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The conquering ‘yaya’

IT WAS writer Jessica Zafra who first posited that the way to “world domination” by the Philippines was not through arms, entertainment juggernauts, or even consumer goods. Instead, the Philippines—and Filipinos—she wrote, would take over the world by way of our yayas, or, to be politically correct, our nannies or domestic workers.

Zafra’s interesting assertion came to mind after news that Singaporean Joseph Schooling, who stunned the world when he defeated American swimming legend Michael Phelps in the 100-meter butterfly event in the Rio Olympics, said he owed a lot to his nanny and “second mom” Yolanda Pascual.

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Serving in the Schooling household for 19 years, Yolanda said in a clip from a TV ad for Singapore’s Olympic hopefuls that she had raised the 21-year-old swimmer since he was a toddler. And all through his childhood and swimming career, she said, she was ever at his side, cheering along with his parents as he conquered his opponents and smashed records. I bet she cheered loudest when he ascended the podium to take the gold.

This is how we will conquer the world, indeed: Through the memories and loving loyalty of the wards of the women who have left their own families (and sometimes, their own children) to look after the children of strangers. And despite the distance, the loneliness they must feel, the cultural shock that comes with being “a stranger in a strange land,” these women’s Filipino-ness comes to the fore. And that means taking the children into their hearts, teaching them Filipino ways, sometimes subconsciously, and even inadvertently introducing them to our food, our follies and our faith.

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This is why children in Middle Eastern households, for example, sometimes end up learning to recite the rosary, schooled by their nannies in the Filipinos’ fervent faith and oriented by their “second mothers’” longing for home.

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JET lag and a pending book project prevented me and my family from joining the hundreds who trooped to Luneta last Sunday to declare that “Marcos is not a hero” and certainly does not deserve to be laid to rest among the country’s “real” heroes.

Facebook posts were filled with familiar faces flashing familiar signs of protest. Back were the raised fists, the huge banners and placards, and the uniquely Filipino tendency to flash smiles even when it was anger and ire that drew them to defy the rains and the inclement weather to gather in common protest.

Indeed, after our Church leaders, educators, politicians and prominent citizens spoke out against the burial of FM at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, it was the turn of ordinary citizens to make their voices heard. There were many among the protesters who had gained public notice for their participation in rallies and marches in past years—many of them against the Marcos dictatorship. Notably, their hair had turned white, and their faces more lined; perhaps their limbs hurt more than usual. But they were there, and the spirit that moved them—undying, unburied—was still palpable even after all these years.

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ON FB, friends said their hearts were lightened when they spotted younger people—millennials or younger—among the protesters in Luneta. Remarkable because, due to our own generation’s neglect or preference to keep quiet, they have little experience or memories of life during martial law.

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Save for stories and the historical record, young Pinoys have little reason to harbor ill will toward the Marcoses. Which is why it’s puzzling why President Duterte and the Marcos family raked up the hard feelings by insisting on a Libingan burial for the dictator. As some commentators have pointed out, there hasn’t been exactly a public clamor for a hero’s recognition for the strongman, save perhaps from his family and the remaining Loyalists. Why insist on these honors now? Why not let sleeping dictators lie?

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SHOULD Philippine-based and -owned airlines be relegated to mere observers during negotiations with foreign air panels?

This is the question being raised by Save Our Skies (SOS) president Robert Lim Joseph, a distinguished figure in the travel and tourism business, as he urged the Duterte administration through the Department of Transportation  to amend an executive order designating Philippine carriers as observers in talks with foreign carriers.

Joseph said airlines have a great stake during air negotiations and “should not be relegated to simple observers.” He called for the reinstatement (as was done in previous administrations) of airline representatives in air negotiating and consultation panels.

This would only level the playing field, said the tourism leader, noting that foreign airline representatives play a major role in their air panels and are active participants during negotiations with Philippine authorities.

As contained in Executive Order No. 28, which amended and revoked EO 32 and EO 296, the Philippine air negotiating panel is made up of the foreign secretary as chair, and the trade, transportation and tourism secretaries, as well as the executive director of the Civil Aeronautics Board, as members. Local airlines are allowed in only to observe the talks.

“We are not asking for any advantage for our Philippine carriers. What we are just appealing for is to give our airlines fair and equitable treatment during negotiations for air rights,” Joseph emphasized.

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TAGS: domestic helper, helper, maid, OFW, opinion, yaya
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