Marites – if you’re Filipino, you’re familiar with this term used both as a noun and a verb meaning “to share gossip or reveal interesting news”. As a noun, it refers to someone who is overly talkative or chatty. As a verb, it’s used in the phrase: ‘mag-Marites tayo’, similar to the English idiom, spill the tea. Recently, around 80 members of the Filipino Kasambahay Club (FKC), an organization of nannies and domestic workers in Dubai, participated in their inaugural ‘Mareng Tess Day’ – an event aimed not at idle chatter or gossip, but at discussing financial literacy and personal savings.

Analiza Villao, 52, one of the founders and current president of FKC, explained to Khaleej Times that ‘Mareng Tess Day’ is planned as a monthly gathering for Filipino kasambahay (household service workers) to simply “gather and mingle”. “We aim to discuss various topics – like ‘mag-Marites tayo’ – but with a purpose,” she emphasized. The event took place at a hotel in Deira, where members dressed in their finest. They discussed the latest pension and investment plans from the Philippine Social Security System (SSS) and invited a speaker to talk about financial literacy and current trends in sending money home. The afternoon was filled with fun, humor, and light-hearted moments over popular Filipino snacks like pan de sal and pancit, interspersed with karaoke singing and friendly banter.

For Villao, who has been with the same British family for 16 years, organizing ‘Mareng Tess Day’ is a way to empower Filipino kasambahay. “Many of them spend their off days wandering malls or food courts, often homesick and unable to see their families for years due to their busy work schedules,” she noted. “So, five of us domestic workers decided to form the Filipino Kasambahay Club, launching it on October 16, 2023. Now, less than a year later, we have 479 members and are recognized under the Filipino Social Club, registered with the Community Development Authority – Dubai,” Villao added. The group plans to hold monthly ‘Mareng Tess Day’ events focusing on topics like social media literacy, online selling, and personal development.

Promoting mental health is a core advocacy of FKC: “Domestic workers often face verbal and emotional abuse, with some employers belittling them in public when upset,” Villao observed. “We aim to address the mental health of domestic workers through ‘Mareng Tess Day’, providing a safe space for sharing and peer counseling,” she concluded, highlighting the importance of being heard and seen among peers and fellow workers.