My family makes the best of me.

What makes the best of me? My family.

Hi, I am Cleo from the Philippines and am working in Malaysia as a domestic helper. I worked in Hong Kong for two years before coming to Malaysia. If I were to compare working in Malaysia and Hong Kong, I would say that working in Malaysia is much easier although the pay is lower.

This is a nice country with nice people and has been a great change of pace compared to the two years I spent in Hong Kong where my employers were more tense and high strung. Not to say that Hong Kong is bad, but people there do not really know how to talk in a nice tone and we have to adjust to it.

The hardest part of coming here was during my first year in Malaysia, but it is not because of my work. What was actually the most painful was that shortly after coming to Malaysia I learned of my husband’s affair that began shortly after I first started working overseas.

The fact was a slap in the face as I had travelled outside of my country to help support the family. I guess being apart does that to people and I am not the only one to have experienced such a thing. Distance really does drive people apart and maintaining a relationship is the hardest thing.

As migrant workers in a foreign land, we end up missing out on so much that is going on in our family and only have pictures, secondhand stories and the occasional telephone calls to get us by. We are taken out of the family photos, the family trips and the stories shared at the dinner table.

Sadly, this is our reality.

However, knowing that I am not the first or the only to have a cheating spouse and dealing with it are two very separate issues. I cried so much upon finding out and actually took leave from my employer to go back to the Philippines. I really do not know what I had hoped to do there.

To talk to him? To confront him? To throw a tantrum? I cannot remember what I was trying to achieve, but I knew I needed to see my husband.

Call it a cruel twist of fate, when I next saw my husband, he was lying there in his casket. He got into a motorcycle accident the day I arrived in Manila and I never got to see him alive. That was four years ago.

Although I did not meet my husband, I did meet the son that he had with the other woman.

The boy was only a baby when I first saw him. Because the mother was unable to take care of him, and he was the son of my husband, I took it upon myself to raise the kid as my own and found myself with two children now. I knew that the child was innocent and deserves love.

I had to return to Malaysia for work after my husband’s funeral and so my mother-in-law is taking care of both my children now and I am supporting her as well as my children. My children are 8 and 5 years old now, and my younger son does not know that I am not his real mother yet. His mother harasses me from time to time for money and threatens to take my younger son away from me if I do not give her money. I had to give in to her demand due to fear, as I know that she will not be able to care for my son. It is very sad to be harassed this way, and I fear losing the child to her as I have came to treat him as my own son.

My contract will end in July this year, and I will return to the Philippines. To be honest, I don’t know if I will return here to work again as my mother-in-law is getting older, and I need to take care of my children. Perhaps I will go back to teaching like I used to before I came here. Regardless, I know that I will have to continue to shoulder everything for the family.

Forced by circumstances, I left my country to find work overseas. It is quite ironic that I am now forced by circumstances to return to the Philippines to take care of my family.

To be honest, I do not know what the future has in store for me. There are simply too many unknowns ahead of me. Through all the fears and worry, I continue to push on because of love for my family.