“Chain of Love” is a Dutch documentary focusing on a curious aspect of the Philippines’ economy: the abnormally high level of women who go overseas to work as domestic help in the United States and Europe. Even more unusual is the fact these women remit $8,000,000 annually to their homeland, making them the highest foreign exchange source for the Philippines.
It is easy to understand why the women are leaving the Philippines in search of higher-paying jobs overseas: their country is dismally poor and well-paying jobs are virtually impossible to find. Unable to support themselves and their families at home, the women take well-paying positions elsewhere in the world and send huge chunks of their pay home. Strangely enough, many of these women leave their children when they go abroad (often with local women whom they pay to watch the left-behind young ones).
“Chain of Love” provides a rather clinical examination of the life of the average Filipino maid/au pair working far from home. A few women are interviewed to express a grudging satisfaction with their jobs and employers, and a couple of women employing such help (one in the Hague, one in Rome) provide brittle commendations for the work that their Filipino domestic servants provide. It would seem, however, that the Filipinos are rarely integrated into the family. In Rome, one Filipino maid is seen stoically preparing and serving a meal to three spoiled teenagers–but no one questions why these obviously capable teens aren’t being asked to pitch in with the maintenance of their own homes.
Yet many crucial elements of this story are missing here. There is no mention of Filipinos who find themselves mistreated or abused by their foreign employers (this has been well-documented in Saudi Arabia, where many Filipinos have charged they were held in virtual enslavement). Nor is there any explanation of how these women maintain a social life in countries where they have relocated. Learning languages and navigating foreign cultures clearly presents a traumatic challenge, yet the film pretends that the Filipinos get off the airplane and get into the groove with nary a pause.
Furthermore, no one from the Philippines government is interviewed on this bizarre export. There is news footage of Filipinos returning home and receiving awards from their president for service to the country–which is pretty damn strange, considering their service means cooking and cleaning on the other side of the world.
Still, “Chain of Love” provides a much-needed reminder on the egregious conditions demanded of women within the Third World and the easy exploitation of foreign labor within the industrial world. A Dutch woman with a Filipino au pair blithely comments on the benefits of having this kind of domestic help: “Filipino au pairs aren’t all that pushy,” she proclaims while her domestic servant goes through the endless chores of laundry, cooking, feeding the children and making the beds. Of course, expecting this Dutch bitch to actually raise her own children or provide some semblance of housekeeping assistance might be asking too much from someone whose concept of motherhood seemed to have concluded with the cutting of the umbilical cord.