Staying alive


MOST Filipinos who go abroad do so to earn a living for themselves and their loved ones. In seeking greener pastures, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) endure a lot of sacrifices to earn the distinction of being the “new heroes” of the working class.

Many OFWs had come home in boxes too as crime victims, with abusive employers oftentimes being the culprits. Case in point would be the death of Joanna Demafelis, an Ilongga who went to work in Kuwait in 2014 but ended up stuffed for a year inside a chest freezer.

A Kuwait court pinned Demafelis’ murder on her employers, Lebanese Nader Assaf and his Syrian wife Mona Hassoun, and the two were sentenced to death in absentia in April.

In South Korea, the skeletal remains of Angelo Claveria, 34, also from Iloilo, were found hidden in a septic tank. He had been missing since 2016. Unlike the open-and-shut Demafelis case, the police in South Korea are clutching at straws on the still whodunit Claveria case.

On May 20, the body of another Filipina, 24-year-old working student Jastine Valdez, was found in the bushes near a mine in Kilternan, Ireland. She was strangled to death with her abductor, Mark Hennessy, killed in a police operation.

In Bratislava, Slovakia, locals paid tribute to a Filipino migrant, Henry Acorda, who died on May 31 after being assaulted by a suspected Neo Nazi. Some 3,000 mostly young Slovaks held a vigil and protest at the site of the attack.

The brutal killing of 36-year-old Acorda was caught on CCTV. The suspect, Juraj H., kicked him on the head again and again even when he was already unconscious on the ground.
Juraj H. is now under police custody and facing charges of manslaughter and a 12-year sentence if convicted.

It’s hard enough that OFWs have to sacrifice a lot by battling homesickness, although technology now helps them to be in touch with family members back home through Internet video calls and Facebook posts.

They also have to stay sane with the culture shock and the difficulties of adjusting with the laws of their host countries. In serving as pillars of the Philippine economy with their billions of dollars in remittances, there is one primordial concern which OFWs must contend with – staying alive.

Towards this end of ensuring the self-preservation of OFWs, the Philippine government, for its part, must continue to work closely with their host countries if only to ensure they do not come home, cold as ice, inside wooden boxes. A lot more can and must be done so their “Bagong Bayani” tag does not come across as mere lip-service.