Yesterday we spent the morning cleaning and doing dishes to the funk of G. Love. This feels normal, and is normal for us. It has been a long two years since this has been a part of our life. Everywhere we house sat there was a ‘katulong’ or helper already present to clean up after us. This is the first time that we have had a choice, and we like cleaning up after ourselves. I think that we will still have someone come once a week for a few hours to take care of some things, but it will be them coming to help us in our own house.
Katulong (kah-two-lohng) literally means ‘helper’ in Tagalog, and it is very common for the middle and upper class to employ katulongs to do everything from laundry to cooking. The other types of helpers that are more specific are yayas (yah-yah) and drivers. Drivers are pretty straight forward in that they mainly drive your car, but they also clean it, take it for maintenance, and sometimes sleep in it while they wait for you. A yaya is a nanny, and sometimes you will see one yaya per kid, or two for a baby (one to push the stroller, one to carry the diaper bag). It is not uncommon to see a wealthy family with two kids and three to four yayas. Yayas usually dress in uniforms, and the general style is all white. Katulongs and yayas are refered to by the kids of the family as Ate (ah-tay), which is a term used for an older sister. Normal wages for a katulong that lives in your house is around Php500/weeks plus Php500/week for food. With an exchange rate of 55.3 that comes to about $72.33 a month. Some pay more, some pay less. Missionaries usually pay more here in Manila, and treat their katulongs better. Katulongs and drivers are a part of life in Manila for many missionaries, and some even hire yayas. It is a strange cencept to our western minds.