‘Alaga’ is the term Filipina nannies use for the child they are taking care of. It also means ‘care,’ or ‘caring.’
There are estimates of 600,000 to 2.5 million domestic workers in the Philippines. Overseas, domestic helpers are among the country’s top remitters. Within the Philippines, the International Labor Organization reports that women comprise 84% of domestic workers. In contrast, only 38% of the Philippines’ traditional labor force is made up of women.
There is much discussion about domestic workers, the commonality of their abuse, and their rights. Often they are overworked and underpaid, with lines grey as to where their work days start and end.
I was raised by a domestic worker from the day I was born. I call her Nanay, which is the Filipino word for mother. She and Millie, our other helper, have turned my family’s home into their own home, and they have become more than helpers, but also mothers to our family’s children.
They leave their homes in the province, traveling to work in worlds much different from their own. For Nanay, this hasn’t been a temporary assignment but a complete life change, moving to Manila to be a cook, and then to take care of a child that is not her own - me.
They gave so much for so little in exchange, to care for the children and the elders in our clan, long term.
This project to me is like a family history, but told through the eyes of our domestic workers, known in the Philippines as ‘Kasambahay,’ meaning ‘those with us at home.’ Alaga documents the lives of the domestic workers who have lived with my family and have become part of it.
— Hannah Reyes, Ruom Collective