Everyday Living

A Letter To Stella From Erlinda

My Dear Stella,

How are you? How is life in Canada?

In your last letter you mentioned that life is difficult there, especially at the start of your married life. I know the feeling. We are probably experiencing similar hardships.You are lucky to be where you are. As you know, so many of our people here dream of going to Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and other counties. So many women pay large sums of money to leave in search of brighter futures, some even illegally. Some of these women look for men to marry them, something they can’t be blamed for, because life is so difficult here. Others take on any kind of work just to be able to earn a living. There are fortunate ones who get decent and respectable job. So don’t give up – you’ll find work, especially since you are in Canada legally.

There are different stories to tell about people we knew and grew up with. Remember my cousin Ella? She finished studying to become a doctor here, only to start all over again to become a nurse, as she heard that nurses in the West earn big salaries. It is an honorable profession, but her aunt can’t understand why she had to do what she did.I hear she is in London now.

Then there is Julia, the daughter of a neighbor in Marieveles. Julia is a teacher in Texas now and reportedly has a huge house. Her older sister used to work in Hong Kong as a domestic helper.

Remember Lea, the basketball team’s muse? She once invited me to apply to work with her in Japan. The last time I saw her, she was buying a plane ticket to Tokyo. Remember how our classmates used to laugh at her because she was a stiff and graceless dancer? She can’t sing either. I don’t know. I guess one just needs determination.

I still work as a cashier in a departmental store. Thank God, I have finally become a regular employee after years of working there. Lately, there have been a lot of strikes in our company because the owner refuses to pay fair wage. As much as I would like to join these strikes, my responsibilities to my family keep me from doing so. And even if I wanted to look for another job (because I do have a degree in management) it would be hard to find one, regardless of my education.

I myself am responsible for the tuition of Utoy, my youngest brother, a sophomore at a computer college, as well as that of my oldest sister Gina’s children. She is out of work and has a useless husband who likes to gamble. They fight all the time, and he’s even hurt her once. They survive on her earnings from selling rice cakes.

Fortunately the sibling after me, a new graduate has already started working.She was hired by a customer- service call center in Ortigas. Classy, huh? There are a lot of these companies here now; they mostly hire women, up to 90 percent.

The trouble with her though, is that she’s too capricious and extravagant. You know how that is. Teenagers nowadays are too much like sheep and always like to be in style. The problem is that styles change so fast and it’s expensive to keep up. In our time, there were no cell phones; computers only had black screens with green letters: and watching a movie at Shoemart was the only pastime we knew.

Nowadays, women are up to all kinds of new things. What used to be exclusively male events have now become female activities – things engaged in by “yuppies’’, as the young people here now like to call themselves – places like Malate bars where you get dressed up and go to see and be seen, air-conditioned pool halls, cybercafés, which are addictive even to the computer illiterate who go there to ‘‘chat’’, and coffeehouses with expensive coffee.

This is all for now. I have to go and watch my favorite tele-novela; all rage nowadays on TV.

Take care always.

Your friend,

P.S. I’m still waiting for a husband. Gabriel and I broke up because I caught him dating another girl. There are still three of us unmarried girls in our group of friends. We’re always bridesmaids or sponsors but never the brides at weddings. My mother is rushing me to get married, as she says I might not be able to have a child or won’t find anyone because I’ll be over thirty.

 Culled from Imagining Ourselves, a publication by International Museum of Women

Photo: B. Blue/gettyimages

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