Love child of maid: Papa, what is your name?

With a name like Yan Faye, she would not stand out in Singapore.

But she is a Filipina who grew up in Cavite, a province in the Philippines.

There, her name gets strange looks. The 21-year-old also stands out with her features and pale complexion.

During her school days, she was ridiculed by her Filipino classmates who said she "didn't belong there".

She was repeatedly told to "go back to where she came from".

But where does she belong?

Miss Yan is not sure.

Her biological father is a Singaporean.

More than 20 years ago, her mother fell in love with him after leaving her village in 1991 to be a domestic helper here.

She was less than a year into her contract when she met Miss Yan's father. He was working at a watch shop in Lucky Plaza.

"My mum wanted to buy a watch and after talking for some time, he gave her a discount and they started dating," she says.

In 1993, Miss Yan's mother went back to the Philippines after her contract ended. She was planning to return to be with her boyfriend.

Then, she found out she was pregnant.

She knew the risk she was taking. The rules for working here were clear - if she is pregnant, she would not be able to have her baby here nor would she be able to return to Singapore.

Miss Yan was born in her mum's hometown that September.

At first, her father travelled between the two countries while her mother was pregnant. After the third round, just before Miss Yan was born, the trips stopped.

Those who were kind called her a love child. Many others used harsher terms.

Growing up without a father was tough.

Miss Yan says: "Sometimes when I do wrong, my stepdad scolds me harshly.

"I have always felt that he has close to no compassion just because I'm not his real daughter.

"When we go for family outings, I will walk behind and watch people stare and say things like, 'She's definitely not his', because we don't look alike."

Her mother married a navy officer in the Philippines just after Miss Yan turned one.

Her mother's story is not unusual.

There are close to a million work permit holders here. Many work for years, picking up the local lingo and falling in love with Singapore.

Some fall in love with Singaporeans.

In 2013, close to one in three marriages here involved a Singapore citizen and a non-resident spouse.

The Government has amended laws to help a married couple remain here.

But not all foreign spouses are as lucky. Some, like Miss Yan's mother, go home to raise their child alone.

As the years passed, Miss Yan's mother slowly gave up hope of marrying her lover. When she got him on the phone once, he said he stopped calling her because he lost her number.

She did not try to apply to return here.

In 2000, when Miss Yan turned seven, her mother finally told her the story of her "Singapore Papa".

The New Paper on Sunday spoke to her then, and for a brief moment, father and daughter reunited, speaking on the phone.

Miss Yan called him "Papa" even though she already had a stepfather by then.

After being in touch with the Singaporean man for about three months, Miss Yan's stepfather disconnected the home telephone in a jealous rage.

And that was it. She never heard from "Papa" again.

Now 14 years after that phone call, Miss Yan is hoping she will be able to track down her father again.

Undeterred by her failed multiple social media searches, she still hopes she will finally get to meet her father.

She said she does not have the money to travel to Singapore.

She is a mother now and works as a cashier at a pharmacy, earning 200 pesos (S$6) daily.

"I gave birth to my child in July last year and I think he should know that he is now a grandfather," she says.

She has so many questions.

"The most important thing I want to know is why he didn't look for me when he knew I was his child. I want to know why he never came back for me and my mother," she says.

But there is one more reason - something most of us take for granted.

Miss Yan wants to know her real surname.

Yes, her mother made the mistake of falling for a Singaporean more than 20 years ago, she says.

But why must she pay the price? 

This article was first published on January 18, 2015.
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