Saturday, August 30, 2008

Eugenia and Evelyn: Fellow OFWs

Eugenia Baja and Evelyn Milo were both Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

According to a Bulatlat news report, Eugenia Baja, 24, left the Philippines for Saudi Arabia on May 6, 2007. She went back home on June 12, 2008 in a cargo box. She was deployed by Aisis International Manpower, Inc. as a domestic helper although she had signed a contract as a patient server.

The cause of Eugenia’s death was uncertain. First, it was reported by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippine government that she had died of an illness. But later, the DFA claimed that she had committed suicide by hitting her head with bathroom tiles.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report headlined its story that the family of Evelyn Milo, 24, did not believe her alleged suicide in Abu Dhabi, UAE on August 9, 2008. Her remains were flown back to the Philippines on August 19, 2008.

Evelyn, a saleslady in Abu Dhabi, allegedly jumped off from a building to her death. But her family told reporters that her body bore marks of foul play. They pointed out that if she had really jumped off from a tall building, her body wouldn’t be intact any more.

Mrs. Thelma Milo, Evelyn’s mother, protested indignantly that Bright International Manpower, the agency which recruited Evelyn, added insult to injury by offering her three hundred pesos!

Senator Manny Villar heard and immediately heeded Mrs. Thelma Milo’s heart-rending appeal for help on QTV Channel 11 so that she could bury her daughter. By inference, one could conclude that the DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) had been sleeping on the job. It is a reputation both offices do not endeavor to change.

Evelyn will be buried today, Saturday, August 30, at the Makati South Cemetery.

As an OFW myself, my heart goes out to Eugenia and to Evelyn. As a mother, I feel Mrs. Thelma Milo’s grief, indignation, and unspeakable pain.

If we had known one another, what would I have told Eugenia and Evelyn? What could I tell other women out there in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Lebanon, Japan, Italy, Singapore, Israel, Hong Kong, etc.?

What must I tell everyone back home in the Philippines?

The OFW dream is not for everyone. For some, the OFW dream is a nightmare which choke them in their sleep. A new day never dawns for them. They leave the Philippines dreaming of a good life, but they come back with battered bodies, broken spirit, and shattered dreams.

Stop being a victim!

Stop being a victim of recruitment agencies, government offices, and foreign employers. Stop working as domestic helpers or whatever euphemism it’s called.

Stay in the Philippines!

Better be a poor mouse in your own country than a slave or an object in a foreign land!

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