BY ANNE QUINTOS
While on my way to church where the Filipino community gathers every Sunday, an old Chinese woman approached me. I just smiled and gave her my mostly used response, “Wǒ bù huì shuō Zhōngwén (我不会说中文 or I cannot speak Chinese).” It’s a good thing she knows little Yīngwén (English) so we had a little chat.
“Are you…going…to church,” she asked.
“Yes. Are you also going to church?”
“Shi (是 or yes).” She continued asking, “Nose or Purgatory?”
I got a little scared when I heard the word Purgatory. I thought it was a kind of omen or something. I didn’t want to embarrass her so I asked politely, “What do you mean?”
She repeated the words and I swear, I didn’t hear it wrong. I apologized for not understanding the question and she tried to rephrase it. She’s a very nice lady.
“Take care of kids…or…”
That’s the time I understood her. You see, Filipinos have two common jobs here and perhaps these already became stereotypes for most of us working abroad. It's sad, but it didn’t bother me since that’s the way it really goes. It was a relief though to realize what the old lady meant. Nose is nurse (loosely translated for household help) and Purgatory is factory (worker). Two very decent jobs.
“Uh, office.” I politely replied. She nodded and smiled back.