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'I never thought about leaving him': Maid becomes 'second mother' to autistic child for 15 years

'I never thought about leaving him': Maid becomes 'second mother' to autistic child for 15 years
Ms Rizza Pablo has been taking care of Alex Lim for the past 15 years.
PHOTO: Rizza Pablo

When Ms Rizza Pablo started working as a maid for the Lim family in 2009, it seemed like a simple enough job.

However, things changed when Ms Cara van Miriah was told by her son Alex's pre-kindergarten teachers that he might have autism. He was five years old.

"His teachers told us he had a short attention span and was often doing his own thing during class activities," said Ms van Miriah.

She and her husband Ivan Lim left their jobs to have more time for Alex. At the same time, Ms Pablo took up online courses to educate herself on handling children with autism.

"I never thought about leaving him," she recalled. "I'd already grown to love him. I knew it would be difficult, but I also knew I could do it."

And do it she did. Over the years, Ms Pablo's nurturing presence helped Alex thrive, despite the challenges posed by his condition, and the two grew close.

"They even go on staycations together," said Ms van Miriah. "She's like a second mother to Alex."

Ms Pablo's journey hasn't been without its own trials.

The 44-year-old sacrificed a lot to take care of Alex - she has three kids in the Philippines whom she left behind when she came to Singapore to work, and in her first five years with the Lim family, she didn't fly home even once.

This led to a strained relationship between her and her children. In the few times since then that Ms Pablo has gone home to be with them, she could tell there was a gap between her and her children, and something was missing.

"It was only when I went back in 2022 that I realised they're not kids anymore - they're grown-ups with their own lives and I wasn't there to see them become the people they are now," she said.

Their relationship eventually improved, thanks in part to a trip her kids took to Singapore at the end of last year, where they met Alex for the first time. The Lim family booked them a hostel, but during the week of Christmas, the kids slept in Ms Pablo's room.

"It was their first time travelling outside of the Philippines," said Ms Pablo. "Alex went with us wherever we went and they got to bond with each other - it's almost as if they're siblings now."


With Alex turning 19 this year, Ms Pablo says she will stay as long as the family wants her to. Having experienced prejudice and mistreatment in her previous employments, she found solace and acceptance with the Lim family.

"They looked at me differently," she said of her previous employers. "I had a different set of utensils, I never joined them for meals at the table, I couldn't sit on the sofa, but I was only 23 at the time - I didn't know better, so I just went along.

"But with Ivan and Cara, things are very different. They treat me like family.

"Alex still has tantrums every now and then, but he usually listens to me. He's a very caring and loving person. I take the time to explain things to him. He never wants me to be sad or have a hard time."

This article was first published in The New Paper. Permission required for reproduction.

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