Erlinda Santos

Born: 29th May 1946

Manila, Philippines

Date of interview: 23rd June 2006

Map showing where Erlinda Santos came from

My name is Erlinda SANTOS.

Thank you. Erlinda can you tell me where you were born and where if you don't mind telling us that?

Yes. I was born in Manila, Philippines May 29, 1946.

Thank you. And could you tell me what your earliest memories are of your life?

My earliest memory was when my mum, we moved to Province to help my grandfather, to look after my grandfather and studied there. I walked miles and miles to go to school

And how old were you then, what sort of age?

I was seven years old

Seven. And how many miles did you have to walk to school?

Probably around four miles cos there's no transport you know it's only you know before it's just the horse you know like the cart

So that's only the way the transport is. Sometimes you know it's just limited

Yes and did you say, was this near Manila at all?

That's when we moved to the Province yes

And how far away was that?

I think it's just like you know you, from here to Reading to Scotland

Right okay, quite a long way then

It's a long way yes because my grandfather is already old and then you have to look after her, after him and then after that my mum came to go back to Manila and we're doing, looking after my grandfather

And can you tell me a little bit about your family, how many brothers and sisters you had and your parents?

We're a big family, I got six sister and two brother and I'm second to the oldest

So did you feel you had some responsibility?

Oh yes because I help my mum when I was young do cooking, washing the clothes, because in the Philippines it is our tradition to help the parents

And um, you talked about your grandfather

Yes my grandfather

Tell me a little bit about him?

My grandfather is a very clever he's very independent man, by the time he's still eighty five, still climbing the coconut tree, it's just wrong and we have my grandfather got pigs farm and every day you know he have to catch the fish you know for us to eat

So that was something he did every day?

Yes did every day and then we have a little store, took (?) you know, going you know, make him busy all the time, so we help him as well

Can you tell me a little bit about your family life, you live with such a big family, just wondered how that was?

Yes we live in, we live in, we live, my mum and my dad we live in a one house with the two bedrooms and you know in the Philippines you know not like here you know, sometimes we sleep together, girls girls just sleep together, but we're on, not reeds just on the middle, so when I was in school, after I graduated, I didn't go to college so I just started to find a job you know to help my mum

And was that the normal thing to do?

Yes

More for girls than boys or for both?

For both so I help them you know, it's our tradition you know if you have a job you have to help give some money to your parents, until now we're still doing it

And what did your parents do?

My mum's not working, it's only my dad, so my dad is a waiter, so every time you know he come home (?) so that's the one we're using in every day expenses

And can you tell me a little bit about where he, where he was a waiter, was it in a restaurant or hotel?

He's in a restaurant and then after that he went abroad to work islands and with you know where American servicemen, they do the cooking there, then came back to the Philippines and then after that work in the hotel, which is (?) and after that my mum and my dad immigrated here with my mum and dad, so they're the first one who came here in England

To Reading?

To ..... yes Reading and then after that my sister, they applied as student nurses so they came , the two, my two sisters came and after that my auntie and then when my husband was working on the base, he made been redundant and I was joking to my father is it okay if we come over to England you know to work, me and my husband, 'are you joking' I said 'no I'm serious', ' so are you going to left your children then?' and I said 'oh I have to sacrifice' so by the time my mum came here you know, they went there on holiday, by the time they came here to England they look for an employer for us, so straight away that following month we get a working permit to come over here, so that's when we started to settle down in this area

In this area, yes. What do you remember about your school days then in the Philippines?

In the Philippines?

Yes

My school day when I was in elementary I always have a good grade you know my father always go, we had to have every year you know marks, (?) on the school, the parents go there and pin some ribbon to their children which done very well and then when I was in high school I used to help the teacher to do all the paperworks

Oh yes

So because I am the one with the brain as well so I graduated high school with an Honour and then after that my mum cannot afford us to go to University or something like that so I just went to go and find a job

And how did you feel about going to school, did you like it?

