If you would like to live like royalty, I recommend moving to the Philippines. Before coming here, I had never imagined that the lighter form of servitude existed here. Some people may say that I am exaggerating, but I think there are few other places you will find this kind of convenience. First of all, almost all well-off Filipino households have live-in or live-out helpers who take care of everything. And when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. That person cleans your house, cooks, washes dishes, does the ironing, takes care of your children, dog, paints your portrait, washes your car, and, if needed, drives you everywhere… Wealthier people have three or more helpers, each one with a particular role. One cleans your house, another one works for you as a driver, and the other helps to take care of your children. When I called them helpers, I was being nice. Robertas, on the other hand, was more straight forward and simply called them servants. So these helpers (let’s just stick to that word; ignore Robertas) spend at least five days at your house, often for far less than minimum wage, eat with you, and share your roof over their heads. To ex-pats’ wives, this is a very affordable luxury. Especially those who have small children and don’t want to do anything themselves but would prefer not to ruin their manicures. Sounds like paradise, right?
When we first came to the Philippines, we found ourselves with one such helper as a present because the owner of our house is rarely at home, and she needs someone to take care of the house all the time. At first, it felt very strange. We didn’t know how to deal with it. We asked him to clean our attic, wash Robertas’s car once a week, and to take Paiko out if we were late. Robertas paid him 20 EUR every week for it. We tried to make friends with the helper, sometimes gave him food. We thought it was a fair deal according to the local rates, and these few tasks we asked him to do were nothing. However, I still felt a bit guilty – why does that poor man have to clean our attic when I could do it myself… Over time our helper showed up upstairs less and less often, so ended up cleaning the attic myself, but he still took the money. Even when he did dare show up, I could find a lot of dust left everywhere. Maybe we weren’t paying him enough? We decided to offer him 30 EUR per week for the same work. We thought it would motivate him to work harder. And what do you think happened? He got drunk the very next weekend after we gave him more money. And he didn’t clean A-NY-THING. That stung, so we just gave up.
Now he still lives downstairs and washes Robertas’ car, but we found another helper to clean the attic. Today we feel just a bit less a king and a queen as our two servants only really count as half each.
Our status as royalty notwithstanding, I am thrilled Robertas still choooses to drive himself. He certainly has more than enough energy when we go on trips.
So I have mentioned the conveniences here, but the throne also comes with more than its fair share of headaches. Being waited on hand and foot does make me feel uncomfortable, but it is more than that. Let me tell you about other odd jobs here.