DAVAO CITY — Elena and Loradel Arojado were still exchanging updates through a phone call like a mother and daughter separated by lands and seas would. During their conversation, Loradel, a massage therapist, was joking about her employer.
“My co-workers here are laughing because our big-bellied boss is running. You can see his belly bouncing like a pig. My friends are laughing because while he’s running, he’s also carrying a fire extinguisher,” Elena quoted her daughter, who was in Iraq at the time.
Thinking that there was a fire happening, Elena advised her to leave the place as soon as she can. But nothing in her daughter’s voice signaled a sign of emergency. Loradel said things like that happen normally at work.
Loradel thought it was the usual trouble at their workplace: a faulty wiring which their boss can easily put out.
But twenty minutes later, Elena heard screaming on the other side of the line. There was a big fire in the basement where the worker’s quarters and the sauna of the hotel was located.
The mother continued to hear screaming voices, some already crying. And then she told Loradel: “run and save yourself.”
“Ma, we can’t get out. We’re trapped,” her daughter said.
The smoke is getting thick. It was dark. The lights were out. Later, she would hear her daughter coughing. She began to lose her composure. So she handed the phone to her husband, who no longer heard voices from the other line.
On February 14, Elena and her family came to the Francisco Bangoy International Airport. There, she found her daughter, lifeless inside a coffin. She had long knew since that night of February 5 that she will never see her daughter alive again.
What she has now are memories. Her daughter was eager to work out of the country to provide a better life for them and Loradel’s three children.
“She has a classmate in high school who works at a hotel similar to where she was working. Maybe that’s why she was not fearful of going there,” Elena told Davao Today in an interview last week.
Loradel was a massage therapist who left three children — two daughters — a 7-year-old, a 6-year-old — and a four-month old son. She died along with other 12 overseas Filipino workers who were trapped in their room at the basement of Capitol Hotel in Erbil, Iraq when a fire broke on February 5.
Families to press charges
Celeste Arojado, sister of Loradel said they are planning to press charges against the hotel owner and the employer because of the clear occupational safety issues of the company where the OFWs are working.
Last February 29, the families of OFWs Loradel, Jaycell Chang, Ihrine Jade Udasan, and Mabeth Tumampos, were asked to sign waivers and quitclaims which oblige Aroma Spa to transfer financial assistance worth P250,000 for each victim.
But all of them refused to sign the settlement, saying they will not get what is due to their daughters.
In a text message sent to Davao Today on Tuesday, March 8, Celeste said they are still discussing how to go about filing charges and will be meeting with a migrant’s group who will assist them.
“Kasohon na lang jud siguro ni namo para mahatag kung unsa jud dapat sa ilaha kay para na lang pud sa ilang mga anak (We will file charges to give what is due them. This is for their children),” said Celeste.
Elena added that the money is not enough for the three children of Loradel and to pay for the mortgage of the house which they pawned to fund Loradel’s travel abroad.
“We spent at least P30,000 for her trip. Our house is still on the mortgage because of it. And their lives are valued at only P250,000 each?” Elena lamented.
The financial assistance also included the funeral and burial expenses.
Mother lost only child to fire
Meanwhile, Lucymarie Tumampos, 52 also lost her only child to the fire in Iraq, Mabeth.
Lucymarie said their last video call was on February 4, the night before the incident.
“We were talking about her plans for her children her own house,” she said.
Mabeth left a son who will be in nursery school and a daughter turning 1 year-old this year.
Lucymarie said they even talked about her retirement this June to be able to take care of Mabeth’s eldest child who will be going to school already.
Lucy works as a caregiver in Monkayo, Compostela Valley. Her daughter’s monthly salary of $300 excluding tips from clients is what they depend on to have a better life for her grandchildren.
“She told me, ‘Ma I will let you take care of my children since you’re there’. And I assured her not to worry about anything,” said Lucy.
“She is my only child and my life revolved around her. Now that she’s gone, I have to accept it even if it is very hard to accept. Maybe God has plans why it happened,” she said.
Mabeth and Loradel signed two-year contracts with Aroma Spa. Mabeth has been working at the spa for six months, while Loradel has been there for eight months.
Both of them did not pass through the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) and are not members of the Overseas Filipino Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
They entered Kurdistan in Iraq with a tourist visa. However, they were able to get work permits or “iqama” from their employers like the other OFWs.
“Maybe there are lapses on our part but I hope the government will still be able to help us,” said Lucymarie.
Lack of jobs pushes OFWs abroad
Lucymarie said what hurts her most is the fact that her daughter left the country thinking about their family.
“Niadto sya didto kay dili lang ang iyahang sarili ang iyang ginahuna huna.. Una is iyang mga anak ug ako, kay ingon man siya nga ma gusto nako nga makatila sad kag hayahay sa kinabuhi (She went there not for herself but she was thinking of her children and me. She said that she wanted to give me a better life),” Lucy said.
She added that lack of jobs in the country is still the main reason why Filipinos like her daughter would go abroad.
“Naa tuod trabaho nga masudlan nimo pero ana sad unom lang ka bulan. Mismo ikaw maramdaman man nimo ang krisis nato dinhi. Kayod kalabaw pa ka, lisud (Maybe you can get a job but it will only last for six months. You yourself will feel that there is crisis in the country),” she told Davao Today.
She hopes someday that no Filipino parent would need to leave her family in exchange for work.
“We are rich in natural resources. Other countries are coming here to do business, now why do we go to other countries for work? I hope our country would develop our resources so our children would not have to go abroad,” she said. (davaotoday.com)