Oh I like it, I enjoy it, yes I enjoy it

Can you tell me a little bit about what your day would have been like going from getting up, going to school and then coming back, especially because you had so much travelling to do?

No the, the first days of my schooling is in Manila so it's alright and then when I reached don't know, elementary, so we go back to the Province, it's hard work because you have to get up early in the morning and then after that you know you have to pack up your lunch and then walk, because if there's no, I don't know what you'd call it in English, a horse cart

Yes I know yes

A horse cart, you know because it's limited so we have to walk so that we can reach this school on time and then after, going back again the same

So it was quite a long day then?

It's a long day, but it's quite a while anyway

And what about at the end of the day when you came home from school, what was your life like after school, what kind of things did you do?

After school you know we have to help granddad, we have to run an errand with my granddad you know, fix the water because the water in the Province you know it's different, your drinking water you have to get far, drinking water and then you have to it on, put it on our heads

Before you came to England, what did you know about it and what were your impressions about it before you came here?

Impression about England?

Yes, did you know anything about it?

I have already, because I have already an idea because my parents were already here, so about the queen, cold country, nice country, so I was so interested you know when my mum said you know, I asked them 'can we come?' with the, you know with my husband to work in England because I was so excite because, and to earn money

And how old were you when you were thinking about coming to England?

I have already four children when I came here

Right

I'm thirty two years old

And how long had your parents been here then?

Since 1970 my mum came here so that's already been thirty six years

And did you have an opportunity to visit England before you came to live here?

No, straight away you know when we came here we just, just bang on a job, but we get a very nice job you know when we came here because we were only caretaker of the house, my employer's a doctor, which they have a weekend house in Henley so e have tiny bungalow and they always come only on the weekend and they're very nice you know they ask us you know if you have a friend, when we go back to London it's just a swimming pool so I invite all my friends because we are lonely. If I invite all my friends, my family and we have, as if we're the owner of the house

Did you, did you, I think you said earlier actually, did you have that job before you came? You had that job and you got the work permit to come here for that particular job?

Yes potentially for that job yes, so straight away we get that job, because it's, my boss is my mum's employers cousins, so it's a recommendation so

Yes

So they're very interested with us

And do you know what your impressions were when you arrived in England, your first impression?

I said it's nice because the house where we live is nice, but when, during the night and I said 'oh' I said to my husband 'it's a paradise but you know because we're away from the children, so every time I cry but it's, we settle down after a while, because my mum and dad is here so my sister, so we settle down for quite a while, maybe probably around six months we already settle down

Did all four of your children stay behind in the Philippines

Yes .... The youngest is only six years old when I left

And how did that feel?

So my mother-in-law is the one looking after it so it's really really you know I was so guilty to live there but I realise that it's for their own future so I talked to my employer and said 'I wonder if they'd mind you know if you want to come to get there, I can apply there as a student you know, it's very hard even though if you have small children to, if you're working so we cannot look after them very well because you're working so I just sacrifice for another eight years before we took them here, all of them, four of them

Eight years you were without them?

Yes eight years without them

Were you able to see them in that time?

Oh we always going home every year yes, my boss give us, we get free fare and then holiday money to go to see them, so they're very generous, so all the perks we have you know when we're working in the house

And you said you were lonely and obvious, you know you were missing your children and friends, how did you find your welcome here in this country when you got here?

Oh English people straight away you know I adapted to the culture and they're very very friendly and very helpful so normally before when I arrive here you know, the police you know, I never I never say police, so when I started you know I heard it all the time you know the police, so I said 'oh they're very courteous people' so I adapted with the culture already you know when I came here

What about the language?

The language is alright because straight away by the time I arrive here, because were in a speaking English country so we adapted, it's only the accent, it's very hard because when I came here our accent is American accent so sometimes you know the accent is too hard to understand but when my, I started you know, my sister and my, their husband because they're all English, so we get used to it you know speaking to them

And when you were working in Henley, were your parents in Reading or?

