Oh, happy days are here again – a solution found; a problem solved! No more searching the near and far reaches of the province for someone whom we feel safe being with and whom we can trust with everything we have. In the “Find a Katulong” contest, we have a *WINNER*!
As most readers may recall, *LOVE* took our former katulong away from us. Now, she is happily living at her intended’s parents’ house. (How strange is that – living with your “future” mother- and father-in-law prior to your wedding? I must have stumbled upon some kind of cultural thing by chance; or . . . .)
Her sudden departure left us in a bit of a bind (darn that Cupid). We had only been home for about a month’s time when she told us of her plans. We were quite dependent on her to help us settle back into our Philippine life. Now we faced a challenge – finding another katulong. While my wife Emy and I agreed that this was her task, I remained available on the sidelines to assist whenever needed.
It didn’t take long for that need to arise. Emy was not having much luck, and the friends and relatives who were helping with the search were not having much luck either. She asked me if I had any ideas. I didn’t but was able to shuffle about as if I did. I asked just what kind of person we were looking for. When I heard the description, I could only think of one person – the love-struck katulong who had just left. Perhaps it was time to sit down and discuss all the aspects we could think of concerning a replacement and not a twin.
Let’s see just what qualities we want in a katulong. Male or female – tradition says female and we’re a tradition-mindful couple. Single or married – we don’t want Cupid to sting us again if we can help it, so make that one married. Related or stranger – having interviewed a couple of strangers already, Emy says she definitely wants a relative (and not a distant relative). Young or old – since an older woman may have difficulties in doing some things, we’d want a stronger, healthier young one (being married would help set the lower limit of the age range).
Summarizing so far, we’re looking for a young, married, female relative. That narrows the field down considerably. Is there somewhere we can be a little more flexible? Perhaps we need to “think outside the box,” even if it’s just a little bit outside. Those four qualities, however, seemed fixed as far as Emy was concerned. We’d have to look at other “katulong things” for our out-of-box venture.
Our former katulong stayed with us 24/6. We provided room and board, and gave her a day off each week. Now, if we wanted a young, married, female relative, would she put up with seeing her family only one day in seven? Perhaps we can shorten the stay to something like 12/6 – six days of working 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM or thereabouts. That would make the position a little more attractive and, besides, we’re just two able adults staying in this house overnight. We couldn’t think of any reason that we would need someone to stay with us throughout the night.
Another thing we could try is providing a little flexibility in the work schedule. If the katulong needed to take some time off during the week (say, for visiting her child[ren]’s school), we could adjust her schedule. Being able adults, we don’t really need anyone at our beck and call at all hours of the day. Though our house is large, its layout is quite open so cleaning doesn’t take as long as it would in a more traditional style house.
These, and a few other “human resources paradigm shifts,” provided a larger and better-focused field of search. The only thing we needed to do was communicate these shifts to all who were helping us look. For me, it was back to the sidelines. Emy would handle the communications.
It seemed like the supply of potential katulongs had opened before us. There were interviews (I watched and listened from another room) and a lot of good prospects. I did feel sorry for the “good looking gals” – they’ll never know that their beauty disqualified them though they might have been the most qualified otherwise. With the prerogative of baket ko (asawa ko) [my wife] being to keep all temptation away from me, this was no beauty contest! Still, out of a number of potential katulongs, no one seemed just right to “the boss.”
As is its habit, fate intervened. A first-degree cousin in California called to ask whether the position was still available. He heard we were in the market and he had a suggestion for us. (Have to love that “bamboo grapevine”/”coconut wireless”!) His son and daughter-in-law live in a fishing barangay just down the road and they were looking for ways to earn a little extra cash. They have college and high school aged kids, so the daughter-in-law was still “relatively” young and strong. Her looks barely passed Emy’s strict qualifications.
So let’s see – a young, married, female relative is what we were looking for. Our niece meets these qualifications. Was she willing to work six twelve hour days and take one day off? Yes. Could she handle regular katulong duties? Oh, yes. Would she be willing to take on some extra tasks like watering lawns and plants, and light gardening? Sure. It all sounded good to Emy – she called me off the sidelines to provide my limited input. I agreed. We’d give her a probationary period of two weeks and see how she copes with us.
Probation has been over for a week or two, and she’s still with us. “Our katulong” – seems great to be able to say that again. Yes, we have a winner (actually, Emy and I are the winners); and the *WINNER* is our niece.