“Nanay Fedelina” is a Filipino woman who has worked as a modern-day slave for 65 years. She entered into service for the family who would eventually become her captors at 16 and would only truly taste freedom again at 82 years old. Despite those long years, she is only thankful to have finally found freedom: “Nagpapasalamat ako nagtagumpay ako sa aking hangarin.”
The abuse began when she was only 16, having left Leyte to work as a domestic helper for a family in Manila. However, even from the start, her salary was withheld and the family both physically and emotionally abused her. Then, in the 1970’s she was brought along with them to southern California.
Image from Balitang America
In America, her passport and IDs were taken away from her in order to limit her movement. According to ABS-CBN, was isolated from other people and made to work 4 generations of the same family under abusive conditions:
Nag-alaga ko ng nanay niya, nag-alaga ako ng anak niya, tapos nanay naman niya, apat na apo ang inalagaan ko. Lahat yun ginawa ko ako lang mag-isa–nagluluto, naglilinis, namamalansa, namamalengke–ako lahat, kayang-kaya ko, hinahatid-sinusundo, dinadalhan ng pagkain sa eskuwela.
[I took care of the matriarch, the children, grandchildren. I did everything on my own — cooking, cleaning, ironing clothes, brought them food in school.]
Nanay Fedelina was made to sleep on the dirty floor, with only a hole-ridden blanket for comfort. She was overworked and intimidated into inaction. So when her trafficker was hospitalized over a year ago and Nanay Fedelina was made to watch over her day and night with no rest or sustenance, her body gave up. The malnourishment and fatigue forced her into the emergency room where a nurse caught wind of what was happening.
It was purely through the nurse’s suspicions that forced labor was taking place that Nanay Fedelina was connected to the proper authorities. Afterward, they were able to take her through the process to gain independence. Together with Pilipino Workers Center, the Philippine Consulate, and US law enforcement officials Nanay Fedelina prosecuted her trafficker and liberated herself.
The prosecution ended with a cash settlement for Nanay Fedelina and an order of house arrest for her trafficker. Though the journey was a long and hard one, she continues to advocate for individuals in similar situations:
Ngayon, maligaya na ako at malaya. Hindi na ako nakakulong, hindi na ako inaapi ng mga tao. Kaya kayo, lumaban kayo, ‘wag kayo magpaapi sa mga pinagtatrabahuhan nyo. Kailangan mag-ingat kayo, ‘wag kayo magpaapi sa mga taong nangaapi.
[Now, I am happy and free. I am no longer held captive, no longer abused. If you are in a similar situation, please fight. Do not allow abuse.]
What do you think can be done to stop situations like this?