Stickman Readers' Submissions March 9th, 2009

Money and SEA Women – The Story of W

I acknowledge that many of my submissions have been concerned with money – principally money sent or given to SEA women. So is this one. Actually, I have turned my back on my previous life and am decidedly un-materialistic. Easy enough to do because as long as I am reasonably sensible I have no financial worries (thanks, Your Maj!, keep the cheques coming).

I have written before about my Thai long-distance ‘girlfriend’ and the financial implications (or stupid donations, if you want it bluntly) and I have mentioned a young Filipina nurse. I have very recently come to suspect that nurse may have been taking lessons from her Thai sisters – ‘Extracting Money 101’. I appreciate that there is a world-wide financial crisis but the Cyprus International Idiot’s Bank is closed as far as donations are concerned.

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This is a true story about a Filipina friend of mine. It shows the other side of the coin. When I talk to her she restores my faith and reduces my cynicism (for better or worse). This is the story of her recent life.

W is 32, about 4’11”. She has been in Cyprus for about four years. She is not classically attractive but she is vivacious, has a great personality and big dark eyes. We have never been anything but very close friends. She has a son back in the PI, and she hasn’t seen him for four years. After a while as an ‘illegal’ here she now has (I believe) ‘refugee’ status – I’m not sure, and I don’t care.

W was the live-in girlfriend for about a year of a good friend of mine, a Brit, who worked as a chef in a local bar / restaurant. He and I spent a fair amount of time together, talking about the problems and benefits of Filipina girlfriends. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he was very much in love with W and – all things being equal – he planned to ‘settle down’ with her. We talked about his plans to move to PI, marry, and adopt her son.

Sadly, all things were not equal. He had been treated for cancer a few years before and as far as anyone knew he was in remission, had a reasonable life expectancy. He was in the process of finalising the divorce from his British wife (he hadn’t had any contact with her for some years). But life has a habit of sneaking up and hitting you on the back of the head and it certainly did with him.

He got a chest infection and was admitted to the local public hospital. W was with him constantly and did the washing / bedpan / feeding stuff, as is the custom here. He was transferred to a private hospital – but died within 24 hours. I remember that I was in a Mexican restaurant (part-owned by a Filipina friend) with my Filipina girlfriend and just as the food arrived at the table the call came from W at the hospital. We were there within ten minutes, and I’m glad that we were because that was when W’s problems really started.

My friend’s mother and her husband of a couple of years live here. Mother has a long-term illness and has been in and out of hospital regularly. W has taken care of her, including the bedpan bit. My friend could not stand his mother’s husband but made efforts to get along. I remember talking with my friend and W, and W encouraging him to make efforts to build the relationship with his step-father.

As soon as my friend died (and I mean within the ten minutes before I got there, and while he was still in the bed) step-father started looking for my friend’s wallet and mobile phone. Irrationality caused by grief? No, concern that this ‘Filipina tart’ would not be able to steal anything.

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Within an hour of my friend’s death, step-father had told W that she must leave my friend’s (rented) apartment. The following morning, he met her at the apartment and supervised while she packed her belongings. He questioned her about every item, including jewellery. Understandably, she only packed her clothes. She left behind things she had bought and ‘special things’ (e.g. a ring and earrings) that my friend had bought her.

She stayed for a couple of nights with her best friend, sleeping on the floor. I have no doubt whatsoever that she was absolutely devastated by my friend’s death. She was (apart from the legalities) a widow.

I had a two-bedroom apartment and offered her accommodation. She was an excellent and delightful house-mate. She worked part-time, doing cleaning, and she enjoyed cooking for us. We spent hours and hours just talking. I have never eaten so well, or enjoyed such a clean apartment, as when W stayed with me.

My friend’s funeral was held in a local church. W was not allowed to sit with the family so she sat with me and other friends. I felt (and I know she felt, because she told me although she wouldn’t say it to anyone else) that the funeral was a travesty because the one person my friend really loved was relegated to the sidelines and – after all – she was just a ‘Filipina tart’.

Most days, W visits my friend’s grave and lays fresh flowers, talks to him, and sheds tears.

It was while W was staying with me that I met my Thai ‘girlfriend’. TGF accepted, I believe, that my friendship with W was entirely platonic. I think that my weight increased during this period because W and TGF were competing to feed me! But, of course, I was conscious of the ‘face’ thing and it was not good for ‘TGF’s’ face for local people to know that W was staying with me. I talked to W about this, she understood, and moved out.

Some time later, when W was back living with friends, I met her for a drink. She had found a new job some distance away. I lent her €200. ‘Lent’ is the wrong word, because in memory of my friend and in recognition of her situation I had no expectation of repayment, and I told her it was a gift.

W is still here. I bump into her every few days. Every time, she gives me something (€10 or so) to pay off what she thinks she owes me. Recently I asked if she could organise for me one of her friends to clean my apartment. Immediately she offered to do it herself to help pay off her ‘debt’.

I don’t know if W is unique. But I do know that she has restored my faith that some SEA women, at least, are honourable, trustworthy and deserve a little bit of help now and then.

Stickman's thoughts:

The stepfather sounds like a right heartless bastard.

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