Filipino domestic helpers are jumping off buildings and houses to escape their employers and the war in Lebanon. But coming home to joblessness and poverty only pushes back overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to again work abroad, even if it means going to another dangerous country.
BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Christine Hadjirudin, 22, a native of Davao City, was in Lebanon for only three months. It was her first job working as a domestic helper and she had not received her salary. The arrangement with her recruitment agency is that the latter will get her salary for the first three months.
When Israel first bombed central Beirut dawn of July 12, her employer woke her up and told her to immediately pack the children’s things. They were transferring to a hotel.
“Pero ‘yung mga gamit ko pinaiwan niya,” (But she told me to leave my things behind) said Hadjirudin who was only able to bring three pair of pants and three t-shirts.
“It’s nothing,” her employer would tell her even if they could feel the ground shaking.
But after several days at the hotel, Hadjirudin was hungry and became desperate to go home. She even tried to jump off the hotel building but someone from the next unit stopped her.
Had she jumped, she would have met the same fate as those who were killed, or the several others injured, in trying to escape their employers and the war in Beirut.
Hadjirudin was among the first batch of evacuees who arrived in the country on Aug.1, after days of struggling with her Lebanese employer.
On Aug. 4 President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo belatedly ordered her Task Force Lebanon “to undertake all means to protect the lives and the human rights” of Filipino nationals in that war-torn country.
Two Filipinas died after jumping off buildings trying to escape from their employers.
Michelle Tomagan, a domestic helper in Lebanon, died on July 28 trying to escape from her employer’s apartment. Tomagan tied up bed sheets from her employer’s fourth floor balcony. A Mount Lebanon police report showed she died on the way to the hospital.
On July 26, a police report said that another overseas Filipino worker in Lebanon, Mary Jane Pangilinan, died of a neck and leg fracture “as a result of (a) fall” from her employer’s house on the fourth floor of the building.
For his part, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos ordered embassy officials in Lebanon to immediately respond to OFWs who want to be evacuated but were not allowed by their employers.
However, Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International chairperson, said that although the issue of abuses of the Lebanese employers is true, the government has been ignoring the fact that the death of the two OFWs was caused by “Israel’s violent onslaught in Lebanon.”
Hadjirudin is the eldest of 10 siblings. Her father’s income as a fisherfolk is not enough to support the family. As a high school graduate, Hadjirudin knew she could not earn much if she only works in her hometown in Davao City.