No they're in Henley

They were in Henley too?

Yes, yes I only started living in Reading when I bought this house because I'm going to get the children, but I'm still working in Henley, so I bought this house for my children you know, through you know when I get the children for them to stay but I'm not living in the house because I live, because I work in the house so I only come to the house at the weekend

And you said the youngest was six, the youngest of your children and how old were the other three, so the youngest was six and?

The youngest is six, the next one is seven and then nine and ten, so Theresa was ten years old when I left her

And what kind of things did you do to keep in touch with them, how were you able to keep in touch with them?

Oh I always write a letter to them or I speak on the phone

Yes you're able to do that

Yes on the phone or the tape, send a tape to them and they send the tape to me, but I have and I have to send money or my mother in law to look after the children and all the bad. I used to get somebody to look, what do you call it, a helper so because in my country there's no washing machine before they use it by hand, so I get somebody to do that so that my mother in law will not be you know pressurised to do all those house work, so I get two people to do the housework and do the washing as well, because the money here is alright, you know you can get somebody that, to help them because it's only cheap in my country, you get a helper.

And what was your life like here, outside of your work, what were you able to do and what did you do?

Well the first time we came here I was so excited if I get a day off because you can socialise with Philippino as well to socialise we then have a party, we always have, going to party all the time so and then

Can you remember one of those parties that you could tell me about?

We went to London one day with I think one of the Philippino (?) in London, it was held in a hotel, it's really nice you know to meet all Philippino's there

And were they from all over the country?

Yes from all over the country as well so I said 'oh there's too many Philippino now here as well' so, and then we build up as well, my mum get my auntie, my cousin, just the immediate family here in Reading, with all my sister got married and I think there were already thirty six, so we got already a big family, so I adapted this country as my country now, so every time I go in the Philippines only a holiday

Did you feel, is that how you felt quite early on, after you move here, did you start to feel England was your home?

Yes, England is my home, so if I go to the Philippines, because the children are already here so I don't miss anything there anyway so, my mum, my sister, my children, my grandchildren, so it's already here, it's just like this is already our home all of us, but you know but I decided to go back just to visit back and forth when I retire, maybe stay there for a few months and then come back again here with the grandchildren

Are you going to tell me a little bit about your working life. So you worked in Henley at that particular house?

I started when I, the first time I came here I work in Henley with a family which is a doctor and it's only a weekend house with a caretaker and then my boss, when they retired they moved to America so we were made redundant on that job, we find another job, we moved to London with the friend's family but I said London because my mum is here in Henley so when we go back to the Philippines we decided to find a job in Henley, so I started working in Wimpey. My boss, Kentucky Fried Chicken, so my husband and me ran that Kentucky Fried Chicken for three years and then when the children came back, so I got the children already here, by 1986 we started to work with Robert Maxwell until 1992 when Robert Maxwell died, and they're very nice people, really good and they look after us. Five of us Philippino there working

Really

Five, all the staff is Philippino

Can you tell me a little bit about how you got that job?

Oh I got the job from our agency as well the one who took me from the Philippines from here, so because they're dealing with the agencies, so all the staff from them was from the agency so when they're looking for a couple, so they introduced us there and then we got the interview and we got the job

When you started to work for Robert Maxwell did you know who he was?

I don't know, I only know that he is the owner of the Daily Mirror, that's when I started and then when I started working there he's a big man, I meet lots of people there, M.P, Richard Branson, Neil Kinnock, all the politics, people I think, he's very popular with the politics. I think he used to be an M.P of Milton Keynes something like that, but he's a very top man but poor you know for us, they're alright (?) people who were only working in the office but if people working in the house it's just like a family

Can you tell me a little bit about what kind of work you did there?

I'm a housekeeper because the house was busy during every weekend with the, because they're making some books, so they're busy, people come all over the world, sometimes they get conference there, so I'm the one who's used to do you know all those bedrooms ready for the guests and my husband is a butler so he's a personal butler of Robert Maxwell. I really missed that job by the way

And how, your children were with you then weren't they, your children were with you by that time?

