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The Secret History of Filipino Women

Illustration by Charlotte Dumortier

Fifteen years ago, a few days after moving to Australia, I stepped into a café in Colac, Victoria and felt not just brown, but a brown woman next to a white man.

It is not unusual to involuntarily turn toward the door when it opens, but it felt to me that the people sitting at their tables took a few seconds too long to turn away after looking. Extra seconds that compelled me to smile back, stupidly.

Not long afterward, I took to wearing glasses, leaving my contact lenses in their little container. I was half-convinced that if I wore specs, I would seem ‘intellectual’. See? I'm not a mail-order bride. I'm not a maid. I'm not a gold-digger. I wore my college ring like an amulet and felt like a classist, self-hating jerk.

At the time, Rose Porteous was in the middle of multiple legal battles with her stepdaughter, Perth mining heiress Gina Rinehart. Lang Hancock was a widower when Rose joined ...