The breadwinner of the family

May Belen is part of Future Voices programme in partnership with The Voice of Domestic Workers. Future Voices is a unique leadership programme which works with migrant domestic workers to become spokespeople and speak out against the issues that their community face.

I am a single mother and I have one son. I am from a poor family in the Philippines  and it was very hard to survive. My parents separated when I was only eight years old.

My mother worked as a laundry woman, while my father was a construction worker. From a young age, being the eldest sibling, I helped my parents provide for our daily needs and became the breadwinner for my seven siblings. I worked as a shoemaker, which did not earn enough money to support our needs. I tried to work in the morning, and then studied in university to get a degree in accounting. 

I have encountered different kinds of employers since I started working abroad in 1988—I had to do this to provide for my family, and so was unable to finish my university studies. My first employer was in Jeddah, and there have been many more. I was a housekeeper and a nanny simultaneously, multi-tasking many duties inside the house. I cooked, did all the household chores and cared for the kids for a minimal salary for the first seven years. 

I have experienced abusive treatment and managed to fight back in order to survive. I spent three years in Kuwait, experiencing the most challenging time when I could not provide enough salary for my family. Life was so tough. My sister passed away that year because I couldn’t support paying for her medication. Sometimes, I felt so exhausted I wanted to give up, but I knew there was a reason to move forward and hold on.

On 6 September, 2002 my son was born. His biological father abandoned us and since then, I have been the only person supporting the needs of my son. I decided to go back to the Middle East in order to work as a domestic worker so I could financially support my son and my family. 

At one point, I was working for a prince in Saudi Arabia. I was the only one caring for his only son for eleven years. Being a Filipino nanny is not just a job. We care too much, with all our hearts. I became the second ‘parent’ of that child. I experienced how to be a mom, always behind him. The family travelled back and forth between the UK. But as the time went by and after I was abused so many times by my employer, for example, by not giving me my salary in time and delaying it for months, I decided to leave this family on their fourth visit to the UK.

Starting my journey here was not easy. I felt no one could help me here. At first, I really cried so hard for leaving the prince’s son, but in order to survive and for the future of my family, I had to be tough. I had to step up to another journey and join new Filipino communities in this country. 

I’ve been here in the UK for almost five years. My situation as a worker here has been so hard. At last, I found work looking after a little girl, who was two and a half years old and just starting nursery. I have been with this family for one year now. They supported me with the documents for the Home Office, and I received a conclusive grounds decision, meaning I am recognised as a victim of human trafficking. I have my Biometric Residents’ Permit now, but there is only a year left on it. A very big question I’m thinking about is, when it expires, what will happen to me? 

My son is now 21 years old, and in his final year of studying for his Bachelor’s degree in Criminology in our town, Marikina City. Even though we are far away from each other, I managed to communicate with him and thought about all the courage I have in me to help him study harder for his future. 

About the Author

May Belen is 61 years old, a mother of one son, and the oldest of seven siblings. She worked as a domestic worker for almost two decades in the Middle East and for five years in the UK. She was recently identified as a victim of modern slavery and trafficking. She currently works full time as a nanny. She’s proud to be part of The Voice of Domestic Workers, as it helps her to show the world what happens behind closed doors for domestic workers. 

In her free time, May Belen enjoys doing her activities in Body, Mind and Wellness, English for Speakers of Other Languages, also doing her Mediacom and IT Computer homework. She enjoys shopping for her personal belongings, and enjoys watching the news and movies on Netflix. Sometimes if her son needs advice for his studies, May Belen helps support him.

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