Oh yes, they were already, they're (?) and they've already got the job so Perry is already working in John Lewis and the other one as well working in some IT in computer company

Were any of your children with you there, living with you there, were any of your children living with you at Robert Maxwell's house

No because I got this house, this for them, so I only come here at the weekends, so I live in, during week days I live at Robert Maxwell's house, so we got good accommodation there as well

And can you remember any particular occasion when you worked there that really stands out for you, that you can really remember, when you were there?

What do you mean?

Can you remember any kind of event or

Oh yes we got big events when Robert Maxwell got sixty five years old. Got big bands, big party and we got a marquee outside the house because they've got a big garden so all the guests from America, all over the world come there to attend the party so I think it's three days events and then the last event is for the staff it was really good

And how did it feel coming from the Philippines as you said that you know you couldn't earn as much there and the life was not as good in terms of money

Yes yes

And coming in to that kind of environment, the kind of world that Robert Maxwell lived in, how did that feel?

Oh I'm just like a millionaires, even I'm not rich I taste the, I've already taste you know what rich people life, so sometimes the children goes there you know when they're away and the housekeeper is Philippino as well, we use all of the facilities, they had a swimming pool and everything, so my family is welcome there as well, so it was really good

Very interesting. And you said you were able to get this house, what year did you buy this house?

I bought this house 1985 because this is only the nearest to Henley so I bought this so since then I had never moved because it's a good area

And was that your plan, that you wanted to buy a place here?

Oh yes yes, we got, I, really I bought this house for the children you know because before you're going to get the children you have, they have to have an accommodation because if they haven't accommodation you know you wont get it because the Government you know, so they get upset, oh you don't have any accommodation for your three children so I bought this because the whole life that we're working here for how many years we saved the money and then for this house, so it's paid off anyway

And can you remember what it was like the day that your children came to England?

Oh heaven, I was so excited you know when the Home Office granted the visa and I was really really you know, just oh my God, I said to them you know look even I don't have any money, as long as the children is here so it paid off

And how did they, how did they come here?

They come altogether by plane so I got a ticket for them, that's the problem you know, I have to save money for the tickets, it's very expensive, everything is very expensive so but, when they came here it's all done and then after that they find a job, the two got already a job. It's easy to find a job here you know, when they are (?) they can find any job so they settled down very well here and one of my daughter's friends, a boyfriend and after three years got married

An English, an English boy

English, Englishman, typical Reading

Did you and your husband go to meet them at the airport then when they came here?

Yes we meet them

Do you remember anything about that day? About what it was like?

First time I looked so demure I just you know cry of excitement so I brought my mum as well, my sister, so when my son made a picture on my fiftieth, sixtieth birthday, he take all the photograph you know and I said this is the first immigrant, I came here with all the children. It's nice you know and then after that I have to leave them because I was working with Robert Maxwell, so it's very tough you know because they have, they have to adjust [phone rings]

Yes you were telling me that it was tough when they came here, were you, were you working for Robert Maxwell when they came?

Yes, we just communicate by the telephone you know and by the time because it's

Yes so you were saying that when they came here you were working for Robert Maxwell

Yes I was working with Robert Maxwell so we can just communicate by phone, I always phone them every day because they go to school and then they come back and I said to them because during my day off I have to go shopping for food, then write it down what they're going to eat, what they're going to cook, so I always phone them, this is what you've got to do, this is what you've got to cook, so maybe probably about three months they already adjusted so the oldest one is the one looking after the three of them, so and my two children, which is

