Terminated: Filipino perspectives by Dr. Jorge and Bolen De Ramos (guest author)


Terminate - Pronunciation: \tər’-mə-nət\; Function: *adjective*; Etymology:Middle English, from Latin *terminatus,* past participle of *terminare,*from*terminus*; Date: 15th century*:* coming to an end or capable of ending

 In Hong Kong this word means ending a job contract. Domestic helpers in HK would sometimes use the phrase, “bababa na ko” (I’m descending) – a metaphor for leaving a place of employment.

 The word “terminated” is particularly used when a household worker is fired from her job. Otherwise the worker would say, “I broke contract” –more Filipinese, “*nag break contract na ko*” - indicating a resignation.

We regularly encounter terminated workers. Their stories as well as reactions and attitudes vary.  Most are bitter and dejected, while some would be surprisingly happy about it. But terminations are generally an unpleasant experience.

The reasons for terminations vary as well. Most of them will cite poor performance as the culprit. But there are more reasons than mere job mediocrity.

We received a call from M*, one of our active members in church. She was asked by her employer to pack up and leave the house hastily, before the child wakes up. She placed everything she had in a sack (she had just disposed her suitcase with the plan to buy a new one). Upon receiving the required documents and termination pay, she was instructed to leave quietly.

As expected, she is confused why this has happened. Her employer had no qualms about her work; M* knew the routines and standards of her employer’s home well. And to confound the matter, the termination happened on the eve of her last month with her employer.

Sorting through the incident, she concluded that the reason is with her growing intimacy with her employers’ toddler.   For the past two years, the child has spent most of his waking hours – and even sleeping hours, with M*. The mother has typically been busy with her work that she has become virtually absent. Naturally, the toddler became more inclined to his caregiver than to his mother. Thus the employer, in order to avert the situation decided to fire M*.

When J* was terminated, her employer says it was poor performance. Later on, we learned that the termination was a way to keep the man of the house getting entangled with an attractive house help.

R* has already worked for four months and then she was terminated. But she finds herself at peace with what has happened. It was a better option than staying on. Although she speculates on the seeming failure of her higher purpose as a Christian; she sees herself as an agent of God’s blessing to her employer. She had been somewhat warned that her employer is hard to satisfy.  Equipped with determination and faith, she took it as a challenge. She persevered through weeks and months of unreasonable demands and irrational behavior. She took consolation on God’s promise of presence and her sense of mission.   She constantly prayed for the ones she worked for. She did not give up, but her employer gave up on her.  Nevertheless, she is moving on with optimism that God will set her on another household where she can still be an agent of blessing.

Those who were terminated leave their place of employment, bitter and bewildered. Most will break down at the announcement.  They would think of the money they spent to have an overseas job. Some even have loans to pay on their placement fees. They ask themselves, "is this what we get for leaving our loved ones and spending all the money we had?" To most of them, the dejected feeling would bear down on their already-tattered self-esteem.

Those terminated commonly need two things immediately: a place to stay and an ear to listen. These two needs have become an essential part of what a minister among the OFWs (Overseas Filipino Worker) here in Hong Kong has to offer.

God has blessed us to live in a flat with an extra room. This flat has become a place of refuge for those who have been displaced by termination. Often times, tired and weary they would over sleep on their first night – catching up on much needed rest. And then much time of their waking hours will be spent talking to someone they trust.

And by the Lord’s grace, Bolen and I would have the faculty to listen. By listening we observe that they go through a typical emotional cycle of a grieving person. This graphic I downloaded from the internet accurately represents the emotions the terminated go through. So we journey with them as much as we can through the cycle, punctuating it with prayers , God's Word and with quiet times of reflection.

Arrow Employment Services also do their part for these people. Arrow assists the terminated in finding a new employer for them. They also coach them on their rights and privileges. Most agencies would have nothing to do with the terminated. Besides their services given only up to the point when they are placed.

 This model is adapted from Kubler-Ross’s grief cycle.

 Please do continue to pray for us that we -not only for Jorge and Bolen- but for all of us who serve OFWs - that we may be channels of God's grace to those who have been terminated.

Allan Smith1 Comment