Last update 10/22/2011 5:00:00 PM (GMT+7)

Filipino in HCM City (Part 1)
VietNamNet Bridge would like to introduce Thanh Nien Daily’s reportage about the Filipino community in HCM City.

High-class charladies

Some rich families in HCM City hire charwomen from the Philippines, with monthly salary of $500-1,000.

We saw Syjuco when she drove a car to take three kids of her employer to a cinema in central Saigon on a Saturday afternoon. Syjuco, 37, has brown skin, bright eyes and looks hefty. She was married and has a 12-year-old daughter. She came to HCM City in 2005 to work as a charlady for rich families. She is now paid $700 a month.

Syjuco has two sisters, who have also come to Vietnam for two years. Both of them 30 and 36, are married and have children but their husbands allow them to work in Vietnam for high income.

Syjuco said she is lucky for being recruited by a good employer. She has worked for this Vietnamese since 2005 and she feels comfortable.

The Filipino charwoman said her day starts at 4am. She prepares breakfast for seven members in the family, including the couple, their three children and their parents. After that she takes three kids to school and returns home to take the old couple to a nearby park for doing morning exercise.

While the old couple does their morning exercise and talk with other people, she goes to the market to buy food. Returning from the market, she picks up the old couple. When the old couple read books or watch TV in their room, Syjuco cleans the home and prepare lunch. On the afternoon, she picks up the three kids, serve them the dinner and turtor them. The three kids must go to bed before 11pm.

Many Filipino charladies are working for families in Districts 2 and 7. Most of them work full time and live together with their employer families while some work on hour basis, earning $40-50/hour. Most of them are married women and some come to Vietnam with their families. Their husbands also seek jobs in Vietnam.

“Before going to Vietnam, we attended a nearly one-year training course on housework, taking care of kids and the elderly and other skills like first aid, firefighting, etc.,” Janeth, who is working for a family at the Riverside building, explained why Filipino charladies are favored in HCM City.

Syjuco was a nurse but she could not find a good job in her country, so she came to Vietnam. Her monthly income includes $700 of salary and over $100 of bonus. The woman does not have to spend money because the employer buys clothes and personal belongings for her. Syjuco, thus, sends home $700 a month.

The Filipino has brought her husband and her daughter to Vietnam early this year. This family now lives in a boarding room in District, at the cost of VND2.5 million per month. Her daughter studies at an international school with her employer’s kids.

Meanwhile, Syjuco’s sister – Santant – has worked for five families. All of them are foreigners who only worked in Vietnam for a short period of time. She currently works three hours a day for an American tourism firm in District 7, earning VND7 million ($350) a month. With a lot of free time, she told employees in that office that she was willing to take care of babies, elderly people or to work as an English tutor. An employee in that company invited her to tutor his two children. Santant can also be a tutor of physics, chemistry and biology for the kids if necessary, with payment of VND6 million ($300) a month. Satant said she was not satisfied with her current income and she would find other jobs.

Many foreign, overseas Vietnamese and rich Vietnamese families in Phu My Hung new residential area employ Filipino charladies.

Mr. T.L, who hires a Filipino charwoman, said he was satisfied with the charlady because she not only cooks very well, does housework perfectly, takes care of kids and elderly people, teaches English but also knows first-aid and fire-fighting techniques, drives car and how to get out of a high-rise building in emergency cases.

He also said the Filipino charwoman is very self-aware of their duties. They also do tasks that are not their duties.

Mrs. TH, who hires a 40-year-old Filipino charlady, commented that the charlady is “more than perfect.” This woman, Cruytal, is living in District 4 with her family. She goes to Mrs. TH’s home to work everyday. Her skills are praised to be wonderful. However, the best thing with Cruytal that her employer highly appreciates is she never tells others about her employer’s family.

Mrs. TH said that before hiring the Filipino woman, she had to pay more than $1,000 for her two children to study English. Now they are taught by Cruytal at home. Therefore, Cruytal is paid $800 a month.

Singing at night clubs

Many Filipino come to Saigon to work as singers. In a “ca phe vuon” (coffee shop with garden), Phillip sat on a char, with a guitar, to sing the famous song “Careless Whisper”. This is the song that a young man requested as a gift for his girlfriend.

Phillip has a sweet and warm voice. He also plays guitar very well. After he finished the song, the audience applauded thunderously until the singer said thank you to perform another song at the audience’s request.

A girl moved to the stage and whispered to Phillip’s ear. The singer smiled and said “Please forgive me by Bryan Adams”. Then he played the guitar and sang the song by his sweet voice. With only the guitar, the singer performed song by song, with great passion. After one and a half hour, he had a break.

Phillip said he is not a singer, but a lawyer. “I never sang publicly in my country but I studied singing at university and learned playing guitar when I was a little boy,” he said.

He said his parents have three sons and they forced their kids to learn how to play at least one sport, one musical instrument and speak one foreign language fluently. Phillip chose basketball, guitar and French.

Four years after leaving university as a law bachelor, Phillip could not find a job. He decided to tour HCM City where he made a breakthrough decision: working as a singer.

Phillip said he does not want to join a band because he can take initiative in singing alone. “Music is in my blood so it is very easy to sing,” he said. The Filipino man refused to answer about his payment, just said that he would have quitted this job if he did not earn enough from it.

According to Phillip, his major income comes from singing and part from teaching English. He has saved some money after nearly two years living in Saigon. “I will invite my parents to travel Vietnam this Christmas,” he said.

Besides Phillips, the author of this reportage saw many Filipino singers like Ray, Gaile, Joan, Red… who perform every night at coffee shops in HCM City.

Different from the quiet atmosphere at coffee shops, where Filipino singers perform alone, with a guitar or piano, Filipino bands perform very ebulliently. They are not stars in the music world but the pickiest audiences will be convened by their performance. Their voices are sweet and powerful, their style is natural, close and impressive and they play musical instrument very professionally.

At a night club on Pham Ngu Lao road, District 1, a Filipino country music band with three girls and three boys who look very sporty performs every night. It seems that they never feel tired. If one sings, others will play music. They sing and play music in turn, one by one, from 8pm to midnight.

Another Filipino flamenco band at Carmen Bar on Ly Tu Trong Road, District 1, attracts the audience by their woeful and majestic songs about love and life, their unique musical instruments and flamenco dances. From 9-10pm, audiences can sing and dance with the band.

Five members of the Saphiare band at Saigon Saigon Bar in Caravelle Hotel can sing and play many musical genes like pop, rock, jazz, disco, hip-hop, etc.

The bar of Legend Hotel on Ton Duc Thang road, District 1, is attractive with a four-member Filipino band who visit each table and serve the audience at request. They call themselves “normadic singers”, who sing not for money.

The E7 bar on Nguyen Oanh road, Go Vap district, is lively every night thanks to shows by two Filipino bands which are specialized at Latin music.

At Cheer Lounge Bar on Le Van Sy road, District 3, the audience can talk with Filipino singers, play unique Filipino musical instruments and sing in Filipino language.

Asking managers of coffee shops and night clubs that why they hire Filipino singers, most of them answered Filipino singers are talented because they can both sing and play several kinds of musical instruments. Thus, a Filipino band doesn’t need many members; just 3-4 are enough. Moreover, they are very modest. They think they are hired workers so they do their job seriously. They also do not claim high salary.

Meanwhile, most of Vietnamese singers cannot play musical instrument. Bar managers have to please local singers, particularly “stars” otherwise they may unexpectedly cancel their shows. Moreover, the pay for Vietnamese singer is higher than Filipino singers.

Thanh Nien