The women are allowed one statutory rest day per week, with the vast majority taking it on Sunday. For most, it’s their only opportunity to catch up with friends, giving one another haircuts or manicures, praying, singing or even trying out dance moves. They seize the chance to Skype with their own children, husbands and extended families back home. With just seven days holiday a year for the first two years of service, and up to a maximum of 14 days a year once they have been working for more than nine years, it’s rare that they get a chance to return to their home countries.
But it’s their food, eaten from plastic tubs and tinfoil parcels, that takes on the most symbolic importance every Sunday. The rest of the week, most eat the food they prepare for the families with whom they live – so this day serves as a reminder of where they come from, a taste of a country they only return to infrequently.
Everything the women eat is shared, even with strangers: a bowl and spoon were proffered almost before I introduced myself. Adobo, a slow-cooked stew traditionally made of pork or chicken marinated in vinegar, peppercorns and soy sauce, is the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. Ida explained that chicken feet are the cheapest cut she can buy at her local market. Every Filipina will tell you that each household has their own adobo recipe and, true to form, Ida had added slivers of ginger to her version, a delicious reminder of a family and culture far away.
Ida proudly showed me a photo of her daughter on her cracked phone screen and explained that the 16-year-old is just two years away from college, where she’ll train in accountancy, “An opportunity I never had,” she said.Across the city, friends from the same region tend to stick together as a means of forming community (Credit: rungtip chatadee/Alamy)