BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Vol. VII, No. 36, October 14-20, 2007
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have experienced “hell” in host countries could very well identify with the plight of Marilou Ranario and other fellow OFWs who have resorted to harming their employers or have done unlawful acts in their host countries. During their most difficult times and darkest moments, two OFWs who likewise experienced maltreatment said, it is either you “kill or be killed.”
Rosebelle Yu could have been declared a martyr for enduring four months of beatings from her madam, a Kuwaiti female employer. During those times, she felt as if she was about to reach the end of her life.
As a domestic worker, Rosebelle used to work from 4 a.m. up to 2 a.m. everyday. She barely had two hours of sleep daily, and had no day off. “Bawal umupo, tuluy-tuloy ang trabaho,” (I was not allowed to even sit down. I had to work continuously.) complained Rosebelle, adding that there was also not enough food to give her overworked body the strength for the whole day. She said she was allowed to eat only at 3 p.m., if there is left-over food. She said she survived on the biscuits that she brought from the Philippines otherwise she could have died of starvation.
She also complained of her “karneng kamay” (burned hands) which resulted from the chemicals she was ordered to use in cleaning the house and washing her employers’ clothes without protective gloves.
As if these hardships were not enough, she was also beaten up.
“You’re crazy! Go to hell!” These words hurt much more when accompanied by beatings. Rosebelle said her madam used to hit her head hard with a frying pan while verbally-abusing her.
“Nahihilo na lang ako, parang may nakikita akong mga kumikislap,” she recalled. “tinatanong pa ako bakit ako umiiyak. Sino kaya ang crazy sa amin.” (I felt dizzy, whenever I was hit on the head, and felt like I was seeing bright lights. She even asked me why I was crying. Who then is the really crazy person between us.)
But like any other normal person, Rosebelle reached the limit of her tolerance. She was already planning to escape from her employer when, in March, her madam hit her head again. She parried the strikes of her madam who was hitting her again with the frying pan and punched her Kuwaiti employer on the face. Rosebelle then grabbed a kitchen knife and that frightened her madam who stopped hitting her.
“I went here to work,” she told her employer. “Ayaw kong mamatay at ayaw ko ring pumatay ng tao.” (I do not want to die and I do not want to kill somebody.)
In only a year in Kuwait, Angel, not her real name, had four employers.
Though she did not experience being beaten up in her 11 months of working with her first employer did not mean that she was treated any better, she said. Instead of giving her the left-over food, she said, her employer would take them all to their room upstairs. The left-over food would be left to spoil up to the next day, she said regretfully. She was not given any food and was also not allowed to go to the grocery to buy for her personal needs.
She was also prohibited to have a cellular phone. It was a problem for her because she had no means to inform her parents that she had remitted money or about her conditions there.
Because of these, she had an unpleasant relationship with her employer. She was sold to other employers. With her second employer, she was the only one doing the chores in a big house, plus taking care of the five children. Despite the workload, she was not fed at all.
“Baka maisipan kong mag-suicide kaya nagpabalik na lang ako sa agency,” (I might think of committing suicide so I just asked to be returned to the agency.) she said, noting that her life is only equivalent to about P7,000 or 45 Dinars a month. She had two other employers who also treated her the same cruel way.
After her fourth employer, she was sent back to her first employer by her agency. She was ordered to stay in an unoccupied room. In the three days of her stay there, she was again not given any food. When she would ask for water, she was told to drink from the faucet in the comfort room.
“Ano ba hinihintay ko rito, kamatayan ko?” (What am I waiting her for? for my death?) she recalled asking herself then.
When her employer left the house, she used the blanket to escape from the window.
Before Angel’s escape, she was able to make a call to the Philippine Embassy there using her mobile phone which she hid from her employers.
“”B’wisit talaga, napakabastos! Kahit nakagawa ka ng paraan para matawagan sila (Philippine Embassy), wala pa rin. Siguro kahit nasa bingit ka na ng kamatayan mamamatay ka na lang,” (They are really a curse, so arrogant! I was already able to find the means to call them and they did not even respond. If you are about to die I think they would just let you die.) she said in dismay when the personnel she talked to told her that she should go to the embassy then hung up the phone.