No just take your hand away because you're, yes, thanks

Yes my two children, which is underage, the other one is I think fourteen and fifteen they still go to comprehensive school, so anyway there's a bus here so they can go by bus and then come home by bus as well, so they are very well adjusted anyway, but when the first time they go to school they get some special needs teacher, they took that, what I understand because they don't speak English, but by the time they're arriving in school because in my country it's also English is all, all the curriculum was in English as well, so they are well adjusted 'oh you don't need special needs teachers' so they're already adjusted in school as well so and then by weekend, not the weekend because we work at the weekend, but mid-days, mid week, sometimes I have to cook food for them you know and put in the fridge and they just you know do it, you know eat it, you know, they just re-heated it, just only for one year and then they just, adjust, they all adjusted they know how to anymore, wash their own clothes, cook

And how was your family life during the times when you were not at work, what did you do, what kind of things did you do as a family here?

Oh we always get together even now you know, if I'm not working the children come here on the weekend and we're a very close family, we're always not in a single week we can, we always see each other or else they always come here in my house anyway so because they know that I'm going to cook food for them

And what do you think, can you tell me a little bit about how you feel coming here has, what it has done for you really?

Oh coming in England, really done very good for us, very well in the family. I have family in the Philippines as well, some brothers you know, I help them because what we are earning here we can still help family in the Philippines because the money what we earn here is you know probably you're earning for life already there so we earning good money and then the standard of living is good and we really appreciated it you know when we came to this country, we're very thankful for that

You said that it was your mother, your mother was the first person to come to Reading from the Philippines and by the time you came, do you know were there other people in this area who were from the Philippines or were you, was it still just a few

No we've got friends here already, we've got lots of friends already came here, mostly nurses, mostly some of them work in University and my friends used to come earlier than me, I think it's maybe one year before me

So you worked for quite a few years with Robert Maxwell and then as you say he died and then what happened?

Yes and then after that Mrs Maxwell recommended me from one of their friends. With this french family, so I worked with that friends family, it's a bankers, so I worked with that family for '98, for five years, it's really a nice family as well because they always go to France and then the house also, just like you know just looking after the house

Whereabouts was the house?

In High Street, Kensington, (?) with all those big houses and it's a good house as well, we get nice accommodation and the, on the top floor so they always go to France and then after that we just look after the house. Good money as well. Then when they went back to Paris so I had to work for another family again, which is this Australia family but it's not very nice people you know, not like you know the Maxwell and the Chencelle, so I only stayed there for a year

Was that in London as well?

In London as well, then I stayed there for a year and then I went to the agency again and they recommended me to one of the Greek family which is horrible, horrible family, they don't trust you, because their business is antique, antique picture, we cannot you know, if we go in the house, because we have, we've got separate accommodation, we're at the back of the (?) we cannot go inside the house unless you know they're awake so still I stay for a year and then after that I said to my husband 'I give up working in the house anymore because we can find another nice people to work on' and then I end up working in Reading with the John Lewis until now, so I work in John Lewis for eight years now and I love them, because you know if you're working in the house if they don't treat you like a family you know it's not very good because you're working all the time with them, so I said to my husband 'no I'm not going to work in the house anymore if we cannot find a good family' so we leave the job, then came back to Reading and working in John Lewis

So was there, there was a lot of the time even though you had this house you didn't, you weren't here very much?

Yes it's only since 1998 when I work in John Lewis that I stayed here every day, but only weekends you know when we come home, but the children is still living in the house all the time

How does, how did it feel after living in so many other people's houses to living in your own house?

Oh it was heaven, to live in your own house because you can do what you want, you just, it's nice to live you know, when we're already live out, what you called it, because you were always living in, it's nice because you work and then come home, sit down on your own settee, sleep on your own bed, it's really good and then the family is around, so I didn't, (?) I didn't go anymore to work in the houses because the grandchildren were already growing and I don't want to miss all the children, because I miss already the children growing, my children, so I want to see the grandchildren growing in my side, so now I can see them, how they grow, when they're small, because I miss my children when they're growing you know because I left them

And how many members now of, you said some years ago you had, there were about thirty six members of the family, any idea how many there are now, is it more or less or?

