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5 The Philippine Domestic Gendered Labor, Family, and the Nation-State When Filipina domestic worker Flor Contemplacion was sentenced to death in 1995 by the Singaporean government for allegedly murdering a fellow Filipina domestic worker and the child in her care, thousands of Filipinos in the Philippines and around the world rallied to demand that the Philippine state stop her impending execution. Protesters believed Contemplacion had been falsely accused. Many thought that Contemplacion had been set up to take the fall for a Singaporean, possibly her employer. The protests were a culmination of many Filipinos’ long-standing critiques of the Philippine government ’s migration program, especially in relation to migrant women workers. Though the state hails migrants as its “new national heroes” churches, scholars, NGOs, as well as grassroots migrant activists in Migrante International, have long contested the government’s role in facilitating women’s migration as low-wage workers in gender-typed and gender-segregated jobs that make them especially vulnerable to exploitation and sexual abuse.1 Contemplacion’s case exemplified the kinds of vulnerabilities Filipina migrants face at the hands of their employers and ultimately host governments. The highly publicized and transnational nature of the Contemplacion protests produced a political crisis, one that was critically centered, for the Philippine state. At the height of the crisis the Gancayo Commission, a state-appointed body established to evaluate the impacts of women’s migration from the Philippines, came to the following conclusion: 93 94 The Philippine Domestic The saddest reality as found in the mission is the irreparable damage that has been inflicted to the reputation of the Filipina woman in the international scene because of the indiscriminate deployment of our women as domestic helpers (DHs) and entertainers. Our nation has gained the embarrassing reputation that we are a country of DHs, entertainers, and even prostitutes. . . . It is said that even in a certain dictionary the latest definition of the work “Filipina” is a “housemaid.”2 State officials’ own anxieties about women’s migration as reflected in the Gancayo Commission report reveal the degree to which the state’s labor export policy was increasingly being questioned internally. The notion that Philippine migrants were “new national heroes” was fast being undermined by the broader public as well as by government officials themselves. This chapter’s title, “The Philippine Domestic,” refers to the debates in the Philippines regarding the migration of women. These debates sprung up in the media, churches, and NGOs as well as among everyday people, particularly in response to women’s increasing employment as domestic workers (but also as “entertainers”) overseas. It also refers to the nature of those debates, which centered on the effects of women’s migration on different sets of domestic matters , namely, family life and the Philippines’ national subject-status on the global stage. These debates were intensified by the death of a woman migrant worker, widely publicized in a way similar to that of Contemplacion, that of a twenty-two-year-old Filipina migrant worker Maricris Sioson. Many of the representations of domestic workers that were produced in response to these two women’s deaths continue to shape how domestic workers are discussed in the Philippines. The labor brokerage system is saddled by intrinsic contradictions that are critically gendered. Eager to supply the world with labor, the state has inserted migrant women into global circuits of reproductive labor that separate them from their children (if they are mothers) and then require that they care for the children of their employers in faraway destinations.3 Mothers’ absence from the home triggers “hegemonic national anxiety about the global status of the Filipino people.”4 Yuval-Davis argues that “a major part of the control of The Philippine Domestic 95 women as national reproducers relates to their actual biological role as bearers of children.”5 Hence when women cannot perform their biological role of both bearing and caring for their children, the social order on which the nation depends is threatened. As Tadiar suggests, the migration of Filipinas as domestic workers also produces nationalist anxieties because of their hypervisibility as low-wage, low-status workers.6 The hypervisibility of Filipinas abroad as domestic workers and their invisibility at “home” (that is, the household and the nation-state) raises concerns about the gendered representation of the Philippine nation-state in the global context. Though Filipina migrants work overseas as caregivers to other children, what is more desirable, particularly for the Philippine...

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