Experiences of Filipino Domestic Workers, And Woodside as an Outlet

A few days ago on a Sunday afternoon, I was invited to attend a workshop organized by the Damayan Migrant Workers association on uptown Manhattan. I did not really know what to expect, other than the fact that I was informed by the director that we would discuss labor trafficking and signs of trafficking. Most of the participants in the workshop were either labor trafficking survivors, or were attending the event to learn more about trafficking signifiers within the context of their own employment. I ended up being accepted with welcoming hands by a group of amazing, bubbly Filipino women who were immediately shocked that I was taller than them by a longshot. It wasn’t an environment that was charged with tension and fear, but one of understanding, welcoming, and warmth. To me, this is the kind of familiar and motherly charm that is distinctly Filipino. We shared a potluck of Filipino food and socialized with each other before starting the workshop.


The director of the workshop presented a “Means of Trafficking” poster that grouped signs on how a worker is kept in an abusive situation. This was when many of the workers in attendance really started sharing their experiences, which coincided with the factors that the poster highlighted. Many of the workers gave examples of verbal abuse: “You’re so stupid”, “You don’t know anything”, “use your common sense”, and even threats about deportation like “I’ll buy you a ticket back to the Philippines”. It was quite an eye opener to me, for when they mentioned these examples, many of the workers nodded their heads in agreement about the commonality of these phrases.

Filipino domestic workers are quite literally, everywhere. “In Asia, the Middle east, Europe, and North America, [the prevalence of Filipino domestic workers is] a ubiquity that has given rise to Filipino women being stereotyped as domestic workers. In at least two instances, the word “Filipino” has come to mean domestic worker, a development which has been rued in the Philippines as one of the social costs of exporting poverty.” (Maruja M.B Asis) In New York for example, the exportation of domestic work has flourished due to the demand for child care. “There are almost 400,000 children under thirteen in New York City whose parents both work, and fewer than 100,000 places for them in after-school and day-care programs. The demand for child care at home has been met by an unregulated patchwork of agencies, a few experienced nannies, and thousands of immigrant women looking for jobs that require no training, no degrees, and often, no papers” (Susan Cheever, 32). This large exportation for child care and domestic labor, while somewhat beneficial to the Philippine economy, has simultaneously hidden the complex and emotionally straining lives that these women go through.

According to María Ibarra, a professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at San Diego State, these domestic workers are known as “emotional proletarians” as they “produce authentic emotion in exchange for a wage” (Rachel Aviv, New Yorker). This emotional exchange is a defining factor as a domestic worker, creating that motherly energy that I was familiar with back in the workshop, and at home. It’s important to note that these women often leave their children and family back in the Philippines, in order to take care of other children. This can be emotionally tolling, as explained by Emma, a domestic worker featured in a New Yorker article. “I told myself, ‘It’s time to take care of these kids,’” she said. “I took my love for my own children and I put it on these girls. I treated them as if they were my daughters.” (Aviv, New Yorker). The lack of familial presence, and isolative factors that are embedded in domestic work is the exact precarity that my website is curating, so that these usually hidden stories are unearthed in a way that really emphasizes the importance of these women in our society.

Woodside, otherwise known as ‘little Manila’, is the exact ecology that allows for these women who, usually isolated in their jobs, are able to conglomerate and socialize with each other. “More than thirteen thousand Filipinos live in the blocks surrounding Roosevelt Avenue, under the tracks of the No. 7 subway line, which takes them to Times Square. The avenue has evolved to meet the needs of female migrants: there’s a shop specializing in uniforms for nannies, housekeepers, and home health aides, and several freight and remittance centers, where workers send their earnings and gifts to their families” (Aviv, New Yorker). This town has become a portal for them to reach a culture and familiar setting that Is as close to home as they can get here in New York. Surrounding themselves with fellow Filipino migrant workers, and other OFW’s, distinguishes Woodside as an outlet to temporarily leave the emotionally tolling, and isolative nature in domestic work.


Aviv, Rachel. “Mother for Hire.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 12 Oct. 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/04/11/the-sacrifices-of-an-immigrant-caregiver.

Hochschild, Arlie, et al. “The Nanny Dilemma.” Global Woman: Nannies, Maids and Sex Workers in the New Economy, Owl, 2004.

Huang, Shirlena, et al. Asian Women as Transnational Domestic Workers. Marshall Cavendish Academic, 2005.



~ by syr0145 on October 24, 2017.

7 Responses to “Experiences of Filipino Domestic Workers, And Woodside as an Outlet”

  1. Best in substance/learning.
    Your blog really makes me learn about the Filipino labor trafficking issue a lot more. The pie chart in the picture is very informative in the different types labor trafficking that these people experienced.

  2. I think your post is really engaging. The picture you took in the workshop and your account on this experience really demonstrate how much effort you put into the precarity issue and how deeply you involve yourself into the investigation.

  3. Best In Show: You had a very active voice throughout your blog that allowed me to see your precarity through your eyes. Your “Means of Trafficking” image and explanation of how the audience nodded their head in agreement to when the director shared common hurtful/offensive statements that are often said, was an example of the emotional affect that made me realize why you are pursuing this as an ecology. These stereotypes are hindering the Filipino community in ways I never realized. Wonderful combination of affect and citational research.

  4. Best in show
    I appreciate how you referenced information regarding stereotypes of Filipinos as domestic workers on a global scale and integrated this precarity with the issues facing OFW in Woodside. The fact you were able to speak to those who are experiencing these issues further enhances the problem your ecology is seeking to address.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your blog post. For me, from the moment I started scrolling through blog posts, it immediately stood out and enticed me to want to know more. The engagement that your picture promotes in unison with your title is one that is really effective in catching the eye of the reader. I saw your image and did not fully understand what it meant and therefore was prompted to closely read. The style of your blog post while the subject matter is heavy, your style is still playful and focuses in on the warmth that “Little Manila” exudes as you said yourself by “This town has become a portal for them to reach a culture and familiar setting that Is as close to home as they can get here in New York.” For these reasons I am awarding you with style/engagement!

  6. I’m giving you “Best in show” because you were very engaging throughout while also staying informative. The way you presented attending the workshop was both interesting and affective, especially because of the topic at hand. Then you seamlessly switched into giving us information about where Filipino domestic workers are in the world, and still managed to tie it back up to Woodside at the end.

  7. Best in show! You really struck a perfect balance between substance and engagement, and definitely after recent articles like Alex Tizon’s “My Family’s Slave”, the amount of attention and resources that are being brought to light to help OFW’s shows how relevant your ecology has always been. The description of your personal experiences (such as the warmth you described), is really powerful, and its immediate contrast with the urgency of the image you chose really highlights the precarity that you are trying to convey.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s