UAE: How Filipina nanny, who started on a Dh750 monthly salary, educated her 7 children and gave them a good life

She is the proud mother of a lawyer, civil engineer, teacher, accountant, agriculturist and aspiring architect and doctor

By Angel Tesorero

Long-time Filipina nanny Helen Mata Adducul was recently hailed as ‘Household Manager of the Year’ for her loyalty and dedication to work. However, that was just a bonus. The real prize, she said, was that through years of hard work, she was able to send all her seven children to school.

One became a lawyer, the next a civil engineer; then there is a teacher, an accountant and agriculturist. The young ones who are still studying are aiming to become an architect and doctor.

It is the type of success story that many – if not all – overseas Filipino workers (OFW) aspire for. Back home, they are called ‘mga bagong bayani’ or modern-day heroes because they had to leave their homes to secure their family’s future. For them, working abroad was not a matter of choice but a necessity for the welfare of their family.

It is more painful and sacrifices are greater for mothers like Adducul, who are forced to leave their own children to work abroad and take care of another family.

However, all the years of labor and being away from their loved ones will be gone once their children graduate from college, or they have a small piece of land or house, or a micro-business to support a decent living.

Tears of joy

Adducul broke into tears as she walked up the stage to receive the award from Michelle Quinto Guinto, managing director of CMG Cargo & Balikbayan Store, creator of Gawad Kasambahay, which is now in its second edition.

She bested 34 other finalists from a pool of 1,500 nominees across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Northern Emirates to win the Household Manager of the Year award.

Guinto said the award is given to household service workers “who work diligently behind the scenes, often without recognition.” They are the “unsung heroes who selflessly dedicate their time, skills, and love to ensure the smooth running of households across the UAE. Their efforts deserve our utmost respect and appreciation, and we applaud and honour all of them.”

Adducul’s back story

After the awarding ceremonies, Adducul spoke with this reporter to share her story. Her family is from Bagu, a barangay in the municipality of Pamplona, in the province of Cagayan, around 430 kilometers northwest of Manila.

She first came to Dubai 13 years ago, in 2010, to work as a nanny for the same Indian family she is still employed with. She was a daycare teacher back in her hometown, receiving a salary of around P3,500 (Dh250) that time. Her husband was a farmer and his income was irregular and insufficient.

They have seven children and the eldest was one was in third year college, studying to become a school teacher. Their second child (Frankneil) was about to enter college.

“He graduated from a science high school. He was a bright student and he wanted to become a lawyer but we didn’t have the resources to support him. I didn’t want his talent to go to waste and all his siblings were also doing well in school. So, that’s when I decided to work abroad,” Adducul said.

Life as a nanny

Adducul was a direct hire from the Philippines and the salary that was initially given to her was Dh750 monthly. “There was no day off – I did not complain,” said Adducul, adding that she “came here to work and not to take a rest.”

Her employers used to live in Bur Dubai and she was tasked to take care of their two kids – an 11-year old boy and a 20-month old baby girl.

Adducul is still working for the same family until now and her salary has gone up more than three-fold to Dh2,500 plus other benefits, the employer-nanny relationship did not get off on the right foot.

She was not familiar with Indian meals, she said. “So, one day I only had fresh milk and I got an upset stomach. I was rushed to the hospital. The doctor asked what happened and I told him I was only given leftover food. The doctor admonished my employer and told her I should be given proper meals.

Adducul continued: “Another issue I had with my employers in the first few months was that my salary always came late. I could not complain because I was afraid that I could be fired. So, I devised a plan: One day, I acted like I had fainted and intentionally dropped the phone that I was holding which my employer picked up.”

“I had arranged for someone to be on the other end of the line who spoke about my employer not giving my salary on time and I had to borrow money from everyone. My madam heard all of it and she told me: ‘Helen, you didn’t have to borrow next time. Just tell me if you need money.'”

The following months, Adducul got along with her employers. She also got their trust and eight months later, her salary was increased to Dh1,200 per month, which was five times more than what she was receiving when she was a daycare teacher.

But being a teacher was not taken away from Adducul. She noticed there were many kids in the neighborhood, so she arranged for an afternoon after-school class for them. She was praised not only by her employers but the entire neighborhood as well for her initiative. Being sociable paid off for Adducul because, when her hometown was ravaged by a powerful storm, everyone rallied to support her family in the Philippines.

‘Tiger mum’

Adducul has never complained about working as a nanny. Being away from her family for so long, there is one question that has been on everyone’s mind: ‘How was she able to raise her own children?’

Open and proper communication, she said was key. “My madam gave me access to the internet and when it was not available, I had the landline or mobile phone to regularly call and monitor my children. I always made sure they were doing well in school,” Adducul said.

“My children even quipped that I was a long-distance ‘tiger mum.’ I was not really a very strict parent who was only invested in her children getting excellent grades. For me, getting high grades was just a bonus. It was the value of education that I instilled in them, and I was successful in this, even though I was away from them all these years. It was also a blessing that all my children studied in state universities and their tuition were free.”

“I cultivated their passion for learning and now five of my children are professionals and have stable jobs. The two young ones who are still in school are also aiming high to become an architect and doctor someday,” she added.

Going home soon

Adducul will be celebrating her 56th birthday on July 4, and after being away from her family for more than a decade, it’s now time to go home for good.

She said she had saved enough to have a stable and relatively comfortable live back home. Her husband has become an entrepreneur who is involved in running a home-based food processing business. They have also purchased a farm where they are planning to retire.

“I’m just planning to finish the remaining few months of my contract and I will go back home,” she shared, adding: “But it will also be hard for me to leave my employers and their kids because they have actually become my family too.”

To ease the anxiety, Adducul’s family – her seven children and husband – are planning to go to Dubai in September to bring her home. She said: “My family wanted to be with me when I go home to ease the pain of saying goodbye.”

“I will say goodbye not only to the family who has supported me and my family all these years but also to all my friends here – who have become blessings to me – and to Dubai that is like a paradise to me. I found my luck and happiness here.” #

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This article is original to the Khaleej Times.