Sunday, August 9, 2009

Si Maganda Ay Isang Bilog [Maganda is an Irregular Migrant]

"Bilog," the Filipino word for "round", is what Filipino undocumented migrants in Japan are called. This is because a zero is represented by a circle which is round, and undocumented migrants are considered as having zero presence, zero rights and zero existence.

I am in one of Japan's biggest cities to meet and interview undocumented Filipino migrants.

Today I met Maganda ["maganda" means "beautiful" in Filipino; names of people and places have been changed for confidentiality and privacy considerations], 46 years old, female, married, with 5 kids and her husband left in Manila. Maganda was invited by a relative of one of her in-laws to come to Japan to be a nanny, with a verbal agreement to receive a salary of PHP30,000 (approximately JPY60,000) a month. She left for Japan in 2006 on a tourist visa (3 months duration) and was promised that once she arrived this visa would be converted to one with a longer duration. She was paid only one-third of their agreed salary by her Filipina employer, and so when her visa expired after 3 months she decided that she would stay on in Japan and find work, but now as an undocumented migrant, as a bilog.

Her social network of Filipinos landed her a job as a hotel chambermaid with a monthly salary of 16 lapad (1 "lapad" meaning JPY10,000). Working 6 days a week, 7 hours a day, her hourly rate thus being JPY952 (JPY160,000 / 24 days a month / 7 hours a day). She stayed in that job for 9 months until internal issues and worker politics forced her to quit the job. Now she is back to babysitting again for 6 days a week from 7pm to 2am for a monthly salary of JPY 60,000 or an hourly rate of JPY357.

Meeting Up With Maganda. I was supposed to meet up with my contact at 10:00am that morning. But I got a call from her and learned that she had to help a DV (domestic violence) case, and that she wouldn't be able to come.


[to be continued...]

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