Snapshots‎ > ‎

Looking beyond adversities: How Elpie made extraordinary strides from an ordinary beginning

posted Mar 9, 2018, 6:55 PM by Domestic Worker Empowerment Project Hong Kong   [ updated Mar 10, 2018, 4:34 PM ]
Elpie’s life as an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in the beginning can be considered as an ordinary OFW story of escaping and finding ways out of poverty in her hometown in Pinamalayan, Oriental Mindoro in the Philippines. A cancer survivor herself, what Elpie has become is an extraordinary shift in life and career, she herself couldn’t believe she could do. What she has become, she owes greatly to God, her wealth of experience, her generous and kind employers, her friends, and her family back home. Now an accomplished designer of gowns from scrap materials, fruit and soap carver, teacher of livelihood opportunities to fellow OFWs in Hong Kong, Elpie hopes to pay her blessings forward more by becoming an entrepreneur in her hometown with a heart for her clients’ welfare as soon as she goes back home for good. She wishes to do this with her daughter, Charmane as business partner.

It was Elpidia Abel Malicsi’s (fondly called Elpie by her friends) fervent desire to uplift the condition of her and her family’s life in Mindoro that forced her to run away from home to work as a sales staff in a store in Batangas as a teenager. Admitting to be ambitious herself, she later agreed on an arrangement for her to work as caregiver during the day and student at night. After finishing a secretarial course, she went on to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Education which she finished in 1987 at Golden Gate Colleges in Batangas City.

As opportunity to work in Saudi Arabia came to her unexpectedly, with a heavy heart, Elpie decided not to take the board examination for teachers anymore, but to grab the chance of a promising work abroad three months after graduation. There, she was hired as a household service worker by a Saudi Arabian employer for four years. Being new to working overseas, it was very difficult for her at first because the customs of her host family are starkly different from the culture she is familiar of. But keeping an eye on her dreams, she did not give up. Little by little, she tried learning the customs and traditions of her employers. She believes that eventually, she earned the trust of her very first overseas employers. 

After four years, she was employed by American employers who left Kuwait during the war to seek refuge in Saudi Arabia. A year after, her employers’ divorce torn her between deciding to stay in Saudi or going to Germany with her female employer and her children. She eventually decided to go to Germany because the children whom she was taking care of pleaded for her to come with them. After six months however, the family decided to move back to the United States for good and she was offered to come with them. But then, this meant she will have to stay in the US for five years straight without coming home. At the time, Elpie knows that her mother and her family needed her. So without question, Elpie decided to go back to the Philippines in 1993.

Driven by her desire to give a better life to her family especially her mother, Elpie once again decided to seek overseas employment, but this time much closer: Hong Kong. She was first employed for two years by an employer of Indian descent. But then she had to go back to the Philippines to get married and have a child. Though unwilling because of the great loss she would be in the household, her employer nevertheless let her go.

This time, married to the man she claims to have similar visions in life with her, she was once again tested when she gave birth to her child; a baby diagnosed with jaundice weighing only 2 kg. at birth. But with hope coupled by prayers, her baby has recovered and has lived a normal life since then. After two years, Elpie once again sought employment in Hong Kong with the strong will of providing a comfortable life to her daughter she herself never had when she was young. At a distance, Elpie, along with his husband, made sure that her daughter grows up the way they envision her to be: respectful, modest, god-fearing, and with a goal in life. She would always instill in her the value of hard work and prudence especially in money matters. Now on her way to finishing her degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management, Charmaine is Elpie's strength (aside from her husband) and hopefully soon, business partner.

For 17 years (and counting) Elpie has worked with a Hong Kong Chinese family who has been very kind, generous, and supportive of her pursuit to learn more. It was with them where she felt like family, especially during the time when her mother passed away in 2010, and her husband had stroke in 2011 (which he was able to recover from). But more significantly, she was more than thankful for their all-out support when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013. “Ang magkasakit dito ng mag isa ka, napakahirap. Hindi mo alam kung mabubuhay ka pa.” (It is very hard to get sick here [in Hong Kong] if you’re alone. You never know whether you’ll ever survive it.) With the help of her employers who are medical practitioners themselves, she was subjected to tests and eventually had to undergo operation in some of the most renowned medical institutions in Hong Kong, all at the expense of her employers.

Some of Elpie's creations

This experience became instrumental for her to realize more the value of life and of making a greater difference for herself and her community. She decided to pursue her passion in the arts and design, but with a touch of environmental concern. Her first project – gowns made out of scrap materials – has been showcased first in the Venetian Hotel in Macau in 2013. Since then, she tried other crafts such as soap and fruit carving. She also enrolled in baking, balloon twisting, and balloon making - skills she believes she needs for the catering and restaurant business she hopes to open back home when she decides to go home for good.

But Elpie believes that skills should not only be enhanced for personal growth, but something that should also be shared. This is why she gives free workshops on baking, and fruit and soap carving to fellow overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong through the Bayanihan Center and CARD Foundation. Moreover, she said that she is also very observant everytime she goes out with employers to find practices she could adopt for her planned business. ‘Pag sumasama ako sa amo, hindi ako sumasama as katulong lang. Masyadong malikot ang mata ko,’ (Whenever I go out with my employers, I don’t go with them just as their domestic worker. I am a keen observer [of anything I could adopt and learn],) Elpie quips. Her thirst for learning brought her to the Domestic Worker Empowerment Project, eventually becoming one of the mentors after graduation.

Today, Elpie hopes to invest all her experience and skills she learned in her more than 20 years of overseas work, apart from financial resources, for a restaurant/ catering business she wishes to open with her daughter in their hometown. But in the meantime, while still working as domestic worker, she juggles work as an accomplished designer of gowns made from scrap materials. In fact, her creations are currently being exhibited at the Philippine Consulate and at the University of Hong Kong Main Library

Indeed, Elpie's life story is an extraordinary one. It is a story that teaches us to look beyond adversities and to transform even little, sometimes insignificant things and experiences into one that is both personally gratifying and socio-economically uplifting. // nlg

Some of Elpie's gown designs made out of scrap materials

Chinese Translation