service sector workers residing with their employers, or who squeeze into sub-standard shared accommodation to extend their modest incomes.
My understanding of the current cultural politics surrounding usages of 'Filipina' is based on personal correspondence with feminist friends and colleagues in an area where women's migration rates are particularly high.
In their 'home' communities in the Philippines these women are often referred to as 'domestic helpers' (DHs for short), or as in official discourse 'OCWs' (overseas contract workers).
During the 1940s and 1950s, most foreign domestic workers in Canada were British or European. By 1989, 50 per cent came from the Philippines (Daenzer 1997).
See Brah (1996) and Ong and Nonini (1997) for further discussion on this point.
This research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). Other Philippine research has been supported by two Dalhousie University projects with the University of the Philippines (UPV) at Los Banos and Iloilo, and Silliman University, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Andrea Alviola and Maria Bueros worked with me under the Environmental Resource Management Project (ERMP) on gender and household livelihood – Andrea continues her generous support. Betty Abregana (Silliman) and Rosaria Asong and Meloy Mabunay (UPV, Iloilo) continue collaboration and friendship. I am forever grateful to all of them and others too numerous to mention here.
In September 1995, in the United Arab Emirates, 16-year-old Sara Balabagan was found guilty of stabbing her male employer whom she claimed had attempted to rape her soon after she arrived. In response to Philippine domestic protests and with widespread international support, the Philippine state managed to have her death sentence reduced to public flogging plus one year in jail. Earlier that same year, in Singapore, Flor Contemplacion had been tried for murder, ostensibly the outcome of a quarrel between friends. She was executed, despite much public agitation in the Philippines. Since Balabagan's case, official Philippine reactions to migrant misfortune are now more assertive and proactive. Philippine overseas workers are now proclaimed as 'hero/ines' and 2000 was officially dedicated to their honour – the 'Year of OFWs'. Sara Balabagan returned home to a heroine's welcome in 1996 and has become associated with celebrity, even in Canada. While Balabagan and Contemplacion are emblematic of the darker, 'victimized' side of migration, Sara Balabagan might equally serve as an empowerment example over time and through subsequent experience.
Agrawal, A. (1997) Community in Conservation: Beyond Enchantment and Disenchantment, Gainesville: Conservation and Development Forum.
Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, London: Verso.
Appadurai, A. (1991) 'Global ethnoscapes: Notes and queries for a transnational anthropology', in R. Fox (ed.) Recapturing Anthropology: Working in the Present, Santa Fe: School of American Research, pp. 101–210.
Arao, D.A. (1991) 'Migrant workers: The export of labour', Kabalikat 12 (September): 3–7.
Bakan, A.B. and D. Stasiulis (eds) (1997) Not One of the Family: Foreign Domestic Workers in Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
—— (1995. 'Making the match: Domestic placement agencies and the racialization of women's household work', Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 20(2): 303–35.