Extraordinary kindness - employer even helped maid to bathe after surgery

Madam Lim Sok Geok (left) with her helper Edencia Gamueda Antalan, who has worked for the family for 36 years. ST PHOTO: KELLY HUI
Madam Lim Sok Geok (left) with her helper Edencia Gamueda Antalan, who has worked for the family for 36 years. ST PHOTO: KELLY HUI

The Association of Employment Agencies has lauded Madam Lim Sok Geok, 63, naming her Employer of the Year for her extraordinary kindness to her Filipino helper Edencia Gamueda Antalan.

Madam Lim, who runs her family's medical clinic, twice spent time and money to ensure Ms Antalan, 65, recovered well from her medical setbacks.

She has been working for the family for 36 years, arriving from the Philippines in 1983 before Madam Lim's first child was born in 1984.

An accountant by training, Madam Lim was then working in a multinational firm and travelled often on business.

Ms Antalan took care of the house as well as Madam Lim's two children and, later, three grandchildren. "She certainly does more than just cleaning and washing," said Madam Lim, adding that as she and her husband grew older, Ms Antalan started to cook more healthily for them, using less salt and switching to olive oil.

Ms Antalan is such an integral part of the family that when she lost the vision in her right eye from internal haemorrhaging in 2011, Madam Lim became her caregiver.

After two operations, she could not work for two weeks and Madam Lim helped her to bathe and take her medicine.

Last year, Ms Antalan was mopping the bathroom when she fell and injured her head, and had to be hospitalised again. When no subsidised bed was available, Madam Lim did not hesitate to upgrade her to an A-class ward for the three-night stay.

The secret to their long-lasting relationship, Madam Lim said, is communication and treating an employee with dignity and respect.

No less important, she added, is empathy.

"When we first met, I was thinking, 'for a person to travel and work in another country, it takes a lot of courage' and it helped me empathise with her. Now, we treat her like a family member."

Madam Lim said that when Ms Antalan turned 60, the Manpower Ministry sent her a repatriation letter, as the maximum age a maid can work here is 60.

She added: "I filed an appeal to the ministry explaining that, for the jobs assigned to her, she is still fit and capable of handling what is expected - and they approved."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2020, with the headline 'Extraordinary kindness - employer even helped maid to bathe after surgery'. Print Edition | Subscribe