Enslaved Filipina in US wants to return home, find family
Location: Manila, Philippines
Date Published: October 09, 2019
After being freed from 65-year abusive employment in the United States, Fedelina Lugasan made it clear that she wants to go home to the Philippines and find her estranged family.
Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez recently met with the 82-year-old woman at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles.
"I want to go home to Tacloban and find my family," Nanay Fedelina said, as reported by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Noting President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to prioritize overseas Filipinos, Romualdez hopes to help Nanay Fedelina in achieving her dream.
The Pilipino Workers Center, through the help of US law enforcement, rescued Nanay Fedelina from her Filipino-American employers in 2018. She was only 16 years old when she was recruited from Leyte to serve as a domestic helper to a family in Manila, who eventually brought her to Los Angeles.
Romualdez, in a column published by The STAR, said Nanay Fedelina was subjected to physical and verbal abuse. She did not also receive payment for her service, making her case an example of modern-day slavery.
When she arrived in the US, her employers confiscated her passport, birth certificate and other identification documents.
For 65 years, Nanay Fedelina became the nanny of the children and then the grandchildren and did all household work with no salary.
"Nanay Fedelina came from a generation when slave-like employment practices or highly unregulated domestic employment were still commonplace in the Philippines. She also seems to be one of the few to survive this and gain freedom," the DFA said.
The FBI, with the help of the PWC and the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles, investigated her case. Her employers had been convicted and ordered to pay restitution, according to Romualdez. Nanay Fedelina, however, asked the judge not to jail her 79-year-old employer.
After being rescued from her employers, she has been living in a nursing facility in Long Beach, where she has a private room and her needs provided for free. She was rescued earlier last year in Northridge, California, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC).
She was identified as a potential victim of abuse when she collapsed in a hospital after not being able to rest or eat for days while watching over her employer, Benedicta Cox.
Under the suspicion that something was wrong, the hospital alerted law enforcement, which resulted in the FBI searching Cox’s residence and eventually rescuing Nanay Fedelina.
As an organization advocating to eradicate human trafficking, PWC assisted Nanay Fedelina during her rescue and in finding her path to independence by providing access to medical care, housing, food and legal support services. PWC leads a workplace justice campaign that brings abused workers to justice by filing wage claims and restitution of wages.
Following the meeting with Nanay Fedelina on September 15, Romualdez stressed the government's commitment to uphold the welfare and protect the rights of overseas Filipinos.
"We must do our best to safeguard their welfare," Romualdez said.