A Journey From a Maid to a Life
Written in Books and Films

By Imelda Roberts

I first saw best-selling author and film producer, Crisanta Sampang on a television show, OFW Diaries. Though we have never met in person, I felt some connections like kindred spirits. After all, both of us are single parents and our journeys took us both in far away places for our children's sake. Our lives starting a new life as maids in far away places the same year in 1984 was certainly a coincidence. She went to Singapore, and in my case I went to Washington, DC. However, there is no coincidence in our feelings as mothers. Just like me she ventured into the unknown world outside the comfort of our birthplace to create a better world for herself and her children. Just like my love for writing Crisanta and I both shared the same passion. Our lives are also like an open book. We shared our lives in our own memoirs, including sharing personal secrets to the world, with the hope our life's journey will positively touch even one life.

Like many Oversea Filipino Workers (OFWs) Crisanta showed great perseverance, adaptability in her adopted country, and worked hard to achieve what every OFW dreams. As a maid in Singapore from 1984-1988 doing ordinary work like baby-sitting, cleaning and cooking, there is one thing extraordinary about Cristanta that set her apart. She recognized early on that she has a gift of writing. Instead of wasting her God-given talents she used it to take her journey into a different world, making her life much more fulfilling and purposeful.

Maid in Singapore and For the Love of Writing

Being a maid in Singapore, did not prevent Crisanta from pursuing what she loves. She wrote articles during her spare time and off days from household chores and became a contributing writer at The Strait Times, Singapore's largest circulated English newspaper. She wrote on subject that she knows well - her experiences as a domestic helper.

Crisanta came to Vancouver, Canada to work as a nanny-housekeeper in 1988 and took advantage of the Federal Live-In Caregiver Program. Under this program, Crisanta had a chance to apply for citizenship after two years. While employed as a domestic in Vancouver, BC, she took evening computer and writing courses. She also volunteered in two non-profit organizations that helped immigrant women and domestic workers assimilate into the community. After getting her landing status in 1992 and leaving domestic work, her first office job involved helping foreign domestic workers sort out their immigration and employment problems.

It was in 2005 that her love for writing and time spent in school to take formal writing classes paid off. Maid in Singapore was published and her stories about "the serious, quirky and sometimes absurd life of a domestic worker" landed in top ten non-fiction best sellers in the first two weeks of its release. Her journey from being a maid to a best-selling author proved that Crisanta has more to give than meets the eye. A well-read great researcher, Crisanta is one of the mothers who contributed to Between Interruptions: 30 Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, an anthology edited by Cori Howard and was launched 2007. She also contributed to Act of Writing, another anthology which came out in 2008. She has also contributed articles to the Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, and to the Vancouver Sun, and the Manila Times. She was also the Editor of first Filipino newspaper in Canada.

Legacy Imprinted in Words

Though I just saw Crisanta in photos and on television, Crisanta to me is a dynamic spirit. There is simplicity and authentic honesty in the way she shares her story. No wonder her book became an instant hit not only in Singapore but also in Canada. Maid in Singapore was described by Cristanta as "a story not of one person, but of countless others like me, who had left both hearth and home in the hope of finding a better life abroad." Indeed through this book, she has given voices to many domestic helpers' stories and represented their lives in a way that made readers see the sacrifices and goodness among this group of OFWs. In the Philippines where esteem is given to those who hold high level positions, Crisanta has spoken on behalf of domestic helpers who are equally contributing members of our society. Her legacy imprinted in words will live on for many years to come.

From Writing to Film-making

As if writing is not enough Crisanta embarked on another journey - film-making. After three years in immigrant services, Crisanta also worked as a researcher for Vancouver CTV Evening News for another three years. Her TV experience included research, news writing and news production. She also did camera work, after being assigned to CTV's North Shore newsroom. Her journey to the world of film-making came following CTV. Cristanta studied filmmaking at Vancouver Film School in 2001. Her work experiences and formal studies paved the way to the establishment of her own Crazy Planet Films production company.

Crisanta earned her awards at the 2001 Vancouver International Film Festival and a Jury Prize at the National Film Board Contest in Banff, Alberta. Today, Crisanta has just finished her first short film titled The Ocean Between Us: Children of the Philippine Diaspora. She is currently developing a feature film script funded by the National Film Board of Canada. She is also working on her second book, Trading Motherhood for Dollars.

Making a Difference - What the Future Holds

As a way of paying it forward, Crisanta helped many of her friends and relatives find jobs in Singapore and in Vancouver. As well, she sent three of her nieces to college and two nephews to highschool. Crisanta's dream is to start a Centre for Environmental Education in her town, where children can learn early about how to save the environment.

Crisanta's journey in writing and film-making continues as she prepares to complete, Trading Motherhood for Dollars, a non-fiction account of her own and every other mother's experiences when a mother leaves her children under the care of others to work in another country. She is also working on a feature film script, which according to her a few producers are already interested.

Indeed, it has been an awesome journey for Crisanta. When asked when this new projects will be released - " I'm still working on my second draft. When it's going on film, Pinoy Boomer will be one of the first to know." What is great and cool about Crisanta has been partially written. I personally look forward to hearing more about this kindred spirit!

Video Source: Youtube.com - GMA7 - OFW Diaries, Pilot Segment featuring Crisanta Sampang.

Crisanta rides her bike.
For Crisanta, it is not too late to pursue what you want in life. Just like learning how to bike at age 47, her life is a continuous journey towards doing things that will fulfill her life physically, mentally and emotionally. From being a maid to now a writer and a film producer, more exciting adventures and possibilities are in the horizon.
Crisanta picking apples.
Crisanta picking apples at Pender Island BC, fall of 2009.
Crisanta conducts workshop.
Crisanta teaches a story writing workshop in Canada.
Crisanta's book launching.
Crisanta with friends during book launch in Vancouver, Canada.
Crisanta Sampang
Crisanta with Patricia Sto. Tomas (seated), former Philippine Secretary of Labor and Employment; and Merriam Cuasay, current Philippine Labor Attache to Israel and former Philippine Labor Attache to Singapore.

Maid in Singapore

Maid in Singapore, Crisanta's signature book, written at age 48.

Crisanta Sampang setting stage.

Director Crisanta setting the stage and casts in one of her films.

Crisanta Sampang

Director Crisanta checks and sets up for next scene on her short film, "The Ocean Between Us."
Crisanta Sampang

In her short film, "The Ocean Between Us," Director Crisanta brings to viewers familar scenes like the laundry women by the river, a perfect setting as mothers share their dreams and hopes for their families and children.

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