A 40-year-old Filipino woman who has served as a domestic worker for a Singaporean family of four since 1997, when she was 19, was highly praised for her loyalty and excellent service, and granted a Long Service Award by the Association of Employment Agencies (Singapore).

Her employer, now 70, recalled that when Melita Santos Gaboni first arrived, she did not know how to operate a vacuum cleaner or a washing machine, Lianhe Wanbao (Singapore) reported.

“We were worried if she was capable of handling domestic chores,” he said. Yet the past 21 years have proved that Gaboni is more than just a maid, as the family has proudly dubbed her as their butler.

Like many other Filipinos, Gaboni, who was the eldest sister in her family, had to go abroad and work as a domestic helper in order to support her family financially so that her younger brothers and sisters could continue their studies.

She was not only a quick learner, but also caring and diligent. Over the years, she mastered culinary skills with dishes including prawn noodles, nasi lemak (creamy rice), chili crabs and popiah (Fujianese-style spring roll).

She has adhered to the family’s healthy lifestyle, cooking dishes that are low in fat, sugar and salt.

Asked how to maintain a harmonic employer-employee relationship, Gaboni’s boss said it was all about respect. Initially the family would ask her to join them at the dinner table, but she would prefer eating alone in the kitchen.

“It was understandable that everyone needs some privacy, and eating with bosses could be stressful. That’s why we respected her decision.”