We first met Yupin in Bangkok, after she was recommended by an expat’s maid No. 1. That was the style then: Hire someone recommended by the No. 1 maid of an expat working in the same company. She would be your No. 1 and she would be responsible for No. 2 and No. 3, as well as the personal driver, the gardener and the security guard.
In less than a week of being hired, she had fired the driver who told her that he didn’t eat pork. Yupin said, “Go to that store outside the village and tell them because you are no longer working here.”
I loved her toughness, but she was thoroughly soft inside, and she spoiled our dogs Eric, Bonnie and Doña to the max. She also gave them different names: Bonnie aka Bones was called Bahn and Doña (with a tilde) was called Daniya. But we and the pets understood her very well.
Many cobras were swept into our yard each time a longtail boat—as it is called in Thailand—swished by in the klong outside our property wall. Yupin worried her head off, but the dogs worked as a team and knew how to deal with the snakes.
Yupin was always there when we needed her; whether at midnight or 3 a.m., we could always count on her. We gave her our guest room because through time, she became part of the family.
Certainly, I had fights with her. During her days off she had a routine: First, she would see a movie, after which she would go to a nearby small hotel and have her coffee and cake. Then she would buy chicken peppered with chillies for the dogs. Of course, I didn’t like that, but the dogs were hardly complaining.
We had no inkling that Yupin would stay with us for 15 years, even as we moved from Bangkok to Taipei to Ho Chi Minh City.
I offered to teach her English many times, but she preferred to spend her days off on her own, which was fine by me. Still I told her it was important that she learn English for the next expat who would hire her. But she ignored me.
English or not, she managed very well. When I called on the phone and asked what we were having for dinner, she would say, “Oh, madam, chicken three leg!” Or I would ask: “Yupin, who called?” She’d reply: “Oh, madam, madam four dog call.” That’s my friend Terry B., who had four dogs.
It was my pleasure to teach her many favorite Filipino dishes like pork adobo, prawn sinigang, Bicol Express, leche flan, and many others. She would tell me that when we finally parted, she would no longer be a maid but would cook Filipino dishes to sell. Her favorite was “adabo,” as she called it. Whenever I asked her to make a pot of pork sinigang, she would serve it and then keep the rest in the refrigerator, which sat in the storeroom. Then, the very next day my daughter Sandy would say, “Yupin, can I have the sinigang for lunch?” Yupin’s answer in Thai: “Why would you like to eat that? I made Pak Thai for you!” Sandy would get the hint. Yupin wanted to save the leftover sinigang for herself. I never saw anyone so crazy about Filipino food.
But now, Yupin is just a memory of a woman who made our life so comfortable when we lived in those foreign countries. Everyone is gone now, like autumn leaves scattered in the wind. All our pets have gone to dog heaven, Peter has passed on, Sandy has gone and married a foreigner. I live alone, and I don’t know where and how Yupin is. I hope she is alive and well—Peter provided her with a pension—and I hope she is happy wherever she has settled, perhaps selling her adabo and sinigang!
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Shirley Wilson de las Alas, 79, says she tries to keep mentally and physically busy, and has “plenty of time to recall some wonderful times in the past, especially some very wonderful people who filled our life with happy memories.”
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