Just my immediate family we're already sixteen

What now?

Now

Just immediate?

Just me and my family and then my sister, the other sister got four of them, the one just next door and the other one, my sister in Sonning Common there are four, five, six, seven, there's seven. The one in Oxford is I got two sisters in Oxford, the other one got three, there are four, the other one there are four so it's all add ups, so we're already thirty six now, but I got some relatives in London as well, my cousin, my auntie, where my mum is the one, my mum is the one whose the root in this country to get all those people in our family, so only two and then it add ups and

And is there anything else that you'd like to tell me, any memories you have that you would like to share or any, anything that you'd like to say?

What anything

So is there anything because I've asked you about some memories you know when you were a child and then you came here, are there any other things that you can think of that really stand out about your life that you would like to tell me about?

Oh my life. At the moment you know I'm already sixty, I'm still continuing working in John Lewis but by the time I retire I want to travel, that's my ambition, I want to travel where the place that I didn't see, visit my family because I, all our family is scattered all over the world. My husband's sister is in Honolulu, his brother is in Virginia, my uncle, my parent's brother is in Santiago, we got a friend in Canada so it's all, I want to visit all of them and then at the same time go on holiday with the children, my grandchildren. I bought a holiday, it's just like a time share, a time share that's not tied up, so you can go anywhere, so I want to bring all my grandchildren, my children, you know if I'm here in England and then sometimes I go back to the Philippines just to visit also our relatives there so that you know the communication is there, so I bought a retirement house in the Philippines so, to go back, so I already settle down that house there three years ago, I just come back, go back and come back because I don't have, I have to come back here because the family is already here, I don't any family, I don't have immediate family in the Philippines anymore, it's all here so my family is already in England so I don't have any family in the Philippines, my immediate family, I only got two brother and one sister already there, so everybody is already here

And the, you tell me a little bit about the timescale for your plans to travel is that going to be quite soon or in a few years?

Next year, cos I'm planning to stay for, I retire already last month in the Government, but I'm still working in Heelas for another year, so just you know, I don't want straight away to retire just so I'm going to do that next year by maybe September

Sounds good

Yes, I can't believe it that I'm already retired

How does it feel?

I don't feel it yet because I'm still working

Oh right so you'll have to (?)

Yes because maybe probably when I'm not working anymore that's the time I can feel it but I only I can feel it only when you know my payslip, the tax isn't there, it's too high the tax

When you're, you talked about not having, most of your family being here, not not having very much family in the Philippines, I just wondered how you felt about your children and grandchildren keeping in touch with the Philippines

Oh yes, we're planning you know, if I'm already there the children will go there all the time probably every two years so now that I'm already planning to go there, so they're already planning in five years time everybody will go home there and have a family reunion with the family there so that's what they're going to do now so right now because you know I'm here they're not intent to go to go to the Philippines, but some of them sometimes you know, Carissa went there twice but the other one, because they only went once there because when my daughter, my son get married to a Philippino so we have to go home and get mar, and my son get married there so all the family went there and too expensive

And how do you feel when you go back there?

Oh happy, it's nice, because you now here you know, if you're here yes the family is here but always work, work, work, so now you enjoy going out, you enjoy spending the money so the house, I bought a house there, it's quite big anyway to accommodate my family

Whereabouts is it?

It's also near Manila, it's only forty five minutes from the airport so it's quite, I have a picture already there

And can you tell me is this something you feel you would have been able to do if you had worked and stayed in the Philippines, to buy a house like that?

No if I'm in the Philippines I cannot buy the house like that so I was so pleased that I've been working here and then I can fulfil my what you call it, my plan so I made that plan already you know, the house for my retirement and then some property for the children so I already done that for working thirty, thirty years of my life here so I'm very pleased with that. I don't want to have plenty of money, just to fulfil my ambition you know, have a house and have things for the children and that's it. I'm quite happy and then I get pension to spend. I have to spend it there, but I spend it here, it's not much anyway