Monday, October 23, 2017

"I love You, Alona"

(The following is the speech delivered by Ms Cynthia Ho, the daughter of the employer of Alona Famatiga, domestic helper in Hong Kong during the graduation ceremony of Ateneo LSE53 held at The Chinese University of Hong Kong last October 22. 

The Ateneo Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship Training Program for Overseas Filipinos and their Families (Ateneo LSE) is a flagship Executive Education program of the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG). Ateneo-LSE is organized by WIMLER Foundation in Hong Kong.)

Years ago, I was 11 then, when I suddenly learned that we have one new family member at home, one that is not blood related, not even sharing the same ethnicity, but our bond is much stronger than many of my blood related ones. 

I left Hong Kong for the USA when I was 16 to pursue my study.  I came back again when I was 23. I left our home when I was 30 and started living on my own until now. I am now 41 years old. Alona has been staying with my parents for 30 years, while I lived with my parents for 22 years only. Trust me, staying with my parents is not one of the easiest thing to do, especially because my mom is not an easy person to live with.  I would like to call that a generation gap.

So, seven years after I graduated, I finally moved out. All these years I keep wondering what an amazing woman Alona is being able to stay in this family for 30 years! As I grew up, I finally understand it. It is because she does not only TREAT us as family, we ARE her family.

Let us do a little bit more mathematics here.  I was 11 when Alona came.  I spent 5 years with her and I left for the USA.  I spent another seven years living with my family before I moved out.  That means I have only spent 12 years living with Alona! But what makes us so close? I would say, destiny indeed! 

Alona is like an angel sent to me from God. She took good care of me when I was young, from as simple as cooking and taking care of all housework to bringing me lunch every single day when I was in early secondary school. She protected me when my mom punished me at home (trust me those were not simple punishments), to standing up for me when I was being mistreated. Nowadays she still takes care of my parents so that I could literally be carefree, knowing that no matter what happens, my parents would always be well taken care of.

Even though it was just 12 years that we lived under the same roof, she has shared my laughter and tears.  And I am glad that this sharing is mutual  since Alona also has her tough time. As Alona said: "We have been through ups and downs together". She sees everything that happened to me, my changes, my metamorphosis. She sees all the struggles and successes I have had.  There is not a minute that she doubts on me, and she has always been very supportive to me, sometimes even more than my own mother.

I am a grown-up person now.  I wish I could do more for her, for she is not just a helper, but a close family member. I wish she could stay here forever and I could take care of her just like what she did for me, but that would be just too selfish of me, for she has her own family too in the Philippines. She has sacrificed her most beautiful years with us, and as she is gradually getting older, she should have the opportunity to retire and spend the rest of her time with her own family too and do the things she wants to do, for herself and herself alone.
When that day comes, I know I gonna miss her. 

However, being able to graduate from this Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship training program, I believe she will make the best choice for herself and continue to be the leader of her life, and seek the type of happiness she truly deserves.

I love you, Alona!

CYNTHIA HO, is Sex Therapist and Relationship Counselor in Hong Kong. She studied Sexual Health at University of Sydney and Film at Boston University. Ms Ho was 11 years old when her parents hired Alona Famatiga as household helper.

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