climb

rich people and their strange rules for servants

i don't know if the rich are privy to some unwritten and mysterious rule about human relations but there are many things i don't understand about the way they treat people with whom they trust their productivity, their safety and well-being, and ultimately, their lives. i was enjoying a delicious piece of salmon taro puff at xin tian di which crumbled in my fingers each time i took a bite when a group of people, three of them senior citizens, streamed into the restaurant in a single file. the matron was seated on a wheelchair, being pushed by a younger woman who was wearing a scrub suit similar to two others who were at the tail-end of the slow-moving train. they occupied a table good for 8, although there were only 7 of them. i immediately noticed that the younger women in the identical scrub suits pulled their seats away from the table, and the excess place mats and plates were unceremoniously taken away by the waiters.

orders for dimsum were made, and when the steamer baskets arrived, the women in the drab blue uniforms turned their gazes to the window and admired the decrepit, crumbling concrete structure of what used to be the philcomcen building. on occasion they would be distracted from staring out the window to take pictures or to wipe the crumbs of food that collected on the mouth of the young boy who accompanied the 3 older persons. but when they were not needed, they turned away, their backs against the table, looking at uninteresting patterns of condominium windows that appeared beyond the window while their masters hungrily devoured the food as the baskets arrived.

i don't understand this because growing up in a poor family which on occasion had strangers in the house who helped us with the chores, we never treated them differently just because they did things i hated to do as a child. they shared our table, our food, joined us in celebrations and were served the same meals we ate when they accompanied us outside our home. they are people too, who like us, get hungry and have cravings for good food. just because they worked for us didn't put them a rung lower that they were treated so differently as to depict them publicly undeserving of the same experiences as we have. that is why i like the word kasambahay, which is a contraction of kasama sa bahay: a companion in the house. it carries a value different from servant, domestic help, maid. it suggests a degree of importance, a dignified role which some rich people have effectively denied them by making them sit on a chair, away from the table, to watch as an old building awaits demolition.

it is probably not my place to offer suggestions to people outside my social strata on how people in your personal employ should be treated, whether you call them katulong or kasambahay or yaya or alila. like i said, i may be unaware of a certain norm that's exclusive to people who can afford to have 3 maids but will not spend an extra centavo to let them taste the food that's served at restaurants. my parents did not pass that on to me for they may themselves have not been taught the rule. perhaps it is because i am not rich and used to wonder about the taste of expensive food when i was much poorer that my emotions are tugged whenever i witness this scene. i can only try to explain what this may mean: do they look away because they are not needed and could not chew the food for the people they serve, or do they pretend to stare at things outside the window so that their mouths don't water?