Filipina finds freedom after living as family slave in US for decades

Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 12 2019 04:34 PM | Updated as of Jun 12 2019 04:35 PM

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LOS ANGELES, California - A Filipina woman recently gained her freedom after being captive for 65 years as a family slave in the US.

“Nanay Fedelina” only tasted freedom at age 82. For 65 years, she lived as a victim of modern-day slavery.

“Nagpapasalamat ako nagtagumpay ako sa aking hangarin,” said Nanay Fedelina.

At age 16, the Leyte-born Fedelina found work as a domestic helper for a family in Manila. She was never paid, and was physically and emotionally abused.

When the family she served brought her to southern California in the early 1970s, her passport and IDs were confiscated and she had also been isolated from her own family.

The abuse continued, spanning 4 generations.

“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,” she said. 

(I took care of the matriarch, the children, grandchildren. I did everything on my own -- cooking, cleaning, ironing clothes, brought them food in school.)

She added, “Hihiga ako sa sahig ang dumi dumi, butas-butas pa ang blanket ko. Salbahe silang mag-ina.”

(I slept on a dirty floor, and my blanket was hole-ridden.)

A little more than a year ago, when her trafficker was hospitalized, she was forced to stay beside her, with no food or sleep.

The malnourishment and fatigue landed Fedelina into the emergency room where a nurse suspected that she may have been a victim of forced labor and alerted authorities leading to her rescue.

In the past year, she has been taking steps towards full independence, getting support from the Pilipino Workers Center, the Philippine Consulate, and US law enforcement officials that helped prosecute her trafficker.

The January court date resulted in a cash settlement and her trafficker being placed on house arrest.

Despite all she’s been through, including a recent hospitalization, Nanay Fedelina is in high spirits. As a survivor, she’s hoping other workers in similar situations can also find their freedom.

“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,” she said.

(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.)

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