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Out of the Shadows: 1982-1998: Clemencia

My name is Clemencia Villar and I’m from the Philippines. When I was 25 years old and a civil engineer by profession I applied for a job in Kuwait with an Arab - Manila based agency. That was in 1986. I was to work in Kuwait National Oil Company. Upon arrival in Kuwait I immediately saw my name in a placard carried by an older man whom I approached to meet and greet but he only spoke broken English to me. He accompanied me to his car and soon we arrived in the Palace. He gave me a piece of paper to sign in with Arabic writings and took my passport away. He told me that I would be working for a princess as no female employee was allowed to work in the field with the Oil Company. That moment my dream was shattered to pieces. As my parents took a mortgage for the rice field they own just to pay the agency fee of 50.000 pesos. Defiant of what I've heard but I have no choice but to obey. I'm one of 56 servants in the palace.

The nature of my work involves 24/7 beck and call service with a chime bell attached to my belt. Princess Collud Al Sabah was a big woman at 21 years old. My work begins from the time she is awake. It ranges from shower/ bath routine twice a day, clothes dressing, food preparations, personal assistance, being a nanny and a housemaid in her apartment in the palace. Ramadan was particularly hard as I don't have enough sleep. Whenever I commit mistakes she grabbed both my shoulders and shook them violently until she got tired and let me go. She called me “Donkey” and shouted so loud. We servants could eat only leftover food. No day off either. We sent money to the Philippines secretly through the princess’ driver.

After a year in Kuwait, Princess Collud, her boyfriend, Abdullah and I arrived in Los Angeles, California. I didn’t realise that it would be so much work for me as they were two then plus doing all his homework from school. Doing it was quite easy for me. He was completing his course in accounting so it would be easier for him to pass.

In January 1988 we arrived in the UK in Bishops Avenue in Hampstead to spend a month or two. But on February 11 at 4am I was woken up by Abdullah who wanted an early breakfast. It was then that he attempted to rape me in the kitchen. But I told him that I'm not a prostitute. I fought him back and kick him in his groin. I was frightened of what had happened so I ran to ask help from the caretaker annexe and the Indian woman told me to run away. So she pulled theexhaust from the drying machine then a hole appeared. I went with my head first and she helped to push my body through. So I fled running as fast as I could but the snow on the road was slushy. But it seems I don't feel the cold. I reached Hampstead road then a red car stopped to help me. It was a middle aged man who took me in his car. I told him my tragedy and he asked me where he should drop me as he was going to work that morning. It was a Sunday morning so I told him if he can drop me at the nearest church. He gave me his jacket and dropped me off at an Anglican church in Bayswater. I waited a few hours until I saw a Filipina walking named Dominga Pulon. She helped me and took me to CFMW. Father Aodh and Sister Margaret were there to help me. Then I discovered that Centre helped all the migrant workers from different nationalities. We help each other like a family. I ended up serving for three terms as secretary of our organisation, Waling-Waling. I was able to build my confidence, to be civilised again. Being able to participate in our campaign through Kalayaan and the cultural group, Damayan, was a great thing for me. Now I hear from my friends that migrant domestic workers coming to the UK have lost all their rights so I want to help in a campaign to reinstate the law from 1997 so that all the migrants can enjoy freedom and not be treated as slaves forever by the same employer.

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