. In between her class schedule she did housekeeping. My second daughter did the ironing on Saturdays. My youngest son cleaned the comfort room and the garage, did the garbage and bathed the dogs regularly. I did the marketing and the cooking. We took turns setting the table and washing the dishes. The children were only excused from their chores during examination.” She and her husband proudly claim it is the best way to prepare their children for the future. And so it happened. The Burdeos family is happily residing in New Jersey.

The kasambahay situation today

Househelps are referred to now as kasambahay or house companion. There is such a thing as the maid network. You would be surprised how word gets around so that your maid’s friend, friend’s cousin, driver’s niece may prove to be the very girl you are looking for. This also helps guarantee the honesty and efficiency of these referrals. But majority of househelps are hired through employment agencies. Here are the latest data about the kasambahay. Starting salary ranges from P3,000–P5,000 for maids coming directly from the province and P5,000–P7,000 for those agency-hired or with previous working experience in Metro Manila. Househelps are entitled to receive benefits like SSS, Pag-IBIG and PhilHealth as mandated by law. The job description must specify her duties whether fulltime yaya or inclusive of other house-help duties when the child is in school. This article is an alleluia to hail all kasambahays.

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