I saw her surrounded by people who were listening to her story... Though quite a common sight for me, the stories of these individuals almost always struck me. Hookers raided and sent back to Manila or a Mom desperately rushed back home to see an ailling child or a maid maltreated and escaped with nothing but a prayer.
I am an OFW and whatever that means is to other people, I am sick and tired of being one. Although the pay is more than the usual in Manila, the price I pay for being away from my family for a period of time is a punishment. The only thing that keeps me going is my family.
And for other OFWs, it is crossing a very thin line between survival and death.
I queued last as passengers of Air Asia AK32 rushed to catch a good seat. I just thought to myself that I am guaranteed a seat anyway so why the rush? I didn't mind. Then I noticed some people asked a sobbing lady some questions... like 'What happened to you?' 'Have you reported this to our embassy?' 'Did you enter Malaysia legally?' 'Are you registered with the POEA?'
I asked her, as if I knew her or maybe I am just gossiper or whatever itching for some news. She answered she was not registered with the POEA and OWWA but she entered Malaysia legally complete with papers. I just told her, whatever it is, she is not protected by these agencies (and at the back of my mind, are these agencies really would protect me just in case???)
She sat by the window and I was by the aisle... and she has a story to tell...
On September last year, a friend named Ivy enticed her to work in Malaysia. The job, she said, was being a personal assistant of a businessman. For wanting to go abroad, she convinced her husband to take the opportunity. She will be leaving her four kids and a part-time buy and sell business, a good life... just for a RM500.00 monthly salary (about PhP 7,000.00) and the promise of travel.
Her husband financed her processing fee of PhP 20,000.00 from their savings. These were paid to Ivy with mock reciepts signed by Ivy's mother within three weeks of October last year. Within days, the plane ticket came and an invitation from her employer duly certified by the Malaysian authorities. Although, she had doubts on the transactions, she was confident because Ivy is a family friend and they have known her for a long time.
On 30 November 2006, Clark immigration officers tried to stop her fro boarding the plane for the reason that she was not a registered OFW with the POEA and OWWA but she insisted and paid the immigration officers PhP 5,000.00 just to make her through the immigration gate. I didn't surprised me though. In this part of the world, one has to be crooked and the other has to be a fool to live a life. Of course, these immigration officers will not admit that they were paid... who would?
In Malaysia, she was locked-up for seven months. She would tend to their employer's kids, clean the house, feed on some left over foods, seldom bath... and a prayer that someday she will get through all these misseries.
She would lose 20kilos. She would be standing by the window hoping that some neighbors will notice her. She would write a journal and then was later burned by her employer. She would be calling the Philippine Embassy in KL and there is no fucking human being that would answer the phone... She would write notes and throw at the window and hoping that somebody will pick it up and report to the authorities. She would stare at the photos of her family and cry all day.
Finally, one of the neighbors noticed it and called her husband in Manila. The husband, notified Ivy of her situation and would call the employer. Like a hostage, she would answer them favorable questions for her employer... and the situation would be harsher. Threatened her of rape and cut her hairs.
Lasf Friday, her employer decided to send her back to Manila. Nothing but only RM30.00 (around PhP 400.00)was given to her... not a salary. It can't even be called a fucking allowance.
On the plane, she would sob. I don't even know how to comfort her. She would pray and then sob. I bought her a meal and she told me that she is no longer used to eating. I just insisted and when she took the first bite, she was crying hard...
This is her story. I know there are countless more like her, even worst. No matter what the odds, most of us would just grab a promise of a better life abroad and for the family left here. And the country would just keep on sending it's flock abroad to survive. More will be blessed, and some will be doomed... Just for this country to survive.
There maybe some lawyers out there would want to help Ridgy, please. At least, take her life back...
#50 Ilang-Ilang St,
Pasong Putik, Novaliches,
Hopefully, no longer will a Filipino leave this country for a promise of a better life... Hopefully...