Introduction Starting Over
Maria loves to sing. Her karaoke machine sits in the middle of her basement
apartment in Queens. She fires it up when she has friends over, and they
cook and sing. She also sings her favorite songs when she is home alone.
She has sung songs into my voice mail on my cell phone. It’s no surprise,
then, that she describes her heartache for her son in the Philippines with
the words to a song about being five hundred miles away. She left him in
the care of her sister over twenty years ago, when she first traveled overseas
for work. The United States is the third foreign country she has worked in.
She never thought she would be gone this long. On the eve of preparing to
finally see her son she turns to singing: “I don’t know what I will say when
I see him. What can I say? Hello, how are you, you are my son. I don’t know
what I will do. That’s my situation. He is over five hundred miles away. So
when I come home, I open my Magic Microphone and read the lyrics and
sing and forget for a while.”
Maria also expressed through song her love—and grief—for Felicia,
her best friend in the United States. Meeting through a Filipina domes-
tic workers’ organization in New York, they became fast friends. As one
another’s surrogate family in this country, they looked out for each other.
When Felicia had an accident and broke both her knees, Maria stopped by
every day after work to check on her, to help her bathe, and to cook. It was
Maria, not Felicia’s husband, who nursed her back to health. Felicia loved
Maria immensely, explaining over plates of barbecued meats and glasses
of creamy halo- halo shakes, “Maria is my best friend. She took care of me
when I could not do much. She is a real friend.” Maria was also there for
Previous Page Next Page