My domestic helper is a genius. She can out-Sudoku me with one hand tied behind her back and the other cooking dinner. (She actually does this, just to show off.)
In fact, let’s face it, many domestic helpers are smarter than their employers. I have one friend who is an actual rocket scientist (the official term is astrophysics lecturer).
He could design a spaceship to fly to the Omega Nebula in ten minutes, but could he iron a pleated skirt? Not in a million years.
His helper, on the other hand, can look after him, his family, herself, and her family of 16 in the Philippines—and could probably design a spaceship with a pleated engine housing, how cool is that?
The hidden brilliance of domestic helpers has long been celebrated in the guise of supermaid stories, such as the tales of Inday from last year.
Some of these stories are too good to stay secret, so say hello to Inday and Maribet and Teresita, the cheekiest supermaids on the circuit. Inday is verbose, Maribet is smart, Teresita is wild, and their stories range from pure humour to a bittersweet recognition of how hard a helper’s life can be. Here are some of my favourites. ***
Maribet comes back from holiday and finds that her employer has bandages on both ears.
“Sir, what happened?” she asks.
“I was doing my own ironing when the phone rang,” he replies. “I accidentally answered the iron."
“Too bad,” says Maribet. “And what about the other ear?”
“I had to phone an ambulance.” ***
The employer’s wife comes home early from work one day and finds Teresita kissing her handsome nephew.
“Is this what I pay you for?” the boss’s wife shouts.
“No,” replies Teresita. “This is free of charge.” ***
On their day off, domestic helpers Maribet and Teresita are eating their lunch at a table outdoors in a public area.
A waiter from the restaurant nearby comes to the table and points to a sign posted nearby: “You cannot eat your own food here.”
“No problem,” says Maribet.
They swap lunchboxes and keep eating. ***
Maribet walks into the dining room to find that her employer’s child has a banana in his ear and rice up his nose.
Employer: “What do you think is the matter with him?”
Maribet: “He’s not eating properly.” ***
Teresita is talking to her employer, who is an old man.
Teresita: “The doctor phoned.”
Old man: “What did he say?”
Teresita: “It’s bad news. You've got cancer and Alzheimer's disease.”
Old man: “Oh dear. Well, at least I don't have cancer.” ***
Employer: “Maribet, make me a cup of coffee, with no cream.”
Maribet: “Your wife forgot to buy cream, sir. I’ll get you a cup of coffee with no milk.” ***
Maribet: “What's the difference between a domestic helper and a nun?”
Teresita: “I don’t know.”
Maribet: “A nun only serves one God.” ***
Maribet to Teresita: “Did you hear about the domestic helper in Saudi Arabia who died and went straight to hell? It took her two weeks to realize that she wasn't at work any more.” ***
Got stories about silly employers, cheeky helpers or tragicomic boss-helper situations? I've collected some and written some and put them up on a website. Click here to go to the Maribet Page where you can post more tales, or just read them and weep.
The Philippines is a wealthy country--when it comes to wit
THERE’S A SIGN on Congressional Avenue in Manila saying “Parking for Costumers Only.” This may be a mis-spelling of customer. But the Philippines is so full of colourfully dressed, theatrical people, that I prefer to think that it may actually mean what it says.
This week, we’ll take a reading tour of one of the liveliest communities in Asia, courtesy of readers there.
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Often, signposts in the Philippines conjure up intriguing visions. Consider the shoe store in Pangasinan which bears the slogan: “We Sell Imported Robber Shoes.” One assumes these must be the sneakiest sort of sneakers.
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In other cases, seemingly baffling signs can be deciphered simply by re-reading the words taking the Filipino accent into account. A restaurant in Cebu has a sign saying: “We Hab Sop-Drink In Can An In Batol.”
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Sometimes one finds the local accent, in which F and P are interchangeable, is used very cleverly, such as at the flower shop in Diliman which is called “Petal Attraction.”
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On other occasions, signposts are purely entertaining. Antonio Ramon T. Onsiako (known to his friends as Tonyboy) sent me the following signs:
Seen in a restaurant in Baguio: “Wanted: Boy Waitress.”
Seen on a highway in Pampanga: “We Make Modern Antique Furniture.”
Seen on the glass wall of an eatery in Panay Avenue near National Bookstore in Manila: “Wanted: Waiter, Cashier, Washier.”
Seen outside a house in Jaro, Iloilo: “House For Rent, Fully Furnaced.” Tonyboy commented: “Boy, it must be hot in there.”
Seen on the window of a photography shop in Cabanatuan: “We Shoot You While You Wait.”
Seen in front of a gym in Lucena City: “We Almost Have Complete Set of Gym Equipments.”
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Reader Robert Harland points out that much of the word-play in the Philippines is deliberate, with retailers favouring witty names, often based on Western celebrities. Shop around and you’ll find:
A bakery named “Bread Pitt;”
A Makati fast-food place selling a type of banana fritter known as maruya called “Maruya Carey;”
A water engineering firm called “Christopher Plumbing;”
A boutique called: “The Way We Wear;”
A video rental shop called: “Leon King Video Rental;”
A restaurant in the Cainta district of Rizal called: “Caintacky Fried Chicken;”
A local burger restaurant called “Mang Donald's;”
A doughnut shop called: “MacDonuts;”
A shop selling lumpia, or meat parcels, in Quad, Makati, called: “Wrap and Roll;”
A butcher named: “Meating Place;”
Another butcher, called: “Meatropolis;”
And a men’s garment shop in the Pier part of Manila called: “Pier Carding;”
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Tourists from Europe may be intrigued to discover shops called Holland Hopia and Poland Hopia. Both sell Chinese food: a type of pastry called Hopia. The names are explained thus: Holland Hopia is run by a man named Ho and Poland Hopia is run by a man named Po.
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Sometimes the signs are quite poignant. Reader Gunilla Edlund saw one at a ferry pier outside Davao, Southern Philippines, which said: Adults: 1 USD; Child: 50 cents; Cadavers: subject to negotiation.
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But most are purely witty. Reader Elgar Esteban found the following:
A bread shop called: “Anita Bakery;”
A 24-hour restaurant called: “Doris Day and Night;”
A garment shop called: “Elizabeth Tailoring;”
And a hairdresser called: “Felix The Cut.”
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Tonyboy Onsiako explained why there was so much wit in the Philippines. “We come from a country where you require a sense of humor to survive,” he said. “We have a 24-hour comedy show here called the government and a huge reserve of comedians made up mostly of politicians and bad actors.”