"I first came to Singapore 30 years ago after I was tricked into marriage. I was a teenager and a boy from my village who really liked me kept charming my parents with presents and kind words. I wasn’t interested but eventually they agreed to have me go over to meet his parents for dinner. I still remember the last thing they said to him as we went off to dinner was,"I first came to Singapore 30 years ago after I was tricked into marriage. I was a teenager and a boy from my village who really liked me kept charming my parents with presents and kind words. I wasn’t interested but eventually they agreed to have me go over to meet his parents for dinner. I still remember the last thing they said to him as we went off to dinner was, "Be sure to bring our daughter back!"
Well he didn’t. After dinner, they wouldn’t let me go home. His parents had prepared a room for me. There was no phone so I had no way to call for help. So I stayed alone in that room and they sent me home in the morning. He never touched me, but his parents said my reputation was ruined because I spent the night. They told my family: “She’s ruined so she may as well marry our son.”
My parents and grandparents agreed. I was furious but had no choice. That’s how it was then. So fine I married him. But right after the ceremony, I went off to Manila where a friend of mine had an employment agency and soon I was on a plane to Singapore to become a domestic worker. He never had his honeymoon with me.
My parents kept asking me to come home and give him a chance. They said if only I would have a baby with him, we would fall in love. So when my contract ended I went back. But I couldn’t stand for him to touch me - how to have a baby? So I adopted. I loved her very much. But it did nothing for my feelings for him. I still despised him. There are many stories of how I tried and failed to love him. But after many ups and downs, I went back to Singapore to continue to support my family. My salary supports over 20 people back home.
These days, besides my full time job as a domestic worker, I remotely run a recycling business in The Philippines. Every morning we lend workers $15 to buy all the recyclable materials they can gather and at the end of the day they sell us what they gathered deducting the amount of the loan. This provides jobs to 20 people. It has been a very successful social enterprise and I’ve even won an award for my business plans. I also do lots of social work in Singapore working with HOME Singapore and have trained with aidha. And I’ve run three Stanchart marathons.”
"How did you find time to train for them?"
"I’ve never trained. The marathons are always on a Sunday, my day off. So I signed up and ran. I’ve complete all three that way: I just show up and start running."