I don’t remember a time when we did not have a kasambahay.

Growing up in my grandparents’ house in Zamboanga, we always had kasambahays who helped my Lola cook and keep house. The kasambahays were usually distant relatives whom my grandparents were putting through school, or non-relatives who offered their services in exchange for the chance to go to school. I’m proud to say though that unlike Lola Pulido, my grandparents never treated any of their kasambahays as slaves since aside from schooling, the kasambahays also received salaries.

My aunts also took on this practice and would accept young girls as kasambahays precisely because they wanted to put them through school. I don’t remember my own parents doing this though, but that was mostly because our own kasambahays were already in their 30s or 40s when they would go to us.

I have my own kasambahay now who not only looks after my son, but also cooks and cleans for my small family. So yes, having a kasambahay has always been my norm. But that’s not to say that I’ve never felt unease over it.

I used to wonder how our kasambahay could leave her own children to look after other people’s children. Didn’t she miss them? Who was looking after them while she was in Manila?

Also, everyday without fail, I pass by a dozen or so women (different women every single day) sitting on the steps and street, oftentimes with big bags in tow, waiting for the agency to open so they could be shipped off to Hongkong or Singapore and secure that better future for the family they’ll be leaving behind.

I do give my kasambahay what’s legally due her, plus more, but the guilt remains because it just doesn’t feel right to be so privileged that I can pay someone to leave her 3 sons behind to look after my own son. We shouldn’t live in a society where anyone will be forced to leave their families just to provide for them. It just isn’t right.

But this is the society we live in and so we have no choice but to work within its confines and then try to stretch it little by little to make room for the marginalized. I’ve always believed that if you have the capability to extend a hand, then you should do so.

Which brings me to kasambahay insurance. This isn’t required by the law but it’s a nice gift to give to your kasambahay and her loved ones.

I wrote about Bima Microinsurance a few months ago and I’ve since purchased insurance coverage for my own kasambahay.

Someone commented that Manulife also provides insurance specifically for kasambahays and after moseying over to the Manulife site, I found this summary for its kasambahay insurance:

It’s clear that Bima offers the higher payout than Manulife.

The most comparable plans are Bima’s Gold with an annual premium of Php740 and Manulife’s Plan 660 with an annual premium of Php660. In Bima, death is not qualified into “regular death” and “accidental death and dismemberment”, so death or disablement automatically merits the highest payout of Php180,000 with Bima. While in Manulife, death and dismemberment* of the insured only merits Php40,000 and it’s only when the death is caused by accident (resulting to the dismemberment of the insured?) that Php200,000 is paid out.

The only advantage that I can see that Manulife has over Bima is that the former has a more established presence in the Philippines, while Bima does not have the same machinery. In theory, Bima can skip town tomorrow and its insured will be left holding the bag. Although Bima should be accredited by the Insurance Commission so there might be some remedies available there if it does decide to renege on its obligation to its insured (which hopefully won’t happen).

Again, offering life insurance to your kasambahay is optional but providing a humane living environment, salary and benefits, and treating them with dignity, are not. Treating your kasambahay with humanity and compassion did not begin with the Kasambahay Law, since the law only codified what should be the established practice between employer and kasambahay, while adding more rights for the kasambahay’s benefit.

We Filipinos are a loving and compassionate people and I’d like to believe that the Lola Pulidos are more the exception than the norm. I remember how Sharon Cuneta adored her Yaya Luring and my own cousins have their own Mama Cecile who raised them and continue to care for them. But sadly, not all kasambahays get what’s legally and morally due them. I know that we are still several generations away before poor Filipinas will not feel the need to become kasambahays, so in the meantime, I can do my bit in ensuring that my kasambahay get what’s due her so that her own children will not have to experience being separated from their own families because of economic reasons.

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This is totally unrelated to the post above, but here’s a primer of your rights under martial law prepared by the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). Please do yourself and your loved ones a favor and read it and then pass it along. Please.

I don’t doubt that swift, decisive action was needed in the wake of the Marawi siege. But the Constitutional safeguards are there precisely to prevent martial law law abuses from ever happening again (what martial law abuses, Team BBM might ask) and it worries me that the Congress does not seem up to task (or refuses) to do their Constitutionally mandated duty in the checks and balances put in place by the framers of our Constitution. I take refuge though in the clear fact that the Supreme Court will not shirk from its own duty. Don’t fret folks, Meilou’s got your back.

* Shouldn’t this be death OR dismemberment? It’s highly restrictive to require death through dismemberment (i.e. death AND dismemberment) just to qualify for the higher payout.

** Additional images from Manulife

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