Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Work Pride

There is nothing wrong in having it, only in having excessive amounts of it.

I bring this up because I am reminded, randomly, of the time when even servants--y'know, usually of a non-Caucasian ethnicity and often just barely speaking their master's language--took great pride in their work. Those who watch Downton Abbey may notice this of the servants--this time of similar ethnicity but often of lower educational and social background--in the series.

(Please note that I haven't actually watched full episodes of Downton Abbey, I am merely familiar with the period.)

The point here being a recent discussion with my mother regarding the technicalities between using the words katulong and kasambahay which both refer to household helpers but with the latter being the "politically correct" term.

Now, I enclose "politically correct" in quotation marks because I do agree with a song line from Avenue Q's Everyone's a Little Bit Racist which said

If we all could just admit/that we are racist a little bit/and everyone stopped being so PC/maybe we could live in harmony

I understand the desire to be correctly addressed in certain ways. Though believe me when I say that Filipinos are some of the worst racists in the world and I do count myself as one of those really bad racists. I don't find it offensive, however. I actually do manage to laugh at and about racist comments though I don't make too many racist jokes myself; I have no comedic timing.

That said, I also see how we are often so caught up in the titles and, really let's just say it as it is, name calling, that we forget the reason for the titles and names to begin with.

I told my mother that I will call the help katulong because that is what they are supposed to be. Tulong means "to help" and for me, the term katulong means they are an important part of the household system because they help keep the household running smoothly. Meantime, this new-fangled term kasambahay can literally be translated to mean anything from someone who helps around the house to someone who simply lives in the same house (kasambahay--kasama sa bahay).

Yes, some might find it offensive but this really depends on how any person chooses to look at it.

To be called a katulong is a reminder that you are being employed to help keep the household running. I honestly do not understand how it came to be that, in the Philippines, it is more often preferred, even essential that there be at least one household helper to help keep things in order. But I have grown up with it and considering the size of our household, it must be so. Now, whether to take pride in the fact that you are essential to that household or not is up to you.

There was a series of ads way back in the 80s that encouraged supposed "lower class" workers to take pride in their work. Often, these "lower class" workers are those who work menial jobs such as those in construction, jeepney drivers, janitors and the like. Though also professionals in their own right, they introduce themselves in false modesty as "Jeepney drayber lang ako." ["I am only a jeepney driver."] The advertisement encouraged these professionals to be proud of their work and do it well, claiming the title as "Jeepney drayber ako!" ["I am a jeepney driver!"] as an important part of the whole transportation system.

It is no less honourable to be a menial worker or any type of manual labourer than it is to be an executive or a doctor. True, there are licenses to be had, tests to be taken, and I know there are those who may take it against me to compare the two types of work.

The thing here is this: work is work, whatever it may be. Some people can count themselves immensely fortunate to be doing what they love. There are those who are doing it simply because it's what they are good at. There are different reasons for doing the work that we do and different reasons behind choosing or falling into the work that we do. But done honestly, well and, as said in the movie version of The Devil Wears Prada, with integrity, it will always be work that one can take pride in doing.

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