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Monday, December 17, 2018

Pacete: The maids of Negros

WE ARE now celebrating the silver edition of Panaad sa Negros Festival.

We are bringing the best of Negros at the Panaad Park and Stadium at Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City. One colorful story in Negros is about the maids working under the old rich or the families of the old rich.

The “kabulig” or “timbang” refers to the maid working in the family of the “hacenderos” (sugarcane planters). The old rich used to call them “muchachas.”. That’s the Spanish word for “girl or lass.”

The equivalent of “maid” in Spanish is “sirvienta” or “criada” and that simply means “servant.” The “hacenderos” do not call their maids “sirvienta” or “criada.”

These “hacenderos” had grandparents in the past who rendered favorable services to the Spaniards. Their best interests were best served by allying themselves with the colonizers.

These “burgis” were known as the “principalia” and under the Spanish laws, they obtained titles making the communal lands their private property.

Wherever a “poblacion” (town or village) was set up, they were privileged to build their homes around the plaza, near the two seats of power... the church and the “municipio” (municipal hall). The new Negrosanons should know that only the members of the “principalia” or a “gobernadorcillo” (town mayor) could be addressed by the title “Don,” and only they were allowed to vote.

These members of the “principalia” followed the lifestyle of the Spaniards in their houses and of the friars in the convent. They employed “muchachas” to become their “cocinera” (cook), “jardinera” (gardener), “yaya” (baby attendant), and “lavandera” (laundress). In Negros, we call the old rich as “buena familias.”

Most (not all) of the members of the Negros “buena familias” have soft spots in their hearts for their “muchachas.” They treated them as extended members of the family. They were provided certain rooms in the “hacendero” mansion for them to stay and sleep. Some were provided “muchacha” quarters near the kitchen. Many of these helpers came from the “hacienda” or were recommended by the senior “muchacha” who was given the role of a “mayordoma” (lady butler).

The old rich (hacenderos) were comfortable with the semi-feudal management of their “hacienda” and “casa grande” (mansion). These character traits are followed by their children and grandchildren. The “now generation” of “hacenderos” call themselves just “farmers.” Only very few carry the title of “don (Dona for the wife).

To show respect, the “muchachas” call their landlords “Nonoy” or “Toto.” The “hacendero” wives are called “Inday”. Some would want to be addressed “Ma’am.”

In the past (but very rare now?), few “hacenderos” were alleged to be wicked also. There are some urban legends circulated that a certain “hacendero” is responsible for the pregnancy of the beautiful maid. When almost caught in the act, the driver was obliged to accept that he is the father.

There was this “lavandera” who was tasked to collect the used clothing of her master every morning. That made her very close to the bachelor “hacendero.” She became pregnant and was given early retirement benefit and a pension. Her son carries the family name of the “hacendero.” Although the son is “jijo de bastardo” (son outside of marriage), he is given a share in the “hacienda.”

The wife of the “hacendero” was a strong supporter of the Catholic Church. She would go to mass everyday but upon arriving in her home she would berate her maids with bad words. The maids could not fight back but they would always spit on her coffee cup before serving it to her. One maid persevered until she finished college as a working student. She told this story to a friend of my friend.

Another wife was well connected with high society. She would always host lavish party in her house. When she got drunk she would demonstrate to her friends how she would treat her maids. She could make them sing, make them perform acrobatic stunts and even perform animal acts. This lady died decades ago of terrible skin allergy.

This “alta-sociedad” lady was lazy to move. She would always carry a bell wherever she would go around the house. Each maid has a code in her bell... 3 rings for Maria, 4 rings for Isang, 5 rings for Bibang, 6 rings for Totang, and when she makes more than 10 rings, all should come.

This “social addict son” when high in drugs, he would gather all the maids in the house and he would perform “samurai act.” The show was good but dangerous for the maids. I was told that the son recovered after he was rehabilitated. He is now in Australia. All the maids in that house are all new now.

These are urban legends. I don’t expect you to believe. If ever you have your own stories to tell, find an audience. Just invite me.


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