introduction
Norma was born in 1967 in a small village in the Philippines. She went
to college for two years, but had to drop out after the sudden death of
her father. To mitigate her family’s financial di≈culties, she departed for
Singapore—the first time she had ever left the Philippines—to meet one of
her sisters, who had been working in domestic service. Norma worked for a
Singaporean family and took care of their two children for five years. Dur-
ing this period she met her husband, a Filipino migrant factory worker.
After Norma got pregnant, they both returned to the Philippines and got
married. For two years, they lived together in Manila and had another child.
Her husband worked as a tricycle driver and Norma took care of the
children at home. However, the meager family income worried Norma,
particularly in view of forthcoming expenses for her children’s education.
She decided to work abroad again.
In 1997 Norma borrowed money to pay for an opportunity to work in
Taiwan. Alone this time, Norma became a transnational mother and the
primary breadwinner in her family. She left her two children in the care
of her youngest sister, to whom she pays a monthly allowance. Norma is
now saving money to sponsor her husband to come to work in Taiwan.
However, as the placement fee for factory workers has risen as high as
us$4,000, her savings could barely make the down payment. Taking care
of her employer’s newborn baby, Norma could not go home during her
first two years in Taiwan. She said with a sigh, ‘‘My daughter always asks
me when I am going home. I keep telling her next Christmas.’’ She finally
convinced her employer to let her take a one-week vacation and went
home with a lot of toys and gifts, including a Barbie doll, a dvd player, and
a new Nokia mobile phone. Norma was not sure about her migratory path
after Taiwan, wishing only that her family could be reunited in a few years
and that they could open a sari-sari (small grocery store) on the outskirts
of Manila.
Pei-jun was born in Taipei in the same year as Norma. With a university
degree, she worked in an international bank and was recently promoted to
manager. After getting married, she and her husband moved in with his
parents. Though she consented to live in the traditional three-generation
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